How to Build, Increase, and Measure Brand Awareness

What is it with almost all brands lately? It feels like every brand is starting their own streaming service.

Doesn’t Coca-Cola have its own streaming service?

No, this is just a stream of angry videos for not boycotting the Russian invasion of Ukraine fast enough. 

If we step outside the context of the modern world for a moment, it is rather odd that we demand a political stance from a producer of sugar water.

But this goes to show how many things are now tied to a brand. They are more than the catchy name of your favorite diabetic juice. They are human-like entities that need to:

  • evoke some emotions;
  • have a stance on various political and social issues;
  • participate in the collective effort to make the world a less awful place.

Naomi Klein’s now over 20-year-old ‘No logo’ book has described this phenomenon in its infancy, when brands wanted not only our money and loyalty but our love as well. And then, when the companies behind brands become bigger than anything else, they simply have to follow through and tell us what they love and stand for.

Is it right or wrong? It’s not up to me to judge. We are so deeply submerged in the advertorial messages that what would be weird for us is just a regular, informative ad from Coke that says “Sweet water but with acid so you don’t puke from sugar intake”.

Ok, I’m making fun, but Coca-Cola would not have become a $286 billion company just for selling something to drink to people that can get a much healthier alternative from their taps.

 👉  Think about all the positive associations you have with this brand. Memories, emotions, colorful pictures of happy people on a beach somewhere. 

Am I the only one getting thirsty?

Aside from that, wouldn’t it be great if your brand caused similar positive associations?

Right or wrong, this works. Your brand should exist in other people’s heads not only as a logo, or as details about your product, but as a mixture of good emotions and information on commendable initiatives.

This is what brand awareness in its broadest sense is.

The narrower definition refers only to the informative layer in people’s collective consciousness. 

But to get ahead, you need to put an image of your brand in people’s heads that doesn’t just say ‘This product is good’ but rather ‘This product is worthy of your love. Plus it’s affordable’.

Learn how to do that with this article.

Building brand awareness

Firstly, you need to put your brand out there, put it out into the world, to be shared and talked about. Once you do that, you can then work on increasing your brand awareness even further.

There are many techniques that we will go over in a moment that will help your brand get some traction. Most of them rely on preparing assets, such as ads or free content, and putting them in the right places. Some of them involve doing things and hoping that others will generate content for you, such as likes, retweets or shares.

Let’s start from the beginning.

1. Define what your brand represents

If corporations are legal entities, and in a legal sense similar to humans, then brands are the image of that entity.

Think about your brand like you would about a person: its strengths and weaknesses, capabilities and associations. 

  • If your brand is about sportswear, think about angles like ‘personal growth’, ‘freedom and wilderness’, or ‘empowerment’.
  • Liquor brands can try the ‘Style’, ‘Tradition’ or ‘Friendship’ angles.

Almost all niches can have a creative part in them.

Look at us.

Centralnic is a conglomerate of various companies whose work is hard to explain to people outside the Internet bubble. But even that seemingly boring and unintelligible image can be made more attractive with our slogan “Enable everyone to achieve their full potential online”.

  • Talk to other people or conduct focus group research or surveys. Think who you would want your brand to be put next to. Who or what it should stand for. How your brand could react to various social problems.
  • Try to outline your brand’s identity. And be truthful. People can easily spot certain dissonances between how a brand is viewed and how it is marketed. You don’t want to be a punchline to a meme somewhere on social media.
  • Find your own language. Durex, for example, knows that sex is not an easy topic to talk about. It is either giggled at, ignored, or viewed from a social or medical perspective. Durex’s language is clever, not vulgar, humor. 

2. Tell a story

Storytizaion happens all around us. This is because humans are naturally attracted to coherent narratives, no matter if they concern people or brands.

They like universal tropes: the underdog that became a champion or the good king that cares about his people, not wealth.

Think about companies that sell coffee.

  • 20 years ago, the only thing they wanted you to know was that their coffee was tasty or that it could give you a kick.
  • 10 years ago, they wanted you to think about talking to your friends and family while drinking their coffee.
  • Now they must ensure that they tell a heartwarming story about how they support independent Colombian farmers that grow coffee plants on land that wasn’t the Amazon rainforest just a couple months earlier.

A good story needs several ingredients:

  1. A hero: brand, someone inspired by the brand or using the brand.
  2. A conflict between values: personal growth vs harmful stereotypes, freedom vs societal expectations or a social, political or ecological issue: climate change, deforestation, racial inequality.
  3. A happy conclusion: Show how people overcome their hurdles, inner demons, how they fix the world bit by bit.

