Apple versus Android; Nike versus Adidas; Pepsi versus Coca-Cola. No matter which side of the divide you fall on, you most likely stick to it (and defend it) with a commitment bordering on stubbornness. And that’s the power of brand awareness.
If you’re team Nike, you won’t think twice about who to buy your next pair of trainers from; if you’re firmly in the Pepsi camp and feeling parched, you already know which bottle you’re going to reach for. It’s this level of awareness that all brands aspire to, and in this complete guide to brand awareness, we’re going to help you grow yours.
What is brand awareness?
People knowing your name, recognising your logo, and understanding what you do is brand awareness. It’s seeing the Starbucks green and mentally planning your Frappuccino order; hearing someone mention fried chicken and heading over to KFC; smelling that unmistakably fresh soapy bubbly scent and knowing you’ve just walked past a branch of Lush (bath bomb anyone?).
Brand awareness is stepping out of the shadows and making a name for yourself. It’s the very first step in the buying process, and a crucial stage of the customer journey. And while you might luck out on off-the-cuff, one-time purchases, most consumers won’t consider buying your products or services without a degree of brand awareness – because buying decisions are based on trust.
In fact, 46% of consumers would willingly pay more to buy from brands they feel they can trust, so it really is in your interests to boost your brand awareness to dizzy new heights.
Why is brand awareness important?
59% of customers prefer to buy from brands they already know about – which is a no-brainer when you think about it. You’re always going to gravitate towards what you know, if what you know is good service, good quality, and a brand that you can trust.
Done right, brand awareness is a hole-in-one for setting you apart from your competitors. If you tell your story through your brand, in a way that’s eminently human, it’ll help customers to relate to you, connect with you, and see your unique qualities.
Choosing a brand is like choosing a partner: you have to know what they’re about, what they stand for, and how they’ll make your life better before you go all in. And if those things line up? It’s much easier to commit.
We’re constantly bombarded with brand imaging and messaging from the moment we wake up (and inevitably reach for our phones), to the moment we slink off into bed. For a business just starting out – or an established company hoping to launch a new product or service – building a strong sense of brand awareness is essential for drawing in new customers.
Without brand awareness, why would people choose you? What’s going to make them say “yep, that’s the brand for me” if they have no clear idea of who you are and what you do? If they can’t spot your logo in a line-up, or bring to mind anything of interest when they hear your name, they’re unlikely to seek you out when it’s buying time.
Brand awareness is important because it stands up and shouts “Hey! This is me! This is why you need me! And this is why I’m so much better than my lousy competitors!” It’s a rousing chorus of carefully orchestrated enticements projected at potential – soon to be converted – customers. And if you’re not ploughing a decent amount of time, energy and resources into building it, you’re seriously missing a trick.
Brand awareness also provides a really crucial metric for your marketing efforts, how well your target audience knows you, and the correlation between the two. Measuring brand awareness can help to inform the strategic direction of your business, clue you in on whether people are responding to your campaigns, and help you to pinpoint any areas in your approach to market that may not be working.
It’s also a good marker for your organisation as a whole. By focusing on and tracking brand awareness, you have something tangible to report on to senior leaders, while uniting employees around a shared goal. And united, engaged employees will go a long way towards boosting your brand profile – trust us!
Types of brand awareness
There are five key types of brand awareness that you need to be aware of, as it’s up to you decide where your ambitions lie, and which type of awareness you’re prepared to push for in your brand awareness journey.
- Aided brand recognition
- Unaided brand recall
- Visual branding
- Top of mind
- Brand dominance
First up, let’s deal with aided brand awareness versus unaided brand awareness. What’s the difference?
Aided brand awareness (also known as brand recognition) is when someone can recognise your brand from a list of logos or brand names. It’s great if they do recognise you because it means that something you’re doing is definitely working, but it’s not quite so heartening as making it into unaided brand awareness territory.
Unaided brand awareness (also known as brand recall) is when someone is able to recall your brand name following a simple cue: for example, naming Cadburys when asked what chocolate bars they’re aware of. If Cadburys was the first brand mentioned, they’ve also achieved ‘top of mind’ status – which is literally the first brand listed in a recall question. See, it’s not all that complicated, is it?
As for visual branding, well, it does what it says on the tin. Visual branding is when people recognise your brand from its colours, designs, packaging, logo, advertising, and any other visual clues. This is irrespective of your brand name. In fact, some people buy based on visuals alone; even if they can’t bring your name to mind.
