Brand awareness: what it is and why we should improve it

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The expression brand awareness defines the notoriety and awareness of a brand among an audience. Put another way, it is the ability of a brand to be recognized and remembered by consumers. A simple explanation that, when applied to the world of digital marketing and SEO, can serve as an insight into why working on branding, strengthening one’s online presence and, above all, the perception by the target audience is a key activity for companies to increase the number of potential customers and thus their revenues.

What is brand awareness

Brand awareness or branding awareness is a marketing expression that describes the conscious familiarity of consumers with a brand or its products, and more precisely the degree of recognition a consumer has regarding that brand or its products and services, with which he or she correctly associates it. It is thus a measure of the degree to which a brand is recognized by potential customers and associated with the right product or service, the degree to which it is present in the minds of consumers.

Changing perspective, it is thus a value-not expressed in numerical metrics, but as a “feeling”-that expresses how memorable and recognizable a brand is to its target audience. The higher the brand awareness, the more likely consumers are to think of us when they need a product or service we offer.

Already from this we understand that brand awareness is a decisive issue for all companies that aspire to establish themselves in a specific segment, across any business, even nonprofit, because being able to become famous, recognizable, memorable, and trustworthy is a strategic goal for any brand.

Brand awareness: definition

The term awareness, encompasses precisely all these nuances and also refers to the idea that the public – also understood as an audience of potential customers – builds up about the brand, through offline and online presence.

Brands that achieve good levels of awareness among the public, in fact, are those that are generally referred to as “trendy,” “noteworthy,” or simply “popular,” and in principle working on branding awareness is a powerful marketing strategy that can lead consumers to develop an instinctive preference toward our brand, making it recognizable and memorable, and is one of the factors behind brand trust, the trust in the brand that can have direct effects in generating sales.

When a consumer needs a product or service, the first brand that comes to mind has a high probability of being chosen-that is why it makes sense to invest time and resources in increasing brand awareness, to achieve the goal of becoming the first thought that comes to mind for consumers who fall within our target audience.

Branding awareness meaning and importance

Thus, even a search marketing strategy cannot ignore effective work on brand awareness, contributing a band aiming to achieve the maximum result, that is, to increase the likelihood that consumers will include that name in their consideration set, the roster of brands valued when making a purchase.

Indeed, even online, the principle that explains the value of branding awareness, that is, the greater likelihood that products and services from brands perceived with a high level of awareness will generate more sales, applies, because field studies show that consumers tend to be more likely to buy a product from a brand they know and trust than from an unknown one.

And so, the ultimate meaning of brand awareness is to try to position the brand at the higher end of awareness, so that customers who are interested in a particular good and/or service will think directly of our brand as the first option to meet their need.

The road to becoming a consumer’s first choice

For a commercial brand in particular, the goal can be to impose itself as the first choice when a customer makes a purchase (even in traditional stores) and directly surpass competitors, becoming the very symbol and synonym of a product.

One only has to think of the Sony Walkman for the walkman, precisely, the iPhone for smartphones, or Coca Cola to get some ideas in this regard.

Having strong brand awareness means more chances to retain users, because the company is has conveyed positive values and messages to them, and to start a conversion funnel to turn them into customers.

Aaker’s pyramid for brand awareness

To assess and measure brand awareness, a theoretical model created by U.S. economist and marketing expert David Aaker (also known as Father of Modern Branding) is used, who suggested adopting a pyramid scheme to analyze the degree of awareness of a brand among the public, based on 4 progressive stages in relation to a scale of values.

Brand Awareness, la teoria di Aaker

As can be seen in the image (source: www.signorelli-partners.it), the base of the pyramid, the largest portion, is represented by the total absence of brand knowledge: brand work is nonexistent because potential customers have no trace of it. On the second rung is superficial knowledge, which basically means starting to break out of previous anonymity; going up further we encounter strong knowledge, and thus a presence and memorability that already become important, especially for certain niche markets and products.

Ability to stand out in the minds of customers

Again based on Aaker’s theoretical studies, these two levels are linked specific consumer reactions: the first is brand recall, the recall of the brand, which the user is able-if prompted-to link to a specific product category or to satisfy a need. Brand recognition, the top level, on the other hand, is brand recognition, the spontaneous ability of people to reconnect its name and logo to core business, products, and product category of reference.

