In the first article in this series on brand relevance I gave a quick overview of what brand relevance is, and the main factors that drive it. For this blog we’ll have a look at brand awareness and why it is important for your business. 

What is brand awareness?

As covered in the previous article, brand awareness is the foundation of brand relevance. If people aren’t aware of your brand then you cannot be relevant to them, and they won’t be dropping hard earned cash on what you’ve got to sell. 

Brand awareness is traditionally driven by top of funnel activity designed to reach people without necessarily driving them to act. TV ads, radio spots, PR, print, digital ads, social media activity and so on. 

Driving brand awareness can often take quite a bit of time and money; it often takes multiple exposures to cement your brand with a customer, and you won’t see immediate returns. For some brand awareness activity can be overlooked in favour of ‘point of conversion’ work. Of course, if you want to increase the amount of people who get to the point of conversion then you will want to raise brand awareness, but don’t expect to ‘spend a quid and get two quid back’ in the short term. 

Good awareness building activity will reach a lot of people, it will speak to a section of that broadest possible audience and resonate with them. 

But brand awareness is not a simple thing. It’s not a case of someone just being ‘aware’ of your brand because they’ve seen an ad or two. It falls into two categories, and one can be harder to achieve than the other.  

Prompted brand awareness

The first type of brand awareness is prompted brand awareness (or aided recall). This can be assessed by seeing if a customer recognises a brand when provided with some sort of stimulus to aid recall. This could be a logo, the brand name, or packaging etc. either presented alone or within a set of competitor brands. Whatever they see, if they can recall the brand, and ideally have some understanding of what the brand makes or does, then you’ve achieved prompted brand awareness.

Most people have a pretty big collection of brands within their ‘prompted awareness’ set of brands. Given how many ads, logos, and other marketing collateral we experience on a daily basis this isn’t surprising.

Spontaneous brand awareness

The second category of brand awareness is also called unaided recall. This measures the ability of a customer to bring the brand from memory and name it without any stimulus. 

So taking a category like televisions, you might ask someone: “Can you list for me all the manufacturers of televisions that you know?” Ask two people this and you’ll get two different lists, with some crossover no doubt. Some might say “Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, LG…” others “Phillips, Hitachi, Toshiba, Samsung…”

An individual’s set of brands in their ‘spontaneous brand awareness’ group will typically be much smaller than their prompted brand awareness set. To enter into spontaneous brand awareness a customer will usually have had more exposure to the brand, its products, and marketing, and they will probably have purchased (or considered purchasing) from these brands.

Measuring brand awareness

So, how do you get a handle on brand awareness for your business? There are a number of different ways to assess and measure awareness, from the traditional to the digital. Here are a few: 

  • Surveys – Get out there and ask the public. You can survey existing customers to assess how they discovered your brand, what associations they have with your brand etc. Or you can survey a wider set of people, and see if they are aware of your brand, whether that is prompted or spontaneous. Surveys need to be carefully constructed though, to ensure bias is minimised.
  • Overall search volume and trends – Keeping an eye on search volume for your brand, and how it trends over an extended period of time, will give you an indication of whether your awareness is increasing or decreasing.
  • Direct website traffic – The more people are aware of your brand and remember it, the more likely they are to just come straight to your site rather than arriving via other content. Keep an eye on direct traffic to your site over time. 
  • Social listening – Keep an ear to the ground and monitor brand mentions on social media, and engagement with your content. It’s also worth keeping an eye on overall sentiment too. 
  • Share of voice – You need to also track your competitors and how they’re performing. While your results might look OK, they can be dwarfed by others in the space. A healthy, or dominant, share of voice will help drive brand awareness.

How to build brand awareness

There’s a tendency to think that it’s easy to make people aware of your brand. You just need a bit of viral content. Some news outlets to feature your business. Maybe one or two ads on YouTube. 

So easy. 

Of course it is. That’s why so many brands appear from nowhere each year and go on to be raging successes. Except they don’t.

Some important ways to build brand awareness include: 

  • Know your audience – If you don’t understand who you’re targeting, what they want, and how what you’re selling can help them, you are really going to struggle to drive awareness. So many brands fall down here. In depth user understanding should be at the centre of all marketing.
  • Create great content – Create the content that your audience wants, in a way that will stop them in their tracks, and stick with them. Again, it’s so easy isn’t it?  Remember though, awareness content isn’t about conversion, it’s about getting your brand in front of people and making it stick. Video content in particular is worth exploring, with YouTube alone racking up billions of views a day.
  • Work your search and social – Make sure that your search strategy is on point, so that your brand not only ranks for branded search but for non-brand terms. The same goes for social media, if you’re using it. Social, whatever its critics might say, is a great platform for driving awareness when it is handled right. On average people spend about two hours a day on social media, and we all know the importance of search engines in helping us find what we want. Brand awareness builds over time, with repeated exposure to brand assets, so nailing search and social is vital. 
  • Use PR – Whether you get your name out there in traditional media or on digital, PR is essential for raising brand awareness. Getting your brand featured in a large media publication or on a high visibility website will work wonders. Of course, getting good PR placements takes a lot of work but the payoffs are worth it. 
  • Unlock the power of paid – Remember I said raising awareness will take some money? Paid media is going to take a big chunk of that. A clever paid strategy will get your ads in front of the right people, on the right platform, at the right time. And with services like Sky AdSmart, highly targeted TV spots are now in reach of brands that could never have afforded them just a few years ago. 

The list goes on. The important thing to remember is you need to be clear on what brand awareness is, why it matters, and what you expect from it. 

In the next article we’ll look into brand consideration the next stage in building brand relevance for your business. Click here for the next article.