Brand Awareness: A Comprehensive Beginner Guide | Similarweb
What do zippers, Band-Aids, Kleenex, and Q-tips all have in common? (Go on, we’ll wait.)
It’s that they’re all proprietary eponyms – brands that have gotten so big that their names have replaced the regular, more generic words for similar products.
For example: on a hot summer’s day, we don’t ask for a cola to quench our thirst, but a Coke. We collaborate with Post-It Notes – not small, square pieces of adhesive paper. And we don’t order a fruit-flavored gelatin dessert, but Jell-O.
So how do they do it? How have these brands become so synonymous with what they stand for that they’re now a part of the English language?
Brand awareness – that’s how. But what does this concept mean, exactly? Why is it important? And what techniques can you harness to build and measure awareness of your own brand – with the audience that matters most?
Read on – we’re unpacking all this, and more.
What is brand awareness?
As a general term, brand awareness is exactly that – how aware people are that your brand exists. Brand awareness is a measure both of how familiar consumers are with your brand, as well as how memorable it is. “It takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember a brand”, according to Pam Moore, so making those impressions and increasing your brand awareness matters.
Without brand awareness, there’s nothing to distinguish between your product or service from the hundred others like it on the market. With it, the colors, images, and messages of your brand will echo in the hearts and minds of your audience – engendering loyalty and, hopefully, lifetime value, too.
What are the different types of brand awareness?
Brand awareness isn’t a single, undifferentiated concept. Nope – it’s a complex psychological phenomenon that can be understood (and measured) in many different ways.
Here are the five you need to know about.
Brand recognition is the measure of whether a person, when presented with a brand name, can identify what that brand does.
Test it yourself. Grab a friend and tell them a brand name – let’s say, “Fanta”. If they’re able to tell you what that brand does, is, or sells – in Fanta’s case, a delicious range of carbonated drinks – the brand is recognizable.
Brand recall is when a person is able to name a brand. There are two subtypes:
- Aided brand recall is when a person names a brand in response to a cue, such as “which soft drink brands are you familiar with?”.
- Unaided brand recall is when someone can name a brand – or its products – without requiring any prompting.
Top of mind
Top of mind refers to the first brand a person thinks of when given a category.
Visual branding is when a customer is able to identify a brand, independently of its name. The key to visual branding is all about the colors, images, symbols, and packaging of a brand – the brand’s “look and feel”, rather than its moniker.
When it comes to brand awareness, brand dominance is the holy grail. It refers to a customer’s ability to recall, when asked, only one brand in a particular category.
Why is brand awareness so important?
Well firstly, there’s the obvious – that if your target audience isn’t aware that your product exists, they can’t buy it. And if they don’t know what your brand does or what it stands for, consumers are unlikely to connect with it – and even less likely to pick it over the alternatives.
But the real point of brand awareness and where its key value lies in its ability to build trust.
Why else would advertising on TVs, metros, and billboards be so effective? The more we see a brand – the more aware we’re made of its name, purpose, and imagery – the more familiar with it we become. The more familiar we get with the said brand, the more we begin to trust it.
And, you guessed it – that trust can be the kingmaker when it comes to your potential customer picking your product off the shelf.
Brand awareness is concerned with the top of the sales funnel. The goal isn’t to sell right here, right now, but to set that ball in motion – to play the long game. By establishing themselves with their audience today, successful brands set those same potential customers on the path to purchase – be it tomorrow, next week, or even months or years down the line.
This article you’re reading right now, for example, is a form of brand awareness.
You may not be in the market for a comprehensive web analytics and competitive traffic intelligence platform right now. But maybe, sooner or later, you will. When that day comes, chances are because you read this article, you’ll remember us – even if it’s just our name, logo, or colors (or admit it, our way with words).
And usually, that familiarity is enough to make the difference.
How can you build brand awareness?
Strong brand awareness won’t simply appear out of thin air one day. You have to actively build it – and that means starting with equally strong foundations.
Understand – and be able to articulate – your brand identity
Here’s where developing a strong brand identity comes in. This is the unique personality of your business – the nexus at which your goals, USPs (unique selling points), values, aesthetics, and tone of voice all converge.
Your brand identity is what will differentiate you from your competitors, connect you to your customers, and enable you to provide a meaningful user experience, every time. In other words, it’s important – and until you know exactly what your brand’s identity is, you won’t be able to begin generating awareness around it.
We won’t dive into the nitty-gritty of how to create a brand identity here – we do that in our separate step-by-step guide to the topic – but we have assembled a few brand identity examples to get you inspired.
Get on social and interact with your audience
Brand awareness isn’t something you build, achieve, and then forget about. It’s a constant, ongoing process of interaction and engagement; a delicate, dynamic dance with your target audience.