Brand dominance is the ultimate in brand awareness (shiny gold trophy coming your way). When someone is unable to recall any other brand than yours in a category, you’ve successfully achieved brand dominance, and can now take over the world (but please don’t, not really; we can’t take any more big changes right now).
Brand awareness is a sliding scale, and while you might need to start at the bottom, there’s a tonne of ways to climb the ranks quickly enough; you just have to be willing to put in a bit of leg-work. Keep reading for some top tips on developing, improving, and measuring brand awareness.
How to develop brand awareness
- Make the right first impression. We’re taught never to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to your brand, people are going to make snap judgements about who you are and whether you’re worth their time and money. Harsh, but unavoidably true. Take your website for instance: it takes around 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for people to form an opinion about your website. So, is your website telling people who you are? Are you happy with the message they’re getting? You need to make sure your content is consistent (and SEO-optimised), your logo is a true reflection of your brand, and even your font is right for the story you’re trying to tell. This is your narrative, so own it.
- Make your stance known. We’ll come on to creating a brand identity later, but here, we’re talking social issues. A massive 64% of consumers would decide to either buy from a brand or boycott it entirely, purely because of its position on a social or political issue, while 89% of shoppers would choose to stay loyal to a brand that shares its values. That doesn’t mean you need to start organising protests or challenging politicians on twitter, but it does mean your brand needs to come with its own level of awareness. Transparency is key, so only back (and talk about) matters you actually want to align yourself with; you can’t be disingenuous here.
- Play the long game. It takes five to seven impressions for people to remember a brand, so you can’t expect to connect with your customer base through a single blog, email, or social media interaction and have their immediate brand buy-in. You need a consistent campaign that encompasses the entire customer journey, and ensures all touchpoints are in alignment – from your website, advertising and online presence, to your customer service, consumer aftercare, and any complaint handling. And it turns out that presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can actually increase revenue by up to 23%, so it’s well worth the effort.
- Get your voice heard. Did you know that brands that blog generate a whopping 67% more leads than brands that don’t? Of course, blogging is just one way to get your name out there, but content creation really is incredibly important for building brand awareness. Blog posts are a great way to show what you’re all about – especially for service-based businesses. If you regularly post useful insight that shows your expertise, customers will naturally gravitate towards you. It’s that trust thing again. And blogs, thought leadership pieces, even well-thought-out social media posts, can all help to position you as a brand that people can trust.
- Choose your colours wisely. When it comes to branding and increasing brand awareness, colours really do matter. In fact, using a signature colour has been found to increase brand recognition by up to 80%! Different colours tend to evoke different feelings in people (there’s a whole science around it), so give careful thought to what message you want your branding to conjure up in the minds of your customers. Calm, energetic, intelligent, responsive, agile, dynamic, comforting, trustworthy, dependable, friendly, warm, exhilarating, revolutionary…whatever your goal, there’s a colour for that.
- Create a relatable identity. Who are you? Who’s at the helm? What do your employees feel passionately about? How do you speak to your ideal customer? What causes do you believe in? What’s your stance on climate change? Fast-fashion? Gender-equality? Do you believe in pay parity? What portion of your profits do you donate to charity? What problem have you been set up to solve? How are you any different from your closest competitor? Do you own your mistakes? Have you got a sense of humour? Are you proud of what you do? These things might not all feel important, relevant, or significant – but they are, because you need a living, breathing identity that customers can connect with. Without that, you’re just another faceless brand.
- Hone in on your ideal customer. Any brand would be happy with any customer (within reason; we imagine you all have a couple of notable exceptions). But while all business is business, and all profits are profits, identifying, understanding, and targeting your ideal customer will help you to strengthen your brand awareness amongst the people who are most likely to relate to your brand message. Your marketing also becomes more effective when it’s designed with your target audience in mind, rather than trying to appeal to the masses, because you’ll be addressing a specific pain point.
- Focus on customer service. The importance of great customer service should never be underestimated for its role in building solid brand awareness. If someone stumbles across your brand and receives stellar service, you’re going to stick in their minds. In fact, a convincing 73% of consumers cite customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions.
Brand awareness strategies
You can’t just sit back and hope for the best when it comes to growing your level of brand awareness. Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies you can deploy to get your name in front of your target customers – no matter what your budget.
Whether you choose to advertise through social media, search engines, over the radio, on the TV, or through the good old medium of print, advertising can be an incredibly effective way to appeal to a large and diverse audience. You do, however, stand a much better chance of making a lasting impression if your branding is memorable. If you’ve developed a brand with personality, really play on this when designing your advertising campaigns; if you haven’t got the sort of creative freedom that gives you room to play, focus on developing a strong brand message, name and logo.
