The Fundamentals of Building Awareness For Your Brand
What’s a brand?
You might think of a brand as:
- A logo
- A slogan
- Your website and social media
- An experience
- Products and services
- You and your employee team
The answer? A brand includes all these and more.
A brand is the distinctive promise you make to the marketplace and deliver to customers. Logos, slogans, and the rest reinforce (or sometimes contradict) the messages that you communicate about your brand.
Major manufacturers and motorsports sponsors depend on fans recognizing their brands, understanding what benefits they can deliver, and increasingly preferring them over the competitors. How can you employ those same principles, especially if you don’t have massive dollars to invest in building awareness and preference for your brand?
Let’s explore some of the fundamentals that any business can successfully embrace to set the stage for greater awareness.
LEVELS OF BRAND AWARENESS
There are multiple ways to describe brand awareness and the connections between buyers and brands.
When a brand is new or has not marketed itself, there may be no brand awareness. In this case, your potential customers don’t even know you exist.
The next level of awareness is familiarity. This describes the situation when potential buyers have some understanding of your brand—maybe they recognize your advertising, or are able to recall your brand when looking at a list of brands they might consider.
When a potential buyer recalls your brand and important details about it without prompting from any external sources, you’ve achieved the top level of brand awareness. And, if your brand is the first one that comes to mind for a buyer, that is a huge win!
Understanding these different levels is important. And in order to achieve stronger awareness, your brand has to:
- Promote a straightforward, consistent message
- Have a look and voice that stand out
That’s why the first step in building brand awareness isn’t advertising more or creating a bigger social media presence. First, you want to make sure that you have a clear, consistent promise and message that stands out from competitors and sets you apart.
CLARIFYING BRAND BENEFITS
Many brands never mention how they benefit customers. They concentrate on communicating their product features. While features—what your product or service does—are important, they tend to be similar among direct competitors. That’s why you need to stand out from the competition by being very clear about your brand benefits. Benefits are the positive things your brand delivers for customers. Benefits are what customers really buy. One often-used example to illustrate this is that people aren’t really buying power drills for the drill’s features, but for the holes it can make.
To more clearly communicate your benefits, look at all the materials that feature your current marketing and sales messages. Review them, and identify if they communicate how whoever buys your product will experience and realize better results than they would from other options.
If you’re mainly focusing on features now, clarify and communicate your benefits. One way to do this? Think about the negative things that would happen for buyers who choose a brand other than yours. Make a list of what their challenges would be, and then flip those challenges to positive statements. For example, a negative could be that your competitor doesn’t have the right parts in stock. Flipping that scenario, you could include an easy drop-off experience or faster repairs as a benefit of your brand. Those positive impacts are compelling benefits you can communicate.
DEVELOP A STRONG BRAND PROMISE
Your brand promise tells your audiences about the commitment to expect from your brand and the experience you create. Here are some well-known brand promise examples:
- 15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance —Geico
- The Ultimate Driving Machine —BMW
- Save Money. Live Better. —Walmart
Notice that each of these brand promises:
- Uses real words that customers understand
- Is distinctive to the brands
- Can shape business decisions the brands make
- Allows employees to participate in living them out
A strong promise should address all of these points in a clear, concise manner.
If you’re developing a brand promise on your own, start by looking at what your customers say when they compliment your brand or make a referral. What aspects of your business impact them so strongly that they tell you and others about them? If you lack recent testimonials, contact current customers—both new ones and those who have bought from you longer. Ask how they’d describe the impact of what you do.
While this exercise will yield ideas to develop the brand promise, we recommend getting help from someone who is a professional writer to craft your ideas into a polished message.
CREATING A STAND-OUT MARKET POSITION
What do you want customers to think about when they think about your brand? Your answer reflects your brand’s market position.
Ideally, your brand’s position relative to competitors is distinctive and completely consistent with the experiences customers have with your brand. If your message is inconsistent (e.g., one part of the website says one thing, your salespeople communicate something different, and actual experiences don’t match either one), customers can’t associate a clear market position with your brand.
You can identify potential market positions by imagining on what street corner you’d locate your brand to describe as much as possible about it. For example, consider Starbucks. The brand could position itself at any of these corners:
- Every Place and Familiar Tastes
- Cappuccino and Conversation
- Mocha and Meetings
The first position highlights that Starbucks is everywhere and provides the same experience every time. The second emphasizes the casual, coffee-centric get-togethers that happen at Starbucks. The third is geared toward professionals using Starbucks as a remote office. All of them are true, yet selecting one over the others would lead Starbucks to emphasize different brand aspects. For your brand, think about which position will best represent the consistent advantages it offers.
PREPARATION IS KEY
While it’s true that a significant part of brand awareness is telling potential buyers about your brand, you want to start by being prepared to tell them compelling, purchase-inducing messages. Take advantage of these foundational steps to ensure you have the strongest brand promise, message, and position to attract all the right kinds of attention!
Mike Brown is founder of The Brainzooming Group and a frequent keynote presenter in marketing best practices, innovation, strategy, and social media. Additionally, he authors the daily Brainzooming blog (brainzooming.com) on strategy, creativity, and innovation, reaching readers in nearly 200 countries.