In all the brand-focused marketing literature I have waded through over the years, there seems to be a paucity of attention placed on one of the most basic yet important aspects of brand strategy. I certainly have not given it the attention it deserves. So today I am writing (finally) about Brand Awareness, in this my 100th post.
The basic metrics common in all discussion of Awareness are recall and recognition, recall being the stronger of the two. Recall is measured by prompting people with the question, “What brand names can you name (in a particular category)?” Recognition is measured by supplying a brand name and asking, “Do you recognize this brand?” This is pretty much where the discussion usually ends. Although, this is often when one may learn of the counter intuitive situation of a “category killer” (think Kleenex) suffering from their own popularity when the brand name becomes synonymous with the brand category.
Not often mentioned is the strong statistical evidence that people will choose a brand name they are familiar with over one they do not know, almost every time. This is true regardless of whether they have first hand experience with the product or service. The exception is when a choice is made for experimental or ‘discovery’ purposes, which is so rare it explains why so many new brands fail within the first year of launch.
Most of these discussions use the grocery store to illustrate how this works in the consumer’s mind. The example also works well in showing how companies can leverage the strength of their brand names within and without their category. Of all the myriad of options, shoppers are very predictable. I know I am. When faced with a choice between a known and an unknown, it’s hardly a choice. I also like the example because food and beverage selection is so subjective. Is a store brand really that much different than a national brand? Is Coke™ objectively that much “better”?
This normally lead to a discussion about brand loyalty which I have written a fair amount about in the past. And also to the subject of “choice”, which from a neuro-marketing perspective I’ve also touched on and find fascinating.
I would like to offer a new(?), or a least different, way of thinking of such matters. This may be a bit of a stretch but have you ever wondered why some songs seem so much better than others, ones you are less familiar with, by the same artist? I recently stumbled upon a Smithereens’ cover album named B-sides The Beatles. Only the songs I was familiar with (had an awareness of) seemed any good. Why is that? Or for example, why do I similarly think the 50 or so Elvis Costello songs I am aware of are better than the 400 or so other songs he has written and recorded which I am less aware of? Obviously familiarity does not breed contempt. It would seem to breed irrationality.
By that I mean, my judgment is based on my awareness, not on any objective measure such as music theory. More specifically, it would seem that I prefer these songs because this awareness informs me of the next note (predictability) and because ‘I know all the words’ (security). And surely the fact that these songs are popular informs my decision as well (herd instinct).
So next time you’re pushing your shopping cart down the aisle take a moment to think of the importance Awareness plays in your purchasing decision.
Here enters another elephant in my blog’s 100 posts, Advertising. I rarely even use the term Branding. But savvy advertising explains a lot in this context.
Let’s head back to the store. In the energy drink category Red Bull™ came out of nowhere (Austria, actually) and to this day commands the largest market share in the energy drink category. Their advertising put them on the map. But they have also been a best practice in Branding, from sports sponsorship, social involvement etc. Everyone has heard of Red Bull, right? And then a little company came along with a new offering and enough people became aware of it for people to make that “experimental’ decision I mentioned earlier. But the key is that people became aware of it first, through advertising. Then those people told others (word of mouth) and a Monster™ was born.
From my perspective these success stories are the function of great brand building. But advertising, the paid placement of these brand’s identities, is how the message got from the creative department into the consciousness of the consumer. That’s to say, maybe (I’m kinda winging it here), that a well told story(the brand), well told (the advertising) leads directly to the coveted Awareness.
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In the weeks, months, (year?) to come I will be switching over to a wordpress.org site because the platform is better suited for pushing my words out onto the web. I also have this fantasy that I will put my first 100 posts into an e-book format.