So far in this series on brand relevance we’ve looked at the importance of brand awareness as the foundation of driving relevance, and then how important it is to develop brand consideration once you have awareness in place.
The final piece of the brand relevance puzzle is brand salience. What is brand salience? As outlined in the first article on brand relevance, a simple brand salience definition is this: the capacity of your brand to be recalled by a customer in a buying situation.

How is brand salience different from brand awareness?

Salience is not awareness, but is a condition achieved by a brand when it has already gained brand awareness. This is all about people recognising, recalling, thinking about, and considering your brand when it matters most: at the point they have to part with their hard-earned cash. 

Kantar Millward Brown have done some interesting research into brand salience which reveals that brand salience is most effective when tied to customer needs within a brand category. They use the example of airlines, showing that in the UK, British Airways is the most salient brand when just using top-of-mind awareness. But when a needs-based filter was applied it was EasyJet that came to the fore in terms of brand salience. Why? Because one of the most important needs when booking airline travel is price. Once departure point and destination are fixed, people will look at price, trying to get the best deal they can and EasyJet has built a strong position as a quality, low-cost airline. 

The conclusion Kantar Millward Brown draws is this: you need to make sure people hear you above your competitors, but crucially you have to relate your product, messages, and positioning to important category needs.

What creates brand salience?

Byron Sharp and Jenni Romaniuk of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science are leaders in the field of brand salience and their work contends that brand salience is dependent on memory structures in the brain. As we are exposed to a brand over time our brain forms associations between the brand name, its logo, products and so on. For Sharp and Romaniuk brand salience is improved by:

  1. Quantity of memory structures – This is driven by the amount of times a customer comes into contact with a brand in some form, through advertising, marketing, seeing the brand on shelves. The more memory structures a person has for a brand the more likely they are to be salient, and the more likely the brand is to be salient in a variety of buying situations. 
  2. Quality of memory structures – How strong the association with the brand is and its level of relevance to the customer, which can vary based on the situation.  

Why is this? Because, as the Kantar Millward Brown research touched on (as have other studies), people don’t make completely rational, thought-through decisions when buying. Instead they have a bunch of mental shortcuts that drive their behaviour, and one of these is the ‘mental availability’ of a brand. If it pops into a customer’s mind in a positive fashion they’ll be more likely to choose it.   

Driving brand salience requires a unique mix of distinctiveness (to cut through), relevance (to align marketing and advertising around needs), and repetition/familiarity (to refresh memory structures and build on them). And brand salience really does matter, because as Byron Sharp has pointed out (dedicating a book to the subject), salience is a huge driver for growth. 

Factors that contribute to brand salience are: 

  • Brand awareness, which we know is a necessary precondition for salience
  • Visibility (by which I mean regular brand exposure) because keeping your brand in front of people regularly will refresh and strengthen those memory structures which are so important for developing brand salience
  • Having a product or service that is strongly based on customer needs and desires, while having a level of differentiation
  • Distinctive and memorable brand assets, including your branding, advertising, and marketing
  • Using storytelling in your communications to drive associations in consumers’ minds and create a meaningful brand

A high level of brand salience with your target audience won’t happen overnight, but it will ensure you achieve brand relevance. And once your brand is relevant it will reach more people, driving sales and loyalty. Of course, brand relevance isn’t some final state you achieve and then sit back and enjoy; it’s very easy for a brand to stop being relevant quite quickly. 
Want to talk more about how you can make your brand more relevant to your customers? Get in touch and to find our more about how we can help you build brand relevance.