Finally, at the top of Aaker’s pyramid is the Top of mind stage of brand awareness: the brand is the first that comes to people’s minds when they think of a specific good, object, product or service. Having reached this stage, knowledge and awareness come together and influence consumer buying behavior.

How brand awareness is measured

As mentioned, brand awareness is not a value that can be measured in the traditional sense of the term, but there are nonetheless some activities and metrics that can help us identify the position of the brand along the Aaker pyramid, and thus understand the level of popularity and awareness among consumers.

Specifically, we can refer to quantitative measures and qualitative measures related to brand awareness.

For a “numerical” and quantitative assessment, we can analyze metrics such as:

  • Direct site traffic (which is produced by people intentionally typing our URL into their browsers and visiting our website), a positive indicator that users know the brand in advance and are not just discovering it through promotional campaigns or search engine rankings.
  • Site traffic value. Although it only reflects overall site traffic, without insights into where people are coming from, it allows us to know how much of the general Internet population is checking out our content and spending time with our brand, a sign of a level of brand awareness that is already more advanced than total absence.
  • Social engagement, or quantification of followers, likes, retweets, comments and more, which are reflective of the number of people who are aware of the brand and socialize/interact with it.

Instead, they are qualitative measures of brand awareness, and thus somewhat more fuzzy but equally important metrics:

  • Brand monitoring, to stay up-to-date on how the brand is being talked about online, with alerts set for any news or mention by third-party press.
  • Social listening, or social listening that monitors social media management tools for organic mentions and engagement.
  • Brand awareness surveys, to get direct feedback from customers and target audiences.

The benefits of good brand awareness

On a general level, brand awareness is important for any type of business – online and offline – because it allows you to gain a relevant position in the consumer’s mind, building a positive relationship and eventually influencing their purchasing choices.

More specifically, brand awareness can foster brand loyalty and trust toward the brand, especially when we can offer a face and personality to the brand, including through stimulating feedback and reviews and creating positive storytelling for the initiatives carried out.

Another aspect fostered by this work is the creation of a direct mental association between our brand and an everyday experience: concrete examples of branding awareness are saying Scotch to mean duct tape, Google to identify any online search engine, Nutella for sweet spreads, or Philadelphia for fresh cheese spreads. In all these cases, we unconsciously replace common words with branded terms by referring to the brand itself, even if we are not using their specific product.

Again, branding awareness helps build what is known as brand equity, the metric that describes the value of a brand and is determined by the sum of consumers’ experiences and overall perception, which can be positive or negative.

How to improve brand awareness

Underestimating brand awareness is a serious mistake for professionals, just as it is wrong not to think about specific actions and interventions to improve one’s level of awareness among the public.

There is, however, a need to premise that building brand awareness among one’s target audience and the general public is a slow and steady process that does not happen overnight, and there are no magic tools that can accelerate it, such as a simple advertisement or marketing campaign.

Instead, achieving a high level of branding awareness is the result of multiple simultaneous efforts that go beyond trying to get paying customers.

An effective strategy, in particular, should start with the identification and analysis of the reference context, competitors, objectives to be achieved and, last but not least, the target audience; based on these elements, the best communication campaigns can then be studied and the most effective tools to be used can be defined, which can also be as simple as press releases or social networks, without overdoing it with advertising messages that bombard users.

Techniques and strategies to increase brand awareness

From a practical point of view, there are some methods and techniques that we can deploy in a campaign to improve branding awareness, to promote awareness and constantly increase it.

For example, we can launch beneficial business propositions for new users, such as freemium options to allow customers to try parts of the product or service before making a purchase, or work on producing free content that intercepts some pressing needs of the audience. We should not only think about classic text content such as blog posts and downloadable guides, but also videos, infographics, podcasts, and more that can be more engaging, interesting, and shareable across multiple platforms.

Another solution may be to sponsor specific events (online or physical), a direct way to get the brand in front of hundreds, thousands or millions of people who are likely to fall within the target audience and, often, are a highly specialized and qualified audience. Obviously, not just any event should be chosen, but to match the brand to an event that is in line with the company’s philosophy, business and character, not least because this allows for positive juxtaposition among the people attending.

SEO and brand awareness

In some ways, brand awareness and SEO are two sides of the same coin, playing a crucial role in determining the success of our online presence, especially if we understand online marketing as a holistic work, composed of many activities that support each other.

