The Ultimate Guide to Brand Awareness

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Now that you’ve got the basics set up, it’s time to start some actual promotions. The start of any sales process is generating and increasing brand awareness, or some synonym for it, because people feel it’s their job to reinvent the wheel by calling it a circular mobility accessory. Anyway, market awareness, nothing could be simpler right? Just get as many people to know who you are and what you’re doing, and voila, awareness generated. 

Well, dear reader, before you crack open that bottle of champagne, answer this for me; What was the last ad you scrolled by about? Do you even remember what it looked like? Probably not. If you can’t remember, are you really aware of its creators? So, let’s take a few minutes to look at brand awareness strategy, before you blow half of your investment on an ineffective promotional campaign, shall we?

A campaign will come by, which transcends this paradigm, making us not only pay attention, but think, love & remember it.

Advertising & why you hate it

Admittedly, I am skipping over a whole bunch of marketing fundamentals, such as the 4P’s (or 7, or 11 … *sigh*), and we might get back into things like determining price in another article, but here & now, you need to get the word out, advertising is how you do that.

Boiling it down to its essence, every ad you make needs to accomplish 3 things to be effective. It needs to;

  • Grab my attention,
  • Convey meaning,
  • Be memorable.

If yours fails in any one of these, you’ve accomplished practically nothing, or worse. Sadly, most don’t. That’s why you’re so annoyed by them. How could you not be with the current landscape seemingly overflowing with lame humor, half-truths & distracting pop-ups. 

Hell, it’s my job to pay attention & I ignore most. However, every now and again, a campaign will come by, which transcends this paradigm, making us not only pay attention, but think, love & remember it. It’s in those instances, where advertising shines for what it is – Art. Corporate funded art, but art nonetheless. And art like that, can’t help but have a large impact on popular culture.

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How I Met Your Audience

Take us for example, I don’t know you, nor you me. And I very much doubt we will ever get to know each other. But every now and again, some distant person, such as yourself, finds their way (or the other way around) to an article I wrote, or a thought I’m promoting. They’ll look at that story I’m telling them, and see a tiny bit of who I am & what I think of the world. For that brief collision of our paths, we’re connected. This is what I love about advertising, and what you should always strive for.

The cool thing is, there’s nothing stopping you, or anyone, from making your own stuff. To shout out into the void. We won’t last forever, but the stories we tell, just might. Advertising, dear reader, is your chance to connect with potential millions, to be together, think together, know together, love together & bond over it.

Pay Attention! - increasing Brand Awareness

Fundamentally, attention is simply your mind dedicating more processing resources to a certain set of stimuli. However, that simple explanation doesn’t help us much, does it? So, let’s try to define it from a marketing perspective. 

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Grabbing Attention

Firstly, we need to differentiate between grabbing someone’s attention & holding it. Something grabbing your attention starts in the subconscious, this is where stuff like color, loud noises (& certain frequencies), and primal desires, such as hunger or sex come into play. 

Seeing a bright, loud ad, with an attractive model, should make your brain go; “Oh, what’s that over there?” for a brief instant. But just as quickly as it came, poof, it’s gone again & you’ve moved on. Someone’s grabbed your attention, but they haven’t managed to hold onto it.

It’s worth noting that the process of grabbing attention can also be done through a negative frame. An annoying pop-up will force you to pay attention, but this kind of attention, more often than not, will make the next step of holding attention, doubly hard. Since now you not only have to be interesting, but need to overcome my annoyance with you. The perception of choice can be key, make sure you give as much as you can to your audience.

A good example of this difference is someone seeing a pre-roll ad about the latest iPhone on YouTube or watching an interesting sponsored video (or even a review, to a lesser extent). But even the best video will initially have to grab my attention through a good thumbnail, title or both.

An annoying pop-up will force you to pay attention, but this kind of attention, more often than not, will make the next step of holding attention, doubly hard.

