- A strong brand has high brand awareness and differentiates itself from the competition.
- High brand recognition makes it easier to close sales and grow the brand.
- There are a variety of ways to increase brand awareness, including SEO, content marketing, public relations (PR), referrals, advertising, influencer marketing, and strategic partnerships with other brands.
Brand awareness isn’t just a small business problem. Global companies also struggle with awareness when they launch new products, target new audiences, rebrand, or modify their business models.
Furthermore, if your company offers a wide range of products or solutions, then you could have strong brand awareness but poor product awareness. As a result, you might miss key opportunities to connect with new customers and grow market share.
No matter how well known your brand is, there’s always an audience you haven’t penetrated yet. In this article, I’ll explain how to create an effective brand awareness strategy to reach new customers.
What is brand awareness?
We define brand awareness by the ability of consumers to recognize your brand and correctly associate it with specific products or categories of solutions.
If a high percentage of your target audience is aware of your brand, you’re more likely to make the sale. Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Microsoft, Toyota, Disney….these are all examples of brands with high brand awareness.
If no one knows you exist, how can they buy from you? How can your brand succeed?
A strong brand differentiates itself from competitors. Your marketing efforts, PR initiatives, referrals, word-of-mouth, and strategic partnerships with influencers and business partners all drive brand awareness and keep you top of mind.
When developing your brand awareness strategy, ask yourself these questions:
- Where does your target audience spend time online?
- What problems are they trying to solve?
- What do they care about?
- Which social media platforms do they prefer?
- What brands do they love?
- What value can you provide to them?
The answers to these questions will guide how to position your brand in the market. As a result, you can ultimately become well-known in your niche.
Brand awareness vs. brand recognition
Many people use brand awareness and brand recognition interchangeably, but there is a difference. Brand awareness is the act of your audience simply being aware your brand exists.
Brand recognition takes this awareness to another level. New audiences are no longer merely aware you exist. They also recognize your brand’s identifying characteristics. This may be recognition through visual or audio signals such as logos, brand images, or product packaging. Or, they recognize the celebrities associated with your brand, your tagline, or the jingles you use in your advertising.
In other words, they recognize your brand even without seeing your brand name. For example, in the following six-minute Nike video the brand name is never mentioned or shown on the screen.
Instead, a viewer recognizes the Nike brand simply through the brand logo (the iconic swoosh) towards the end of the video. That’s a demonstration of strong brand recognition by Nike’s target audience.
With brand awareness, your marketing becomes easier as they already know about your brand. Once you’ve achieved brand recognition, you can gain their trust, which in turn often translates into pricing power. And if your brand is consistent with branding, all this leads to potential revenue growth. A study of 400 organizations by LucidPress showed that consistent presentation of a brand increased revenue by 33%.
Why is brand awareness important?
Brand awareness is the first step in brand building. It is easier to run successful marketing campaigns with an established brand.
It’s a case of a rising tide lifting all boats. When you achieve high brand awareness, all your branding, marketing, and selling becomes more effective.
Here are some of the key benefits of brand awareness:
- The building blocks to brand recognition: If you want strong brand recognition, you’ll need to make them aware of your brand first.
- More effortless marketing success: It’s easier to influence the decision making process when your audience is familiar with your brand. Plus, you can focus on positioning, differentiation, engagement, and other high-value areas of marketing.
- Deeper trust: Higher brand awareness leads to greater brand trust. A 2022 Salsify survey showed 46% of consumers would pay more to purchase from a brand they trust.
- Greater brand equity: Higher brand awareness increases the perceived value of the brand. This, in turn, enhances the monetary brand value itself.
For example, the stock price may carry a higher multiple than competitors. Or, the brand may be able to launch product extensions profitably.
- Word-of-mouth marketing: A word-of-mouth sale means ZERO dollars spent on acquiring that customer. Word of mouth, or referrals, increases the return on investment (ROI) you have made in your brand.
- Simplified brand messaging: If you hear “Red Bull gives you wings,” you immediately think of everything Red Bull. From energy drinks to adrenaline-filled extreme sports media and events, Red Bull streamlines its messaging. Red Bull now “owns” the word “wings” in the consumer’s mind, and so applies it throughout its marketing, from its ads to the Wings for Life World Run.
Types of brand awareness
There are two main types of brand awareness, as outlined below.
Aided brand awareness
Aided brand awareness is the percentage of your target audience who, when prompted, are aware of your product or brand.
For example, if you were Nike and a researcher gave a focus group a list of shoe names and asked them to put an “X” next to any they recognized, this aided brand awareness because the list reminded the audience of Nike.
Unaided brand awareness
Unaided brand awareness is the holy grail of brand identity. If consumers can name your company when asked to list specific brands that sell a type of product, then you’ve achieved greatness.
For example, if the researcher asked, “What shoe brands can you name?” and the participants named Nike, this is unaided brand awareness.
What company names come to mind if I ask you to list all the tissue brands you know?
If I were to give you the list below, how many would you mark with an “X” identifying that you know the brand?
