Starting and running a business is hard work. You want to focus on the products or services you offer, but that’s practically mainly window dressings.
Behind the scenes, you’re constantly doing administrative tasks, networking to get more referrals, coming up with marketing strategies, and moving heaven and Earth to make things happen. Your waking hours – and maybe even some of your sleeping ones — are consumed with what’s next on the list.
Why? Because despite the wonderful, brilliant services you provide, the reality is that if people aren’t aware of them, you’ll just sit there, waiting for that phone to ring. Hence, your acute understanding of the importance of brand awareness.
But what, exactly, does the concept of brand awareness mean? How do you make it happen? And how do you measure it?
Brand awareness refers to people’s ability to recognize your brand. How familiar they are with what you offer, how you may first pop into their heads when they face an issue that you can resolve.
Granted, if you have a small business, you won’t be as much of a household name as, say, Netflix; but you can still establish yourself as a leader within your industry and/or niche.
There are different types of brand awareness; and all of them are useful. For purposes of knowing where you stand at the moment, and the different levels you can achieve, let’s review all of them:
Brand recognition refers to the ability of consumers to immediately identify a brand without having to read or hear its name. For example, seeing golden arches, an apple with a bite missing, or the Just Do It phrase accompanied by a check mark.
Brand recall means a person’s ability to remember brands based on what they need at the moment, unaided. Say, for example, that you recently ran out of dish soap and you make a mental note to buy more Palmolive when you get to the grocery store.
You didn’t see any visual prompts to make you think of the brand. You just thought of it from memory from previously having used the product.
Brand association refers to a cue that immediately makes you think of a brand.
For example, you hear the NFL theme music from another room, and you rush back to watch a game. Or you are at a work Zoom meeting and hear a Facebook Messenger sound coming from one of the squares on the screen and you wonder which one of your coworkers is chatting on social media.
This is the cream of the crop type of awareness. It’s the first brand that comes to mind when consumers think of any product category.
For example, iPhones and Samsung; Kleenex, Pampers, Band-Aid. These are examples of what comes to mind when people think they need a new cell phone, or to buy tissues, diapers, or adhesive bandages.
While it’s pretty clear that brand awareness is beneficial to any company, it’s good to be cognizant of the specific advantages.
It Promotes Trust.
No matter what you’re selling, chances are that there are plenty of other businesses doing the same thing. Even for something as basic and simple as toilet paper, consumers are faced with a myriad of options.
But which kind are you more willing to buy? Charmin? Quilted Northern? Angel Soft? Or some generic package for 79 cents that you’ve never heard of?
You’re likely going to go for one of the brands you’re familiar with. Why? Because you know it. You have experience with it. You know what it is, and what to expect. You trust that it will get the job done.
It Builds Emotional Connections.
If you’ve ever watched the Super Bowl, you know that one of its most exciting features are the commercials. Some are funny. Some make you feel warm and fuzzy. Others make you tear up, or feel patriotic.
It’s not a coincidence that they elicit an emotional reaction from you. It’s strategic marketing to make a lasting impression. And if they showcase shared values, you are more likely to purchase from them. Why? Because emotionally charged messaging creates a rush of dopamine and serotonin in the brain — both of which motivate you to act.
It Helps Reach New Audiences.
Once people remember your memorable ads, or the good feelings they experienced while interacting with your brand, word spreads like wildfire. It’s what increases the likelihood of people clicking on that share button and making your content go viral.
It Fuels Revenue Growth.
In addition to more sales due to reaching new audiences, well-established brands have the luxury of being able to charge higher prices. Customers are willing to pay a premium for a product or service they perceive as having a higher value.
A quintessential example of this scenario are the long lines of loyal fans who purchase anything Apple releases, despite the fact that similar products are available from competitors at lower prices.
It Increases the Value of Your Business.
There are many factors that are taken into account when valuing a business. Its brand awareness is high on the list. Additional sales, customer loyalty, and recognizability all mean having higher website traffic, a steady stream of sales, and a sales funnel that’s always being replenished with new prospects.
There are several things that make a customer keep coming back over and over again. Depending on your target market, this could be low prices, high quality, extraordinary customer service, exclusivity, and perceived value.
People want a lot more than just convenience. They want to know they can fully trust in your company; that you’ll always deliver on your promises. This is why about 71 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand they recognize.