PR (Public Relations)
PR is well worth your investment from a brand awareness perspective. If you have a product launch to announce, a big business deal to boast, a new service offering to shout about, a launch to publicise, or you want to secure coverage for some great work your business is doing in the community, PR is the way to go. By building relationships with journalists, editors and publications, you can communicate your message, your way. Another option is to target influencers who are most likely to appeal to your target audience: if you can get them to try your product or service and (preferably) give it a glowing review, people will take notice of your brand.
A brand’s online presence is a deal-breaker in our digital age, but it’s not enough to simply set up a site or bash out a few blogs. Whatever you do online has to be fully optimised for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). SEO allows people to find your website or content when they type certain key words into their search engine. Without the right key words in your content, you’re unlikely to get picked up and presented to potential customers. For this, we’d recommend working with an SEO expert who really knows their stuff.
One of the best methods of boosting your brand awareness is getting your name out there in a thoughtful, meaningful way; a way that adds value and draws people in. Positioning yourself as a thought leader in your area will help people to feel like they’re buying from someone who really knows their stuff. You do this by crafting relevant and insightful white papers, articles, demos, podcasts and videos – or by speaking at events and taking part in roundtables.
If you have adequate budget, sponsorship can give you a great return on investment. By paying to endorse something BIG – like a TV show, sporting event, competition or festival – you can gain some serious exposure for your brand. It does of course help if you’re endorsing something that aligns with your brand values, but as long as you’re choosing to sponsor something that your target audience will actually see, awareness of your brand will soar.
Putting on an event, or speaking/showcasing your brand at somebody else’s event can introduce you to swathes of new customers, as well as other professionals in your area. This sort of networking is extremely valuable when you’re building a brand – even if you don’t get any direct sales from it (to begin with). Plus, any event also comes with its own PR opportunities!
Improving brand awareness
As well as practical strategies for putting yourself firmly in the public consciousness, there are ways and means of building brand awareness that go beyond a piece of PR or a single advertising campaign.
People like to build personal connections with the brands they buy into, which means your business has to be much more than just a business. It has to be authentic. It has to be consistent. It has to be transparent. And it has to be human. Get those things right, and brand awareness is sure to follow.
- Be authentic. Today’s consumers value honesty and transparency, and most are smart enough to spot when a brand is being inauthentic. There are tonnes of marketing opportunities out there, but you need to give serious thought to what your brand stands for, what you believe in, and the values and causes you want to align yourself with. If you take to social media and start promoting your brand through an awareness day or current issue that your image is in no way aligned with, and you don’t live those values in other ways, it’s not going to wash with (cynical or savvy) customers. Interestingly, 88% of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support, so this stuff really matters.
- Be consistent. This is quite closely related to authenticity, because a lack of consistency creates a feeling of inauthenticity. Consistency is key when it comes to promoting your brand message, telling your unique story, and connecting with your customers. You need a consistent tone of voice across all of your social media platforms, in your emails, on your website, and across your ads; you need a consistent approach to handling negative feedback and resolving complaints, and you need a consistent stance on everything from the environment to how you use your profits. It’s this dependable consistency that helps to build trust.
- Be transparent. Nowadays, companies aren’t only known for what they sell; they’re also known for how they treat their employees, how fair their pay is, whether they prioritise people over profits, and if their approach to work/life balance has moved with the times. These things might have nothing to do with what you’re selling, but they have everything to do with your brand. And while you might try to keep company goings-on behind closed doors, 66% of consumers think transparency is one of the most attractive qualities in a brand. People are naturally curious, and it pays to lean into that.
- Be human. There’s no fun in doing business – whether that’s buying a product or using a service – with a faceless corporate machine. We all like the fantasy of the face behind the brand, because it reinforces that sense of connection we’re so often longing for on our customer journey (and heck, in life in general!) To really have an impact on your audience then, you need to think of your brand as a living, breathing person; understand their personality, their humour, and how they speak – then introduce your brand to the world like you would yourself to a would-be friend. Crafting a narrative is a great place to start with this, so give yourself a little back story (like X-Men Origins, but with a little less violence), and start living that story in everything you put out there.
Measuring brand awareness
While brand awareness isn’t nearly as neat as many other metrics, it is possible to get some real value from measuring awareness of your brand in the market. Which is good news really, as you need to know where you are in the popularity stakes.
Look, we know this isn’t high school, but stick with us.
Getting a feel for how many people know your name, recognise your branding, visit your website, read your blogs, and bring you to mind when they have a need for what you’re selling, helps you to gauge whether your brand awareness efforts are doing the trick, or whether you need to change tack. And this is how you find out.