To build your brand – and then keep it at the forefront of your customers’ minds – you need to be talking. Not at your customers (via relentless, conversion-driven ad campaigns), but to them.
This is why social media is so important. Don’t just post regularly – like and reply to comments on those posts. Answer customer queries via Facebook and Instagram, sure – but then follow up with them a week later to see if they’re fully satisfied.
The more you interact with your audience, the more personal your brand will come across as.
And, as we know, people remember not what we did, necessarily, but how we made them feel. As brand awareness strategies go, they don’t get much better than that!
Create your brand awareness strategy
Know what you stand for
As we mentioned earlier, brand identity comes before brand awareness. But identity isn’t simply a collection of images or words that represents your brand – it’s what that brand stands for; it’s “why”.
Knowing what drives you and your business – your vision, mission, and values – will help illuminate your brand awareness strategy.
Your ethos will define all your communications, including:
- the content you publish (the “what”)
- your brand’s tone of voice (the “how”)
- the audience demographics you’re trying to reach (the “who”).
Having a firm grasp on these factors will help you tailor the right messages to the right people – and develop the right kind of brand awareness.
To begin identifying who your target audience is, build buyer personas. Really dig into your potential customers’ profiles to understand their needs and tailor your strategy to them.
Keep it consistent
Brand awareness isn’t about throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. It’s a cultivated, meticulous strategy that requires staying consistent.
For one, that involves ensuring that all your marketing and communications – whether they’re blogs, paid ads, or handling a customer support request – sound like your brand. This, in turn, requires your brand to have a specific tone of voice.
Is your brand funny? Light-hearted or serious? Conservative or conversational?
Once you’ve got your tone down pat, don’t waiver from it. Brands are built up over time, through trust. They’re reliable; they reassure. To do this, the message must never become muddled.
Remember, brand awareness has two parts: the brand and the awareness. If you communicate often and loudly enough, awareness will come. But that awareness will count for nothing unless balanced by the other half of the equation – the development of a consistent, carefully-curated brand.
Write posts for other websites
Guest posting – the practice of writing content for other websites in your brand’s niche – is a tried-and-tested strategy for SEO (search engine optimization). After all, the benefits of a well-placed backlink, from a well-reputed website, back into one of your site’s key pages are well-documented.
But guess what? Guest posting can boost your brand awareness, too – particularly if you serve a niche audience.
By posting informative content such as thought leadership articles or blogs offering advice and tips, you can establish yourself as an expert in the space, and your brand as a platform for that. More importantly, though, you’re enlightening your brand’s audience with a unique perspective. If they enjoy and trust your brand’s content, they’ll enjoy and trust your brand.
And if they trust your brand, they’re more likely to buy from it.
Create a mascot or hire a face for your brand
Brands are nothing if not the “personality” of a business. So why not take this idea to its logical conclusion, and hire an actual personality for your brand?
Dismissed for a while as a stale and cynical form of brand awareness, celebrity endorsements – fueled by the rise of influencer culture – have seen a return to mainstream popularity. Taylor Swift (Diet Coke), Drake (Sprite), and Kylie Jenner (everyone) are all among the celebrities who’ve put their face to a name.
And it works – signing a celebrity can increase sales by up to 4%, and boost the value of stocks. But of course, not all brands have the budgets (or the brawn) to sign the big names.
For a more cost-effective solution, you could make yourself the face of your own brand. Richard Branson’s been doing it effectively for years, while Cliff Weitzman – founder of text-to-speech software Speechify – stars in the company’s Instagram ads. Failing that, you could hire an actor to be the face of your brand, or create a mascot.
Think, for instance, of the effectiveness of Orlov – the Russian meerkat from comparethemarket.com’s infamous “Compare the Meerkat” campaign. There’s also the Pringle guy, the Monopoly man, Mario, Captain Morgan, Colonel Sanders…the list of magnificent (and in this case, mustache-toting) mascots goes on.
How do you increase brand awareness?
So, now you know what brand awareness is, why it’s important, and – hopefully – have a burgeoning brand awareness strategy simmering in the pot.
Now, let’s look at a few quickfire ways that you can increase your brand awareness, as well as boost brand recognition and recall.
Create free content
Whether it’s shooting videos, writing blogs, designing images, or releasing a podcast, creating free content (provided it’s relevant and interesting to your audience, that is) is a brilliant brand awareness strategy.
After all, it’s based on one of the most powerful principles of persuasion – reciprocity.
Treating your audience to free content not only gets your name out there but provides genuinely useful information to your users. You can also use free content to inform your target audience about your brand’s value; first outlining their typical pain points, then following up with how your product can address them.
Run a contest on social media
Ever been scrolling through your Instagram feed when an amazing giveaway pops up? That you can win?