This significant statistic means that you have to be proactive about getting your name out there. Increasing your brand awareness means increased purchases and repeat customers. And not only that, they become brand advocates — aka dependable sources of referrals.
Ok. So now that you’re aware about how crucial brand awareness is for a business, it’s time to come up with an effective branding strategy. Some of the most important elements include:
Develop a Brand Personality.
To do this effectively, you have to know (a) who you are as a company, and (b) who’s your audience.
It’s around these elements that you will craft your voice; specifically paying attention to appealing to your buyer persona’s needs and values. This is what makes them find you relatable and drive engagement — on social media, blog posts, contests, events, surveys, and sales.
Characteristics of a brand personality could include being funny, irreverent, serious, luxurious, educational, reminiscent of a bygone era (e.g. vintage, classic, historical) or of the future (innovative, cutting-edge, futuristic). What to choose depends on your product/service and your target audience.
Communicate Your Company’s Values.
Once upon a time, it was common for people to stay quiet about their beliefs in politics, social justice, or even pop culture. Being vocal about it was considered to be divisive or have the potential to alienate customers.
Today, it’s common for businesses to take a stand in what they believe in — and even if they don’t straight out say it, their political contributions do.
Examples of companies who are clear on their stances include Nike, Target, Lipslut, Whole Foods, Disney, and Chick-fil-A, who have all communicated their support to social justice movements, including eradicating systemic racism, supporting the LBTTQ+ community, being proactive about inclusion and diversity within their business, or allegedly being anti LBTTQ+.
At the end of the day, having a list of values in an HR handbook are just words on paper. How you act with your platform and your financial support is what gives consumers a sense of who you really are as a company — and whether you walk the walk. This will bring customers who align with your values.
Conduct Inbound Marketing.
What do you do when you have a question about anything? Chances are high that you type a question on Google or ask Siri or Alexa. When you do that, you get a list of answers.
But who wrote them? They didn’t appear out of thin air. They were part of companies’ inbound marketing efforts. This can be blogs, opinion pieces, articles from industry publications, video tutorials, infographics, or a listicle, to name a few.
These search results serve a purpose: To provide prospects with value. Answer questions. Offer helpful guidance or suggestions. Educate. And the more you see the same source providing you with free and reliable information, the more they become familiar with you and grow to trust you.
They may even share that content with their friends, family, and coworkers. Voilá. Now more people know who you are.
Publish Content Regularly.
To become someone’s go-to expert, you need to build credibility by repeatedly sharing information that proves to be right. And what’s the magic ingredient? Time.
It takes time to become well known within your industry; and it requires that you stay front and center in their minds. So publish content regularly — maybe write a blog or record a podcast three times a week, or engage with followers on social media daily.
In addition to being visible, publishing content regularly ensures that you always provide up to date information as there are new developments within your industry or niche.
Invest in Advertising.
You have to spend money to make money. It’s a cliché, but it's often true. And advertising is a surefire way to influence your target audience’s behavior into taking a desired action — calling you for a demo, scheduling a meeting, signing up for a free trial, or making a purchase.
There are many mediums to choose from: pay per click ads, YouTube or TV commercials, print media, radio, social media. Don’t try them all hoping for a greater ROI. Conduct thorough market research to figure out where your ideal customer most often gets their news from, then focus your efforts there.
Become a Guest Blogger.
When you write for a blog that’s already established, you reap many benefits — you are introduced to a larger audience, you will get backlinks to your own website, and you’ll gain more street cred as an industry expert.
To find guest blogging opportunities, look for websites that are relevant to your industry, but that aren’t your competitors. For example, if there’s an industry publication about art and you’re a painter, that would be a great forum to communicate with the audience. Or you’re a personal trainer and there’s a popular magazine for people who lead active lifestyles. You get the drill.
Once you’ve narrowed down possible forums, enter a related search query on Google (e.g, “guest blogging for Runner’s World” or “article submissions for Attorney at Law magazine.” You’ll find that a lot of publications have a dedicated email address or landing page to pitch ideas.
And if you don’t see anything of the sort, reach out to them through LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — they’ll likely be most active wherever their target audience hangs out the most.
Use Free Content Offers to Generate Leads.
When you create free content (blogs, videos, infographics, whitepapers, ebooks), you’re attracting more people to your website. With every publication, you are building your industry authority and trustworthiness. And if you gate some of it (e.g., require people to give you their email address to access more extensive content), you’ll also build your email marketing list.