In this sense, brand awareness can strengthen online visibility, because if and when people recognize our brand and associate it with certain products or services, they are more likely to search for it online. This increase in brand searches can send positive signals to search engines, suggesting that our site is a reliable and relevant resource, which could potentially reward us with higher rankings in relevant search results.

On the other hand, good SEO can increase our brand awareness: if our pages appear regularly in search results for relevant keywords, more people will be likely to see and recognize our brand-every time our site appears in search results, it is as if we have a billboard on the busiest street on the Web.

And so, the website is a channel to be leveraged to improve brand awareness, indeed it can be the main tool for optimizing brand awareness and aligning one’s brand identity with a certain recognizability, with the theoretical goal of contributing to the ranking of the site itself on Google, to make it known to users and strengthen its prestige.

As we were talking about ranking factors, then, Google pays special attention to signals coming from specific entities and brands as anchor text of links or presence on social; obviously, such activity cannot be unrelated to the creation of quality, informative, useful and vertical content about the relevant industry, optimized according to SEO copywriting criteria and based on appropriate keyword research, in order to succeed in being more competitive in the eyes of the search engine for those specific queries.

Optimizing the brand: differences between brand awareness and brand reputation

Brand awareness is thus a value to measure how customers are able to recognize that name, considering both the quantitative spread and the qualitative dimension, i.e., the ability to transfer value. With Brand Awareness, however, only the level of awareness among users is assessed, and therefore it is a different concept from Brand Reputation, which instead also analyzes the consideration of the public towards that brand, derived from the services offered, the interactions with users, the content offered and so on, and which therefore also depends on subjective parameters related to people’s opinion and feeling.

More specifically, brand awareness, as we have discussed, refers to the degree to which consumers recognize a brand and basically measures how well known a brand is: a high level means that a large number of people know the brand and associate it with the right product or service. On the other hand, brand reputation refers to consumers’ perception of a brand: it is no longer just about how well known a brand is, but generally how known it is. A brand might have great brand awareness, but if its reputation is negative, this notoriety may not translate into sales success.

In other words, brand awareness is how to let people know we exist, while brand reputation is about why they should choose us over our competitors.

The 10 mistakes not to make to improve brand awareness

Therefore, working on improving brand awareness means taking care of various aspects of contact with current or potential users, including through online communication and SEO. However, good intentions do not always turn into effective strategies and, indeed, mistakes are often made that can undermine the attempt to create a successful online and offline brand.

We have collected ten common (and often trivial, let’s face it) mistakes that can be made in a strategy to increase brand awareness primarily related to online activities. Wrong assessments, invalid content, mismanagement of communication: so here are the pitfalls and the nots to keep away from in order to aim for the top of the Aaker pyramid and impose yourself as Top of Mind in customers’ minds.

  1. Not working out a communication strategy

Strategy is also a key word for the activity of strengthening brand awareness, which should be carried out in a planned, organized and researched manner. Thus, the first mistake that can be made is not coordinating all aspects of outward communication, not drawing up a reasoned plan that identifies goals to be achieved, audiences to be intercepted, techniques to be used and means available.

  1. Not taking care of brand equity

More specifically, one cannot disconnect communication to strengthen brand awareness from the four pillars on which brand equity, the so-called “brand assets” that express its strength in the marketplace, is based. Briefly, in the digital sector, brand equity is precisely tied to four main factors: brand communication, site design, product or service features, and vendor features. In practical terms, you have to take care of every aspect of the site and the page on which you welcome users, paying attention to the tone of voice and the language used for content, the graphic appearance of the site, the feelings conveyed and the adherence to the company philosophy, and so on.

  1. Not protecting the brand

The protection – including legal protection – of one’s brand and business is equally important to build a serious and reliable brand image: not surprisingly, there is an activity called brand protection that expressly concerns the safeguarding and protection of a company’s good name in various areas, offline (starting with product counterfeiting and official brand registration) and online (Digital Brand Protection), where the risks are domain names (including in other extensions), digital identity theft or even defamation, often conveyed through social campaigns.