Holding Attention

As for holding attention, here’s where a marketing definition of it comes into play. Attention is a series of trades, which exponentially grow in value. You’ll read a word & decide if you’ll finish the sentence, you’ll finish that sentence and decide, whether you’ll finish the page, the chapter, the book.

I have to constantly keep proving myself to you, so that you view your time with me & my content as worth spending. Admittedly, my sometimes long, meandering rants aren’t the best tactic to start off this series of trades, but hey, you’re here & you seem to like it, and I in turn, like you reader.

The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it's an ad.

Secondly, we need to know just how much attention we need. It’s a finite resource, so make sure you use up as little as possible. A video might hold my attention for a minute, while a Facebook ad may only receive a second of it. But if that ad manages to convey it’s meaning to me during that second, it’s done its job.

Josh Weaver

"Generating brand awareness is often overlooked, but is one of the most important components of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Without brand awareness, you will never have brand loyalty or the repeat customers that drive your revenue and, ultimately, your success as a company."

Joshua Weaver,
Vice President & Marketing Director at Sonder Agency
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Meaning & Memory

I’m certain we could spend the next 10 articles debating meaning from philosophical or psychological standpoints, discussing stuff like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, or Plato or whatever. Let’s just say it’s 42 and move on.

And sure, you could use Maslow’s hierarchy to determine that most people nowadays feel a certain lack of purpose and dedicate your ad campaigns to helping them find it, and hey, getting meta like that, where your meaning is meaning, might just work for you. 

This however, wouldn’t really be directly relevant to the simple fact that every ad needs to convey some form of meaning, or put another way, every ad is a story. Just make sure it’s a good one.

Your job, as an advertiser is to find insights into experiences your audience shares, and then articulate them well.

Telling True Tales

And I don’t mean tell the truth, even though that’s a good rule of thumb for long-term success. I’m talking about saying something that rings true, when we hear it. It’s a story about something we felt, or experience frequently, finally laid out simply. 

Emotions & experience are often complex things, forming a ton of associations within our minds. We can then invoke all of those complexities by simply reminding our audience of something. Take, for example, Goodby Silverstein & Partners famous “Got milk?” slogan. A simple enough thought in-and-of itself, but it can invoke various frustrated memories of not having milk at the wrong moment within its audience. Thus, it rings true, conveys a lot of meaning, while demanding relatively little attention.

Your job, as an advertiser is to find insights into experiences your audience shares, and then articulate them well. To find them, we need to do our research. If you’d like to learn more about that, we’ve published another article on how to go about it. If you can’t find a shared experience, which relates to your company/product, I’m sorry to say you either have the wrong audience or product.

Other than that, you need to get out of the office and live life. A cubicle is no place to create a piece of art (though if it works for you, more power to ya!). The only advice I, or anyone, can give on this is to find your own process. I truly believe that each of us can become a creative thinker, it’s simply a matter of training. But, tapping into this process is something inherently personal. You need to find, through introspection, what inspires you and how to make those moments less random. There is technique, sure, but no amount of technique can inspire true moments of brilliance, only emphasize what’s already there.

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So Much Useless Noise

Listen, here’s the truth. People HATE being obviously sold to. You may have come up with a good campaign, but is it useful to your audience, or is just trying to sell them on something? Because if you are, more often than not, you’re just creating useless noise. So, think about how your product & your advertising could be useful to your audience.

Now this is sort of the basis of all content marketing, but it goes deeper than that. Sure, an article telling you something you want to know is useful, but what about a video ad? Sure, if it’s done in an educating way, why not? If I’m trying to buy a new phone, a review of one might just help me out. Make sure people are out there creating useful content about your stuff, or hell, create it yourself.

Alright, but that’s still just a different form of content marketing, what about an ad I hear you say. Hey why can’t a simple Facebook ad be useful to me? If I’m thinking of buying a product, a discount deal would not only convince me, but would be helpful in that moment. If I’m trying to solve a problem, your product makes easier, me becoming aware that it exists is useful. Even the got milk campaign would be useful to me in the right moment.