- Up & Up
- Seventh Generation
Once prompted, you probably recognized much more than you could think of with an unaided recall. That’s the difference between aided and unaided brand awareness.
How to increase brand awareness
Brand awareness strategies are rooted in marketing.
First, get in front of your target audience and make them aware you exist. Then, make them aware of your positioning and differentiation. In addition, your marketing and brand experiences should make them remember you and think positively about you.
To better ensure success, document a brand awareness development strategy. Here are some of the keys:
Follow a unified marketing strategy
Building a unified marketing strategy starts with goals. Measure your brand awareness baseline, while also documenting your awareness goals and key performance indicators (KPI).
Then, determine the specific marketing initiatives and tactics you’ll use to generate more attention. Ensure your messaging resonates. And go cross channel, integrating your marketing and messaging where possible.
Be consistent with your various customer touch points. While you build awareness, brand consistency is critical for your success. Disjointed or inconsistent messaging, packaging, style, or brand associations only confuse prospective customers. As consumers are already overwhelmed with brand messaging (consumers encounter over 5,000 marketing messages a day in the U.S.), keep it simple. The more work your audience members need to do to simply remember you, the less likely they will.
To ensure a unified marketing strategy that produces strong brand awareness:
- Brand guide: Use a brand guide. This ensures you’re “on brand” regardless of marketing channel or tactic. The guide should include your logo, tagline, and colors, but it should also define your brand voice, personality, associations, and values.
- Brand assets: Keep your brand assets accessible and organized. This may include your logo files, brand guide, product images, and other imagery.
- Marketing tactics: Determine the marketing channels, platforms, tactics, approaches, and vehicles you’ll use to make your audience aware of your brand. Be consistent across all of these components of your marketing infrastructure.
- Marketing calendar: Use a marketing calendar to ensure you execute an integrated marketing program. Make sure you’re getting the word out there often.
- Repetition: As a marketer, you may feel the creative compulsion to always come up with something new. But when it comes to creating brand awareness, aim to repeat your messaging. Repetition helps your audience to recognize and remember your brand.
Increase brand exposure
If you want to generate brand awareness, then you’ll need to increase your brand exposure by getting your brand in front of your target audience as much as possible.
Digital marketing is an excellent way to expand your reach with greater efficiency. Many digital marketing strategies get you in front of audience members cost-effectively, without paying for clicks. And don’t forget about offline marketing. TV advertising and product placement, for example, are powerful ways to reach millions of audience members quickly.
In-person events can also boost brand exposure through more personalized interactions with your team. Who doesn’t love to get branded merchandise and free swag at conferences?
The point is, the greater your brand exposure, the greater the probability of achieving broader brand awareness.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) positively impacts website traffic, but did you know it also helps establish brand awareness? When your target audience has a question or is looking for a product, they turn to Google and other search engines. When they search for your types of products, services, and solutions, the higher you rank, the more visibility your brand receives.
68% of online experiences begin with a search engine and 66% of people perform online research before purchasing. The more they see you ranking high in the search engines, the more they will perceive you as a serious brand to consider. So, organic search is powerful not only as a brand awareness builder, but also as a brand perception builder.
Content marketing increases your brand exposure in a multitude of ways. You become known as an expert in your niche, and you build trust by educating or delighting your target audience.
Content marketing feeds all marketing, so with a great content strategy, you also feed your website, email marketing, social media, and SEO. And remember that high-quality content can include many different formats, from blog posts to lookbooks, whitepapers, videos, podcasts, infographics, data visualizations, reports, and more.
PR is an effective way to gain media attention and visibility. If you secure media attention in a newspaper, website, or on TV, you’ll get in front of a wide audience. However, the downside to PR is that it’s unpredictable and unreliable. With PR, you are placing your marketing fate in the hands of reporters and editors.
There are other forms of PR, such as events, awards, analyst relations, etc. However, they are not highly relevant to brand awareness building.
Advertising is the fastest way to expand your brand awareness. Simply pay to get in front of them.
This could be online or offline. It could be display, native, or TV advertising. The benefit of advertising is its immediacy. The drawbacks are that it’s expensive and its effectiveness goes to zero as soon as you stop paying.
Strategically partner with complementary brands that target your same audience. In this way, you can piggyback off their prior audience-building efforts to help you get in front of qualified individuals. Or, you can use partnerships to efficiently get in front of new audience segments.
An example of increasing brand awareness through co-branding is JBL and 100 Thieves. JBL makes audio technology, including headphones. They wanted to enter the red-hot gaming headphones market. So, they partnered with 100 Thieves, a leading esports and gaming lifestyle brand. The partnership involved JBL’s introduction of a gaming headset with the 100 Thieves branding and geo-print design. The launch event delivered a VIP experience featuring a performance by Grammy-nominated artist Gunna.
Through the partnership, JBL wins as they gain access to a new market segment. 100 Thieves wins because they bring innovative tech and a better gaming experience to their audience. It’s a win-win.
Partner with influencers to get in front of their respective communities. A great influencer partnership will put your brand in front of the right audience that you might not have reached without them. Plus, influencers (especially micro-influencers) tend to have loyal audiences who place a lot of trust in the influencer. This enables you to gain trust with your target audience much faster than otherwise.
