Pop Quiz: List three well-known brands and what they stand for. Ready? Go!
How long did that take you? Seconds?
Maybe you listed Mercedes for luxury automobiles, H&M for fast fashion, or Oreo for snacking. And doubtless there were many other brands at the tip of your tongue. These brands have spent literally fortunes carving out space in our brains in an attempt to define our perception of what a solid product should be.
Ultimately, that’s what branding is—it is a “mindshare” in the brains of prospective clients.
It's estimated that today's consumer sees 5,000+ ads in any given day (or more). Not only do consumers have access to hundreds of media channels, but they are also unwittingly creating advertising themselves. (Think of the popularity of “unboxing videos,” for instance.)
By contrast, 20 to 30 years ago there was no social media and there were far fewer TV and viewing choices. Consumers were exposed to less than half of the estimated ads they see today.
We are bombarded with—even drowning in advertising. In this landscape, how can two products largely similar to one another both carve out strong market niches and develop their own loyal customer bases? The answer is brand awareness, and the good news is that it is available to everyone, even without billion-dollar advertising budgets.
Brand Awareness is the extent to which your customers can recognize your brand out in the marketplace.
As a brand owner you want to develop and nurture brand awareness until it goes far beyond mere recognition. In other words, you don't want customers just to recognize your name or logo. You want them to connect your brand with your message, your values, and the differences that make your product and service meaningful and useful to them.
The only way to stand out in the crowd is to play the long game and create a well-defined business brand. When you do this, you’ll have less competition—even if there are dozens of other similar companies. Instead, people will think of you first, and will clearly see your value.
Want to learn more about developing your business brand? Read our Ultimate Guide to Building a Strong Business Brand.
There are four primary benefits to building a strong brand, all of which go hand in hand:
Do people know that your business exists? People know Oreo and Mercedes exist because they’re legacy brands who’ve spent decades honing their messages. You can do this in your industry as well, by first crafting your message, and then remaining consistent. Over time, as your brand gains visibility, the consistency in your product offerings will establish trust, as well as build other associations with what you offer. When people associate your message with your business, that’s strong brand awareness.
When it comes to pizza delivery, Domino’s carved out a niche by promising to deliver in “30 minutes or less.” Nordstorm has a no-questions-asked return policy. These are both competitive advantages that keep these customer bases happy.
Your competitive edge is probably found in your people or proprietary knowledge or process. It’s not something easily copied, and that’s what makes consumers associate your product with being a tier above. When you find your edge, distill it into a tagline, and use everywhere.
Shared values are more important than ever to customer loyalty. People want to buy from brands they trust and who stand behind values and causes which resonate with them. That’s part of the secret sauce for brands like Toms Shoes. When you buy a pair, you know someone less fortunate will also get a pair. It’s feel-good fashion.
People also trust reviews and testimonials. In fact, Inc. Magazine says that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust those from family and friends. As the public becomes aware that you are on the same page as they are, from a values standpoint, with previous customers to stand behind you, consumers will feel drawn to your brand, message, and good faith.
When you’ve been around for years, your longevity establishes deeply-rooted trust amongst consumers. Prospects assume you’re good at what you do and that you’re trustworthy. If you aren’t either of these things, clients assume that, more than likely, you would have gone out of business years ago.
If you’ve been consistent in your work on the first three points above, your marketing and messaging will ensure people remember you and believe you. The lifespan of your brand awareness is rooted in establishing this solid foundation.
Hopefully, you see how each of these work together to build on the like, know, and trust factors within your business.
The takeaway: think of your product as a walking advertisement.
Today’s consumers are mindful of where they spend their money, and they want to feel connected with the brands they support. One way you can do that is through brand experiences. If you can give your customers a memorable experience, they’ll recommend you to their friends.
One brand that’s pioneered this approach is the eyeglass brand Warby Parker. They create stylish, inexpensive glasses. But, they don’t stop there.
With Warby Parker’s “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” campaign, you know that for every pair of glasses you buy, another pair will be given to someone who’s visually impaired and living in a developing country. Warby Parker’s customers feel good, knowing they’re getting a great deal and helping those in need. That’s the power of brand awareness.
You can do this, too, even without the Madison Avenue ad budget. It starts with communicating your value.
There are many intangibles that comprise brand value. Ultimately, brands are about perception. After all, both a Mercedes and a Hyundai will get you from point A to point B, but one is more closely associated with luxury and success than the other.