Imagine if this entire article was just me talking about how awesome I am & how much ROI I’ve generated for various clients. You probably wouldn’t have reached this bit, because you simply don’t care. Nor should you. Stuff like that has its time & place, like on a portfolio, but even then, only because it’s useful.

Targeting Your Audience

And this stuff isn’t restricted to messaging alone, it’s all about the right information, at the right time (& person, & place), I think you see where I’m going with this. Yeah, targeting is just as important as your message. Because even when you’re saying all the right things, if you say them to the wrong person, or hell, even the right person, but at the wrong time or place, you might as well be talking to a wall, for all the good it’s done.

This is something we’ll have to explore in-depth another time, but for now simply try to find the moments, places, people your message would be most helpful to. They will be your main stakeholders and will help to increase your brand awareness on the market.

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I Will Remember You

Finally, let’s get to memory. Now in biological terms, memory is simply a matter of neuron connections in our brains. The more connections something has, the stronger that memory becomes. This is why, we as advertisers try to hook into those mechanisms, by triggering as many neurons to fire as possible, without overloading someone of course, heads blowing up is definitely not the goal.

Simply put, the more your ad makes me think, remember, feel, the likelier I am to remember it. This, in part, connects back to the meaning portion of this article, the more meaning that is conveyed, the likelier it is to create new connections (or better yet, to connect to existing ones). 

Which is why advertisers like us, try our best to hook into emotions, memories, experiences etc. And we’ll utilize any and all means at our disposal to do so. Because sometimes, something is too complex for a few words, well, we can use a picture (worth a thousand words, don’t you know?), or even a video. It’s all to add more information & to make it more likely for it to trigger some deeper connection with you.

But remember, more information might demand more attention, so if it can be done simpler, make sure it is.

You’re an Impostor, Harry

To finish up, let’s talk about our own feelings for a bit. Because, if you’re anything like me, you might decide to look at a few amazing campaigns, or other forms of art, for inspiration. And you’ll see all these amazing ideas, by brilliant people. And for a moment there, you’ll think, god, I’m not good enough to ever create such a thing.

Just such a thing happened to me, a few years back. I was hired to do some SEO work for a client. I personally don’t specialize in that, so I hadn’t kept up to speed on the latest & greatest tricks. So, before I started, I went off to do some research, perusing various forums & boards. And wouldn’t you know it, everyone there knew seemed to know so much more than me. The central impostor agency had called. And they told me that while everyone else knew exactly what they were doing, I, however, didn’t cut the mustard.

You, like me, might fall into that spiral, and the only real answer is to prove yourself wrong. I get it, you’re looking up & thinking how it’s all been done before, there are no new ideas, and everyone that preceded you was better, smarter, and luckier than you.

Or maybe all the worlds greatest scientists, artists, entrepreneurs & other generally amazing humans, we’re actually struggling just as much. Maybe they all kept failing, went broke & walked through fire, and we just didn’t see it. And maybe, just maybe, if you keep trying, you will one day create something just as good. I, for one, believe in you. And others do to.

You may have just done your first (or your hundredth) brand awareness campaign, and you only got a few hundred likes. Now, depending on what you (or your client) invested & expected, your market awareness campaign may have been a complete failure. But keep in mind, those aren’t just numbers on that dashboard. They’re people, who took the time, who aware of your brand and connected to your brand message & who are subtly cheering you on. Remember them & try again. You’ll meet and connect with more as you go. And maybe, just maybe, if you keep trying, you will one day create something just as good. I, for one, believe in you. And others do to.

Did you enjoy this? Continue expanding your knowledge by also reading Ideal Brand Positioning In 3 Simple Steps or if you’re interested in a branding strategy for SaaS specifically, take a read at Who Am I? – Branding Your SaaS Startup In 2021.

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