In the first part of the branding topic, I wrote about the process of brand establishment and what’s needed in order to create the shape and form of a brand the way you want. Now it’s time to take a step further and dissect brand awareness as the next stage of branding.
The power of a brand is easily seen through consumer behavior. A few years ago, Nielsen’s Global New Product Innovation Survey found that 59% of people prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them, and 21% say they purchased a new product because it was from a brand they like. Brand awareness creates confidence in your ability to deliver what you promise and can relieve some of the anxiety that often comes with trying something unknown.
Depending on how you look at it, brand awareness has many layers that are more important than the previous one. Since we’re talking from the entrepreneurial angle, for me, there are two key elements of brand awareness:
- PR/social media
- Understanding what drives brand awareness
Leveraging public relations
I mention PR specifically and not advertising because there’s a clear difference between the two, even though it’s a blurred line for some (I’ll get to it in a minute). Basically, you’re telling the same story in two different ways. As the old adage goes, advertising is what you pay for and publicity is what you pray for. Or another way to put it: it’s paid media vs earned media.
I touched upon this topic in the first part of the topic of branding. People tend to believe far more what others are saying than what you are telling them yourself. Instead of telling them how great you are, you let others sing your praises. Don’t get me wrong – some advertising is inevitable and necessary. However, public relations effectively leverages the ability to understand your target audience and excel in storytelling, where your USP solves a perceived problem in an amazing way. The bottom line is there’s more credibility with PR.
On the other hand, the power of social communities is vast and having social media presence is inevitable in this day and age. It’s your chance to engage with your audience on a more personal and casual level. Such an approach helps develop deeper relationships, elevate your brand, and drive more conversions later on. However, you have to take a proactive stance rather than being reactive and, equally important, keep a consistent brand voice and image.
Considering how the world moves today, social engagement should be a top priority when raising awareness about your brand. As I said before – clients are your best ambassadors so it’s your mission to find loyal ones who are willing to spread the word about their favorite brand to their networks. It’s important to reach out to as many people as possible, as every single person will likely benefit your brand, be it through positive and/or negative feedback that will motivate you to do better.
Thinking more strategically
One of the most important things with brand awareness in understanding how you’re investing in it. It’s not about the almighty return on investment because KPIs for brand awareness are not quantified. ROI of your social media marketing isn’t the same as ROI of your brand awareness. While your overall strategy can lead to a higher ROI, true brand awareness is almost impossible to prove.
Sure, there are some metrics like direct traffic, social engagement, or brand name search volume that can help you justify your budget but at the end of the day, these are all educated guesses. You can’t know for sure you made X dollars more because people talked about your product/service or because something happened that affected you. An exact number of people who know and value your brand will never be available to you.
Hence, a legitimate question would be: why to bother with reporting on brand awareness ROI at all since it’s notoriously hard, even though it’s an important goal for every business? My answer would be because deep down, we know how beneficial brand awareness is. It increases customer loyalty and trust and grows word-of-mouth, and you want to quantify that into a number so you can increase it.
Eventually, talk is what makes a brand. If no one knows about your business, you are not really in the business. You need to be on top of as many minds as possible, which is where the link with the strategic short-term and long-term approach, as well as PR and social media kicks in.
One underreported angle of brand awareness is forming strategic partnerships. Known as co-branding, this is an effective way to boost awareness and break into a market by harnessing the strengths and abilities of your partner in crime, typically a similar or a complementary brand. Strategic partnerships can reveal your brand to new audiences and also reinforce your brand’s equity with your existing audience. If you successfully identify a gap and opportunity in the market, co-branding can be the shortcut to better brand recognition customers by uniting expertise, talent, and technology but it requires ruminative lament to make sure success is achieved.
You do brand awareness every day
In spite of the fact that brand awareness is a fairly vague concept that is difficult to calculate and doesn’t have a fixed monetary value as everybody would prefer, in many ways, it’s critical to business growth. Making a brand have some meaning in the eyes of consumers is just as important as a sales pitch. Through detailed planning and strategic targeting, a brand awareness strategy can result in a greater ROI.
Think about it: you perform your own awareness of brands every time you choose Coca-Cola over Pepsi, Whopper instead of Big Mac, or thousands of other less tasty examples. Whether it’s a B2C or a B2B market, the point is the same: a thorough understanding of what makes brand awareness tick, so to speak, will allow you to guide your brand’s strategy and help achieve the goals you set for it.