The good news is, you can take control of this message in your prospect’s mind, by incorporating five simple steps:
As an example of brand perception, wouldn’t a few sleek iMacs have better conveyed sophistication in this photo?
Apple established themselves as the creative computing option from the beginning. While IBM ruled the establishment, Apple positioned themselves as an alternative in a sea of sameness. Apple did that through unique advertising.
The “Think Different” ad campaign of the 1990s is one of many campaigns that positioned Apple as the brand for creatives, and they’re still going strong with these today.
The airline Southwest also did this through perks, such as the ability to cancel your flight up to 10 minutes before take-off without penalty. Southwest created a customer-friendly approach that says, “We know plans change. Go ahead and book your seat. If you need to cancel, it’s OK.”
Consider your company. How can you be different?
Can you offer a small gift for your most loyal customers? What about creating an easy-to-use website that offers clear, compelling copy? Instead of saying something yawn-inducing or repetitive, like “Best in Class” or, “We make customer service a priority,” show us what makes your brand different. For example, “Best in Class” for invoicing software could become, “We help you deliver attractive and professional invoices in seconds.” Find your uniqueness to position your business effectively, and show why your prospective client should care (or they won’t).
When you’re clear on your message, you have an easier time attracting your target market.
Yet, being clear seems to be tough for a lot of brands. If you’re messaging is full of jargon-y buzzwords, like “leverage” and “interfacing,” work with a strong writer to drill down to the core of what you do and who you help. It may take a few iterations, but the time and investment are worth it because you will be able to clearly communicate your message to your clients and future customers. Defining your message also helps you create a strong visual brand which appeals to your target audience so that you can focus on one or two verticals, rather than the entire world.
Think of the Nike swoosh or the golden arches of McDonald’s. Those images alone are enough to conjure up emotions and memories. For instance, you likely remember the “Just Do It” campaign, as well as those “You Deserve a Break Today” commercials. When it comes to design, your colors, fonts, and design elements are all crucial elements of telling your brand’s story, and they must work together to create a desired emotion.
Do you want your brand to stand for fun? Or, is prestige what you’re after? Many industries want to get across feelings of trustworthiness and stability – think of All State Insurance, for example.
To get to the core of your design aesthetic, start with the core emotion you want your prospects to feel, and let that emotion guide your color, image, and font choices. By getting very specific with what these design elements convey and stir up, you’ll create instant recognition of and associations with your brand.
The design, message, and positioning are all essential elements of a strong brand, and underlying all of those is some sort of symbolic meaning. For example, some brands are status symbols of wealth or prestige, whereas others signal, “I am creative,” or, “I care about others.” Cartier watches are status symbols, Honda signals practicality, and Toms Shoes say, “I care about others.”
What does your brand stand for?
As Lori Manns, the CEO of Quality Media Consultant Group, says, is this Forbes article:
Once you figure out what you want to be known for, you must tell your audience what they can expect and give it to them.
To help define your value, image, and brand positioning, creating buyer personas as guides can be extremely helpful.
When you create a buyer persona, you craft a specific profile for your ideal client. Usually, this starts with demographic information – age, income, education, marital status, and so on – but it also includes customer psychographics. These translate to what matters in your client’s mind (and thus, decision-making process). For example, important elements to consider when (re)branding a new line of organic skincare products: customers tend to be earthy, seek out organic food products, and may be long-time vegetarians with a concern for animal welfare as well. If you’re selling bookkeeping software to freelancers, then you want to tap into the concerns of freelancers. Every freelancer needs a simple, professional looking way to invoice clients, as well as a means of tracking accounts receivable and expenses. Yet, few excel in this arena. How can you simplify it for the freelancer who doesn’t want to be their own accountant?
In the digital era, you must solidify your branding, provide customers with full experiences, and convey the values behind your business, in order to create a brand awareness that converts prospects into loyal clients.
Do you need help increasing your brand awareness? The team at Harvest Media specializes in branding, design and marketing that drives results. Call us at 847-352-4345 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can improving your business’ brand awareness.
Sarah is Director of Marketing at Harvest Media. She loves working with business owners and key decision makers who have a vision for the future and want to take their marketing strategy and business growth to the next level.
Your customers want to thrive and grow. Position your brand as the bridge that helps them achieve their aspirations, and you can build a strong brand that propels you toward your goals. … read more