Quantitative brand awareness
For people who like hard and fast numbers.
- Website traffic: If you have a website, you want to know how many people are hitting it up. Direct traffic will tell you how many people key in your URL to make it straight to your door, and this is the best type of traffic as it’s intentional, and means that your marketing efforts are working. Hooray! Site traffic numbers are still super important though, as this means people are finding you through SEO, social media, adverts, or shares from their network.
- Social media metrics: It’s never good for people to get hung-up on how many likes they’re generating on social media, but for business? It’s something you need to know. Social engagement – in other words, how many likes, comments, retweets, shares and followers you have across all of your social media platforms – is a good indication of just how healthy your brand awareness is. A good level of engagement also shows that your brand persona is interesting enough for people to want to interact with you.
Qualitative brand awareness
For people who like the slightly fuzzier (but still really important) stuff.
- Awareness surveys: Surveys can give you an insight into how familiar people are with your brand, and what they think of it. In assessing brand awareness, you can choose to ask aided, or unaided questions. An example of an aided question would be giving someone a list of brands (yours, plus your competitors) and asking which they recognise. An unaided question would be to ask them to list which brands they know in your area. This also lets you see which of your competitors are leading the way in the brand awareness stakes.
Aided question: From this list of chocolate brands, which do you recognise?
Unaided: Which brand of chocolate first spring to mind?
- Social listening: We love a good tech solution, and this one certainly gets our vote. Social listening tools allow you to keep track of what people are saying about your brand on social media, without needlessly trawling through endless posts, tweets and comments. You can see who’s tagging your brand, what engagement you’re getting, where your hashtag is showing up, and how your brand is being portrayed. This gives you a great indication of sentiment around your brand, and how aware of it people are. Setting up Google alerts is another reliable, time-saving way of keeping track of your mentions.
Brand awareness examples
Brand awareness campaigns come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s take a look at some of the best.
With its ‘Love it or hate it’ strapline, Marmite leans into its polarizing status to perfect effect. Better yet, it encourages conversation, debate, even fierce rivalry. Well, perhaps not that fierce, but people do feel pretty strongly about whether Marmite is the best thing since sliced bread, or an edible error of cataclysmic proportions. As a self-branded ‘aggressive flavour’, its brand awareness efforts are no less in your face – and it works a treat.
Bodyform is a brand that stands strong on normalising periods, but it also works hard to lend a voice to women the world over by highlighting the many issues that can affect women’s bodies. Back in 2020, Bodyform launched an impactful ad campaign that brought attention to the ‘unspoken’ truths about women’s physical experiences – including endometriosis, infertility, first periods, and the menopause. The ads also shone a light on the wider impact on emotional wellbeing and mental health. Inspired by research that found that 21% of women feel society wants them to stay silent about their experiences, the ‘Womb Stories’ campaign was a huge success, and spoke to their target audience to perfection.
The chocolate spread has cleverly launched its ‘Nutella Friends Edition’: a special jar that contains 21 mini jars. Each mini jar holds two portions which, wouldn’t you know it, is just darn perfect to share with a friend. To add to the genius, the jars are fully customisable – with a blank space to write a name, or your own message. And who doesn’t love a personalised gift? This type of campaign is brilliant because it encourages customers to spread the love, and your brand name, far and wide. Well played Nutella, well played.
How can Forsta help?
If you want to get the inside scoop on how people experience your brand, we’ve got the tools to help you get to the heart of the feedback that’s already out there, just going to waste.
We can shine the light on your social rep (what people are saying about you online), give you an accurate idea of your NPS (Net Promotor Score), and even test how your ads are landing (it can be brutal, but wouldn’t you rather know?)
Find out which of your carefully crafted content is creating connection in the minds of your customers, and which is sending them running for the hills (or for your nearest competitors). We can also set up group testing and targeting to see what your ideal audience is really into – which is pure gold when it comes to boosting the ol’ brand awareness.
Bottom line, you don’t have to do any of this stuff alone. In fact, it’s far easier if you don’t.
So, are you ready to find out how you’re faring? Let’s go!
Well there you have it. You know what brand awareness is, why it’s important, what the different types of brand awareness are, how to develop brand awareness, the best brand awareness strategies to get you noticed, how to measure (and improve) brand awareness, and what a good brand awareness campaign looks like. Phew!
Even better than that, you’ve got a total brand awareness aficionado on-side to help you through the whole process.
Glad you stopped by? We sure are.
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