  1. Not knowing the market and competitors

Closely related to the previous point is the second mistake, which concerns the failure to analyze the business context of one’s brand, perhaps out of a sin of presumption and from the belief that one’s business idea is perfect and the product or service offered is the best on the market. On the contrary, competitor analysis and competitor study are important for marketing even online, and even become decisive if the goal is to impose oneself in the mind of the consumer. Therefore, you need to take advantage of all the right tools to find out who the other players in your industry are, understand their strategies, check their way of communicating, and thus find your own path to success.

  1. Not knowing how to differentiate yourself

The winning brand is the one that knows how to make itself chosen even in a complicated and varied context, that knows how to have its name associated with a service or product automatically, and that is recognized by the public. And the way to succeed up the pyramid is first to stand out and differentiate yourself from your competitors, to work on your specific focus, perhaps focus on verticality instead of aiming for the generic: in an expression, to optimize the unique value proposition, the message that uniquely and clearly summarizes who the brand is, what its specific aspects are, and why a user should choose it.

  1. Not having a visual strategy

Visuals are fundamental to communication, all the more so online; the brand awareness strategy cannot neglect this aspect and give rise to dissonance between online and offline presence, or even visual messages at odds with the corporate philosophy. A practical example is that of the logo, a brand’s first impact element: not having thought about the brand or even having several versions of it is a serious mistake, which undermines the memorability of the image among the public.

  1. Not knowing how to manage crises

Crisis management is a fundamental skill for any business because, regardless of the quality of one’s work and the products or services disseminated, negative contingencies are always just around the corner. Therefore, not providing a crisis management model and tools to buffer the emergency from a communication point of view is certainly a risky element for brand image and reputation.

  1. Not involving people

As we said, the highest level of brand awareness is achieved when that brand is the first one people think of in conjunction with a product or service, identifying it with the company itself. This means that it is also important to attend to the emotions associated with the promotion of one’s activities, both in terms of user experience – customers will positively remember the interaction with the brand and the feelings they felt and will be incentivized to replicate the experience – and in terms of people’s engagement.

Engagement is often achieved through social media (to be carefully curated, with equally rigorous strategies) and with communication that manages not to be unidirectional, but that creates an ongoing dialogue and interaction with users, such that they also visit the official website and accord trust to the brand in terms of conversions as well.

Therefore, a strategy that knows how to integrate in the right doses engagement and call to action, posts that can trigger reactions alternating with potential call-to-actions on the official site to obtain concrete and measurable responses, is effective.

  1. Not working on SEO

Also wrong are those who think that brand awareness is something to be built only through the use of social networks, or who do not properly differentiate content, message and tone according to the media employed. Communication must be differentiated according to the channel chosen for broadcasting, because Facebook has a different language than Twitter, which is not similar to Instagram and is totally different from that of the official website.

Therefore, brand development also passes through the ability to produce content (original and quality) to be conveyed differently according to the chosen platform and its specific audience, without limiting itself only to social networks or only to sites/blogs. In this sense, being able to obtain key placements for strategic queries means gaining credibility and notoriety among users, and therefore SEO can accompany the growth of brand awareness for online activity.

  1. Not using structured data

We said it in the article dedicated to this topic: today, structured data are essential for reporting to Google (and thus to users) basic information about one’s existence as a brand, applying to be identified as an entity and appearing in rich snippets for certain queries, thus offering users other useful data.

The value of brand awareness

It is clear from what has been written that brand awareness can also be considered the ability of a brand to become familiar to a person, a feeling that extends toward its products and makes them preferable to those of its competitors.

Some studies, in particular, have shown that a sense of perceived familiarity can lead a consumer to buy a new product based on brand awareness alone, preferring it over that of competitors that do not convey the same value.

Although seemingly vague, brand awareness is a powerful and decidedly concrete concept, especially with regard to the effects and impact it can have on marketing efforts, consumer perception, and economic returns.

When aware of the brand, consumers begin to recognize it without additional help or support, seek it out to make a purchase, begin to prefer it to other similar brands, and establish loyalty that not only stimulates further purchases but also inspires recommendations to family and friends.

This is why brand awareness carries so much weight in marketing: it establishes trust with customers, creates positive associations, and creates invaluable value for the brand, which can become a household name and a reference point for consumers. At the end of the journey, when we reach the top of the Aaker pyramid, we will be able to count on a loyal audience that recognizes our brand among competitors, chooses our products over and over again, and recommends that their friends and family do the same.

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