At the end of the day, people aren’t going to purchase anything from you until they ensure you (a) know what you’re talking about, and (b) consistently provide value to them. Gain their trust by addressing some of their concerns for free.
If you’ve ever gone to a sporting event, a food festival, or ran a 5K, you’ve likely noticed the sponsors’ names are everywhere — banners, t-shirts, koozies, notepads, pens, reusable water bottles, ads, and all kinds of merchandise.
It’s a surefire way to let people know about your existence, that you support a specific team or cause, and likely even get your business brand associated with an event they hold near and dear to their hearts. Remember when we talked about emotional connections and branding? This is one way to do that.
Pay Attention to Trending Hashtags.
Now, nobody really has time to check social media trending hashtags every day. I mean, you could scroll a bit during a mental break, but social media management tools come in handy to help you with this.
Monitoring what’s going on in these platforms provides you with plenty of opportunities to engage with your target audience, as well as get insights into what they need and/or want — possible gaps in the market, wishing for xyz that you may be able to provide with some planning and tweaking. And when you give people what they want, they become customers and spread the word.
Offer Freemium Features.
Freemium refers to when a company offers basic features for free, then charges a premium for those who need additional tools. A prime example of this is HubSpot offering their free client relationship management (CRM) platform that lets you segment contacts and automate repetitive tasks; but they charge for additional tools in sales, marketing, and customer support, depending on what it is you need.
Why is this important? Think of all the startup companies with a limited budget. They get to test your trustworthiness and effectiveness with the free products, and once they’re ready and able to make a purchase, you’ll be front of mind.
Run Contests on Social Media.
Everyone loves free stuff. Even rich people. So promoting that you’re giving away something that provides value to your target market is a good way to create brand awareness.
This is especially true when you require that to participate, people follow your page, tag a friend, and share your posts. In fact, doing so can help you increase your follower count by as much as 70 percent in a matter of months.
Pitch Your Expertise to Journalists.
Every single day, journalists are looking for story ideas. When they come up with them, they need industry experts to give their opinions and provide insights. And if you are interviewed as such an expert, you are increasing your brand awareness for free.
Enter Into Partnerships.
There are many ways to partner up with another business to expand your brand awareness. This is referred to as partnership marketing — the process of two brands collaborating in specified campaigns that benefit both companies.
We already discussed guest blogging. Other ways of doing so is hosting events together or referring business to each other (such as if you offer writing workshops and team up with an editor to send each other business).
The key is to increase the value and/or benefits a customer would receive from working with you and your partner.
Participate in Expert Panels at Industry Events.
Look for conferences, conventions, and/or trade shows in your industry and sign up for their newsletters to learn about upcoming events and guest speaker opportunities.
You can also Google “how to become a speaker at _____" and find landing pages to apply to be a speaker or to submit information about your area of expertise.
Create Video Tutorials.
Whether it’s how to put together furniture, make a recipe, learn how to use a content management system, or how to work out from home, people are always searching for helpful video content. And if you consistently provide them with what they’re looking for, they’ll eventually start seeking you out specifically and recommending you to their friends and family.
Once you’ve implemented measures to increase your brand awareness, you’ll want to track certain analytics to gauge progress. This includes paying close attention to:
Paying attention to your website traffic not only shows you how many people are becoming aware of your brand. It also gives you insights as to improvements you can make on the site.
For example, if you notice a high bounce rate on a specific page, you may want to look into hurdles within it — such as confusing content, difficult navigation, or slow loading times. The easier you make it for website visitors to get the information they need, the more likely you are to eventually close on more sales.
Newsletter and Blog Subscribers
Newsletters and blogs are good ways to nurture your relationship with leads. This, in turn, helps keep you at the forefront of their mind when they need your products or services.
A good way to incentivize them to sign up is by offering something in return — a discount code, a free ebook, or samples. An added benefit of blogs is that they are easily shareable on social media, which also increases brand awareness. So keep track of these counts and be strategic about the value they provide.
Engagement on Social Media
Follower counts, comments, hashtag mentions, shared content…. All of these things are an effective way to gauge your popularity within your target market.
This is why it’s crucial to invest in a good social media management software to help you keep track of everything. The more you answer questions, address concerns, and otherwise engage with your followers, the more recognizable you will become to them.
Backlinks are when other websites link to yours in order to give validity to their statements. They’re an effective way to establish you as a credible source of information, as well as driving more traffic to your website.