Just don’t overdo it and turn it into a parody – perfectly depicted in this SNL sketch.

3. Make yourself discoverable

There’s nothing better for a brand than random people doing their marketing work for them. This sometimes happens when an ad hits the right notes and becomes viral or an action your company did is commented on left and right.

The easier way is to provide people with good assets for sharing them organically.

These assets may include:

  • Infographics (leaflets on ‘How deforestation hurts the climate’, ‘How income tax works’)
  • Ebooks, guides and whitepapers (‘How to’ guides, ‘state of the industry’ reports)
  • Free tools (tax calculators, power consumption calculators, calorie counters)
  • Videos, podcasts, blogs or guest posts (industry news, ‘how to’ guides, case studies)

If your content is useful, you won’t have to persuade people to spread the materials that you have prepared (with your brand’s logo and maybe a mission statement somewhere). 

Don’t limit yourself with the most obvious association, try harder to find an area where you can shine:

  1. Easy: Durex talking about safe sex
  2. Intermediate: Gilette talking about toxic masculinity
  3. Hard: Ben & Jerry’s talking about voting rights

4. Create your presence

Creating online profiles was probably the first thing you did. But did you put your face there?

You don’t have to! CEO’s can be the face of a brand – this adds credibility. But only if they have charisma and some showmanship skills.

You can hire people: celebrities or unknown actors. You can use animated characters or animals as your brand’s mascots. 

This works best when the product is tangible, like juice, cookies, things like that but not necessarily. Nike for example is doing fine without a mascot, with a ‘swoosh’ logo only.

There’s no ‘Microsoft Azure friendly lizard’. Clippy reborn maybe? 🙏🏻

Microsoft had, and for many people, still has the face of Bill Gates. For the more up-to-date ones Microsoft’s shift from ‘the Windows company’ to ‘the cloud company’ has the face of Sataya Nadella. 

And who can forget the epitome of the charismatic CEO, Steve Jobs. Would Apple still have become the behemoth it is today? Maybe. Would its products still be treated with the same reverence? Maybe not so much.

You can tell a lot more when your brand has a face.

5. Sponsor an event

There’s not much more that you can do to show that you care about a certain topic than to organize a conference. It makes sense for a home security company to organize an event where people can learn how to keep their home safe.

But again, think outside the box. Your product doesn’t have to be related to the topic. A brand is so much more than just a product. What about a home security company organizing a conference on domestic violence? 

Home safety is a multi-faceted topic.

If the costs and potential problems of organizing a huge conference scare you, you can scale down this event. A workshop or webinar for selected people may be sufficient. 

Building brand awareness is a process

Important thing: don’t try to do everything at once. Plan your steps ahead. Prepare assets prior to launch, so you can release them faster than it takes you to prepare them.

Building awareness is a months-long process. Don’t count on immediate results. If your whole financial calculations rely on an increase in sales two days after launching a landing page with new content, you may have some trouble ahead.

The main thing that all marketers have in common is the belief that the world cares a lot about what they do. But they care very, very little. For you, your brand is your life. For your prospective customers, it’s an ad that they glance at for three seconds and then move on.

Frustration is the burden of all marketers.

Increase Brand Awareness

Once you’ve put your message out there, for the whole world to see, it’s time for some fine-tuning, optimizations and all other efforts that are aimed at increasing your brand awareness.

Yes, try to do the same things that allow you to build your brand awareness as well. Don’t abandon organizing conferences or preparing videos.

People will expect that you will follow the communication path that you have chosen.

But, apart from that, there are other things you can do to boost your brand awareness.

1. Start a referral program

This is a popular way of turning your customers into marketers for a small commission. You won’t find a better product advocate than a happy customer.

What is needed to start a good referral program:

  • A reasonable cut of your profits. This depends on what you are selling. If your product is expensive, let’s say, a gaming computer, 2% will make your referral partners happy. For digital products, especially those that are subscription-based, you can increase the percentage.
  • A lot of marketing materials. Provide your advertisers with assets, such as banners, leaflets, or videos that they can use to promote your content.
  • Special prices. Give your partners an additional advantage by giving them access to exclusive promotions and also exclusive access to various events, conferences, and so on.
  • A proper tracking solution. The minimal option is the solution that tells your partner how much they have earned. The more complex the reporting and tracking engine you will have, the better decisions your partners will make. One such solution that works great for partnership programs is Voluum.