The catch, of course, is that you have to follow the account, as well as either comment on or share the post. You’ve stumbled upon one of the oldest tricks in the brand awareness playbook – the social media contest.
Enticing and transparently obvious in equal measure, a social media contest is as beneficial for the brand running it as the lucky entrant that wins it. Not only will these contents boost your follower count, but they’ll also see your content (and brand name) shared far and wide. All those comments and likes won’t do the visibility of your brand’s social platforms any harm, either!
Host, participate in, or sponsor events
Whether it’s a conference, an expo, or a good old-fashioned knees-up, events are a great way to increase your brand’s awareness.
Expos put your brand, quite literally, in front of the customer, while socials and mixers are great ways to network with key industry players plus a wealth of potential customers. Hosting your own, or getting on the guest list for someone else’s, will help raise awareness about who you are, what you’re doing, and why.
Advertise, advertise, advertise!
While blogging, guest posting, and SEO are all laudable long-term ways to increase your brand awareness, paid advertising is still one of the most dependable and direct – if done right.
The squeaky wheel, after all, gets the oil. So the louder you can shout about your business – building your brand with advertising on search engines, social media platforms, and email marketing – the wider an audience you can reach.
Of course, what paid ads offer in efficiency, they lose in cost-effectiveness – particularly because everyone is doing them. So it’s vital you understand not only what kind of brand awareness ROI your paid ads are scoring you, but what your competitors’ ads are getting them.
So try Similarweb. You can get to grips with – and crunch the numbers of – your ad spend budgets. On top of this, you’ll benefit from unique insights into how much your competitors are spending, and how much brand awareness they’re netting in return – info you can use to take your own PPC strategy to new heights.
How to measure brand awareness
There are two sets of metrics through which you can measure brand awareness: quantitative and qualitative.
The quantitative ones involve the numbers; the cold, hard data behind your brand’s recognizability, like traffic, or knowing how many people are visiting your website – a useful tool in your brand awareness kit. Better still, drilling down into your direct traffic – that’s the number of people looking for your brand directly, rather than finding you through a generic Google search – gives you an idea of who’s already aware of you.
Pro Tip: Run the same exercise about your competitors’ brand awareness to benchmark yourself effectively.
Website stickiness: when potential customers get to your website, are they staying on it? Engagement on social media: Are people tweeting you? Is your brand getting a lot of mentions and followers? Monitoring engagement rates and social media benchmarks can help.
Qualitative brand awareness metrics are a little harder to capture with data and dashboards. These are more general indicators of the sentiment toward – and, of course, awareness of – your brand. To obtain these, you can:
- Survey the public using market research surveys (you might have to incentivize) to understand who’s aware of you, and how – and if not, why!
- Utilize social listening to monitor mentions of your brand or wider industry on the web.
- Ask the right market research questions (we’ve pulled together 64 market research questions to get you started.)
Staying on top of all this is, unsurprisingly, easier said than done. That’s why we recommend using Similarweb so you can keep all your brand and audience analysis in one place.
Similarweb helps you measure your brand awareness with ease. By splitting out your site’s traffic into branded and non-branded traffic, you’ll know how many people are searching for you by name.
Brand awareness examples
Understood the fundamentals of brand awareness, but struggling with a strategy? The following whistle-stop tour includes a pair of our favorite brand awareness examples and should help you put those principles into practice.
Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign
Remember when, for a while, all Coke bottles – instead of the usual branding – said “Share a Coke with…” and then a name?
That was the “Share a Coke” campaign – Coke’s way of “creat[ing] a more personal relationship with consumers and inspir[ing] shared moments of happiness”. Really, though, it was simply an uber-clever brand awareness strategy, designed to get people buying Cokes, snapping photos of their personalized bottles, and – most importantly – sharing them online.
Lay’s’ “Do Us a Flavor” campaign
Launched in July 2012 by PepsiCo, Lay’s’ “Do Us a Flavor” campaign invited potato chip enthusiasts to submit proposals for a new flavor. Not only did Lay’s generate packet-shaped graphics for each proposal (which, of course, were highly shareable on social media), but three submissions were turned into flavors.
Over ten months, Lay’s received 3.8 million submissions and more than 22.5 million visits to its Facebook page, with sales soaring by 12% year-on-year. The presence of a celebrity judging panel and a $1 million prize for the winner probably helped!
Learn more about what Similarweb’s Digital Research Intelligence can do to help you increase your brand awareness today.
What’s the difference between brand recognition and brand awareness?
Brand recognition is a type of brand awareness. It’s a metric of whether a person can identify what a brand does when given its name.
How can I build a brand awareness strategy?
There are a number of ways. Having a strong brand identity – knowing who you are, and what you stand for – is a good starting point, as is a consistent tone of voice. One great way to do this is by conducting a SWOT analysis.