This may occur organically if you regularly look for content gaps on Google search engine results pages (SERPs) and discuss topics left unanswered by the listed links; or you can pitch content ideas to relevant websites. Track the growth of your backlink profile by checking on Ahrefs or Moz.
One of the best ways to get an answer from someone is to ask them directly. Want to know if people have heard of you? Conduct surveys.
Your brand’s reputation has a direct impact on your sales. Therefore, if you’re strategic about all the ideas listed above, you should start seeing results in your quarterly financial reports.
Track where most of them are coming from — organic website traffic, social media ads, customer referrals, email marketing communications — to identify what’s working best.
Now, let’s cover the fun stuff and go over some of the most famous brands and what makes them so memorable:
You wanna know why this one takes the cake? Because any child who has barely learned how to speak has a favorite Disney movie, Disney ride, Disney character, or maybe even their favorite Disney bedsheets.
And you can go to the parks, to the cruises, their hotels, run their races, watch Hamilton every weekend on Disney+ (and sing the songs out loud around the house, to your spouse’s chagrin). No matter your age, background, gender identity, or national origin, you know all about Disney’s magic.
Quick. Would you rather receive as a gift a no-name laptop from Walmart or a MacBook Air with all the bells and whistles?
While you could certainly be practical or maybe make a decision based on a tight budget, if you could choose which one to get, I’m gonna guess you’d go with Apple. They’re sleek, they’re user-friendly, they’re high quality (or at least, they’re perceived to be), and they look fancy. ‘Cause admit it: You want to look fancy on Instagram.
If you’re part of that almost extinct kind of office worker who still commutes to a location other than their home desk, you likely get your morning caffeine fixes from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.
Even if you wait to get into the office to get it for free from the shared kitchen, there’s still a chance that those bags are from one of these vendors. But between you and I, you know you like it when the barista remembers your order and writes your name correctly on that cup.
Netflix has become such a household name, that it’s now become a verb: Netflix and chilling is actually a thing. People no longer date, hang out, or host a movie. They Netflix and chill.
Now, that’s the kind of brand awareness that keeps on bringing in the money. They probably don’t even have to try. But do they? You can bet they do.
After all, even with a huge brand awareness, you can become irrelevant if you don’t continue being strategic about it. Releasing new content, personalizing the experience, and making suggestions based on past viewings is part of theirs.
5. Coca Cola
It may increase inflammation, the chances of type II diabetes, and has little to no nutritional value, but that hasn’t stopped millions of people from continuing to gravitate toward this classic company.
Whether it’s your name on a Coke bottle, its cooling effect on a hot day at an amusement park, or those really cute polar bears, everyone and their mother immediately recognizes Coca Cola.
What’s the name of that logo? It’s a green circle with some lines, right? Maybe they’re sound waves — which would make sense, considering its purpose is to play music (or podcasts, or audio books).
Either way, you don’t need to see commercials about the app, or be reminded by direct mailers that it exists. You listen to a new song that you love, and you immediately make a mental note to download it from Spotify. Or maybe you prefer iTunes. Tomato, to-mah-toe.
You know you’d recognize that five notes jingle anywhere. Their logo is also a bold pink, they’re consistently recognized as a great employer, and they’ve partnered with Taco Bell and Lyft to provide special promotions and credits to users of these other companies. So granted, they’re pretty big with millennials.
You don’t even have to be persuaded by a red bullseye or that adorable dog. You know that when you run out of laundry detergent, you’ll likely go to Target.
Not only that, but when you go to buy it, you’ll end up spending $182 on other stuff you weren’t originally planning on buying, but they were all along the way between the entrance and the laundry detergent aisle.
A check mark, y’all. A check mark. Ok. Some people call it a swoosh, but they aren’t fooling anyone. That’s a check mark.
And you can look at something as plain as a gray t-shirt with a black check mark, and you know it’s a Nike shirt. Not only that, you’re willing to pay significantly more than getting just a regular t-shirt in the same color, but without that logo. How mind blowing is that?
Golden arches. Mickey D’s. Royale with cheese. Ronald MacDonald. Grimace and Hamburglar. Happy Meals. How many ways can you recognize McDonald’s without even mentioning the company’s name? Does it even matter that you’re not really sure what’s in those nuggets?
As you can see, brand awareness doesn’t happen by luck or by chance. There’s a lot of planning, strategy, and trial and error to find out what works. And once you do, rinse and repeat, darling; because competitors will always keep cropping up.