Treat referral programs as an additional channel, not as your main way of getting new customers. You have little control over the efficacy of this channel – they should provide pocket money, not the main source of income.

2. Use native advertising

Of all the ad types that you can use, native ads are best suited for promoting brands. This is because:

 👉 Native ads put your brand in relevant content;

 👉 Your brand can appear on popular and trustworthy sites which can usually be selected even at the campaign planning stage;

 👉 Native ads are not intrusive, they work great long-term and are immune to ‘banner blindness’;

 👉 The advertorial-style landing page that often accompanies these types of ads is the perfect way to talk about your mission or core values.

If you need a more detailed overview of the strengths of native ads, they are covered in this native ads deep dive article

Measuring native ads requires an ad tracker that is able to track impressions and is integrated with popular native ad networks. The prime example of such a platform is the Voluum ad tracker.

For those wondering where to get native traffic from, you basically have two options:

  • Ad networks, such as Taboola or Outbrain that specialize in selling native traffic on most popular websites.
  • DSP platforms that aggregate traffic from multiple ad exchanges and allow you to get a much bigger, global ad reach.

3. Improve your SEO strategy

Paid advertising is great but you know what is also great? Free traffic.

If you think that nothing is really free in today’s world apart from diabetes from drinking Coke – then you are kind of right. ‘Free traffic’ won’t cost you money but it will cost you some effort.

SEO is a wide term that has evolved over the last 15 years from primitive keyword-stuffing techniques to a more subtle and sophisticated approach that tries to make your web page ‘findable’.

The easier your web page is to read by search bots, the better understanding a search engine will have about your web page’s content.

SEO is a whole separate topic that we will not go into much detail right now, but we can outline several areas for optimization that you can perform on the web page itself (‘on-page SEO’) 

  • Make sure that you find keywords that have a lot of traffic and not that big competition. Use free or paid keyword planning tools.
  • Weave those keywords organically into your content.
  • Use bullet lists, headings and ordered lists to make your content more readable
  • Make sure that your web page loads fast and is mobile friendly

Additionally, you can increase your web page’s importance by getting good quality backlinks (‘off-page SEO’). You can do this by guest posting and exchanging links, for example. 

Measuring brand awareness

Although it is not possible to accurately measure how aware of your brand people are, and all the claims about how much money a given brand is worth are purely theoretical (because no one is actually risking their money just for brand), there are indirect ways for measuring your success.

Overall, the measurements can be divided into quantitative and qualitative.

Quantitative measurements

These methods are based on hard and measurable numbers, such as:

  • Page view statistics – how many visits you have, where they came from, how many successful purchases, time on site, bounce rate, etc. The great way to measure those is to use an ad tracker such as Voluum.
  • Direct traffic – people that typed your brand name directly in a web browser’s address bar. Such traffic, often called ‘organic traffic’ that reaches your website outside your paid campaigns should be measured separately. Again, Voluum can measure both paid and organic traffic, so you will be able to see which channel is the most popular one.
  • Social engagement – various tools allow you to measure how engaging your social content is.

Qualitative measurements

The more indirect, and at the same time, more informative measurements can be obtained by:

  • Organizing focus groups or surveys – ask your customers for feedback
  • Social listening – keeping track of organic mentions of your brand on social media.
  • Google trends and Google alerts – this will tell you about third-party mentions of your brand and about search trends of your brand or terms related to it.

Brand awareness is a marathon, not a sprint

Your brand, like a person, has a reputation, which is built over the course of many years and can be destroyed in seconds.

If we had to give one last piece of advice, it would be this: act calmly with a long-term horizon in mind.

Brands tend to be overactive on social media. They think that the world awaits their stance on every event.

That is not true.

Don’t hail the brave troops on Veteran’s day if this is not in line with what you did before. Pandering to current themes won’t increase your attractiveness but may cause you trouble. 

If you engage, do it in a thoughtful and consistent way. Ben & Jerry’s may write about social injustice because they were doing that for many years. Their care is credible. Your single tweet may not be. 

Brand awareness is not a quick in & out. It takes time, effort, dedication and a clear vision.

Maybe brand awareness is not for everyone. Maybe some products can be just products. Maybe such an oddity could be a welcomed refreshment in today’s over-concerned world. 

But even when talking about brand awareness in its narrowest meaning, most of the techniques presented here still apply. You still want people to know about your product and its qualities, even if you are not attaching any idea or personality to it.

So get your ad tracker, create a story and see how it impacts the world.

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