Engage on social networks with your audience to connect with them one-on-one. Here’s the thing, though. If your brand is new or relatively unknown, then focusing on your own social accounts won’t help you increase brand awareness. Instead, the key is to conduct social listening. Then jump into relevant conversations in other accounts or where hashtags are being used.
Brand activations / launches
If you are launching a new product, create a brand activation or campaign to build awareness around the product. Activate your brand through experiences or engagements that make people remember who you are.
Use the various marketing methods described above to let as many of your potential customers know about the launch.
To differentiate yourself from the competition and get your new product noticed, try these brand activation methods:
- First, invite your target audience to a launch event.
- Let the world know through a powerful PR campaign.
- Create content your audience will love. Deploy multiple types of content to keep them progressing through the customer journey.
- Use social media channels to activate your brand through influencer marketing campaigns, social media posts, and paid media.
Brand awareness examples
Let’s look at some examples of brand awareness campaigns from well known brands.
Founded in 1958, IHOP is an old brand. Boomers and Gen X certainly know the brand. But younger generations? Not as much.
It’s with this in mind that IHOP created buzz by renaming itself IHOb (International House of Burgers) as part of an initiative to reinvigorate the brand and to introduce the brand to new audiences. The timing was orchestrated to align with the introduction of a new line of steakburgers.
The PR went viral and generated over 20,000 new articles and 36 billion social media impressions. Additionally, their hamburger sales quadrupled. And, no, they were never actually planning on changing the name permanently to IHOb. Roughly one month following the name change, they changed the name back to IHOP.
Dropbox effectively increased its brand awareness through a referral program. It empowered users by offering them an incentive to refer friends and colleagues. The referral program offered existing users an extra 500MB of storage for every friend they referred (up to 16GB). When Dropbox launched, the program introduced the file storage platform to many people who had never heard of the product before. It successfully brought in a considerable number of new users. As a result, the company grew quickly, with more than 700 million registered users today.
When the Slack founding team was ready to go public with their “preview release,” they offered access by invitation only. This stirred strong FOMO, especially among those in technology circles.
“We begged and cajoled our friends at other companies to try it out and give us feedback. We had maybe six to ten companies to start with that we found this way.” – Stewart Butterfield, CEO and Co-Founder, Slack
On the first day of the release, 8,000 people requested an invitation. The next week, that number jumped to more than 15,000.
Word of mouth and a flood of media coverage accelerated demand. Slack grew at a rate of 5–10% per week in the first year. As more and more employees were using Slack as a preferred option over email, corporate IT departments had no choice but to support the platform. This early market acceptance made it easier for others, as well, to adopt the software. As a result, 10,000 new daily active users were signing up each week after merely one and a half years of launch.
How can you measure brand awareness?
Even if you understand the importance of brand awareness, you should know how to measure it. Luckily, there are a variety of data points to help you track and measure your brand awareness over time.
Brand awareness metrics
The following are brand awareness metrics to help you track your performance in increasing awareness among your target audience.
- Media coverage: How many media mentions are you receiving? You can track this through customer intelligence tools like Brand Metrics, Brandwatch, or Semrush Brand Monitoring. These tools help you monitor and react to what’s being said about your brand across a wide range of media, news, and social platforms.
- Branded search volume: Use this KPI geographically to understand how many people know your brand in each city, state, or region you’re targeting. You can use Google Ad’s Keyword Planner tool to measure this.
- Share of voice: What percentage of coverage and online conversations are about your brand versus your competitors?
- Message pull-through: Measure how many of your media pitches are getting coverage.
- Social shares: When your content is shared regularly, it’s an indicator that you have high (and rising) brand awareness. You can track this with a tool like BuzzSumo.
- Backlinks: Backlinks indicate that others trust your brand. They prove your site provides valuable information. Measure your backlinks through SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, or Majestic.
- Website traffic: Web traffic shows us that you are a resource for your target audience. Use Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics to track your website traffic and how you’re acquiring site visitors.
Social media trackers
Social media, as well, provides insight into your brand awareness. Track these metrics on social media to get a better picture of how your brand is being talked about. Social media measurement tools include Hootsuite, Mention, and Talkwalker.
- Impressions: Impressions tell us how many times people viewed your content.
- Reach: How many unique individuals see your content?
- Mentions: How many people are writing about you online? What is the sentiment of those mentions?
- Engagement: Are you seeing more people engaging with your content on social media? Measure social media likes, comments, questions, shares, and saves. If relevant, you can also measure the volume of user-generated content (UGC).
Ad recall lift
If you are using advertising, you can use ad recall to measure your brand awareness.
Ad recall measures how memorable the advertisement is to an audience. Advertising recall is measured by asking questions. The aim is to assess the length of memory of the ad beyond the time of viewing.
Some social media platforms can measure ad recall lift through their own platform. For example, Facebook and YouTube have their own ad recall capabilities, respectively.
Facebook has an “estimated ad recall” metric that measures how well someone will remember your ad after two days.
YouTube can determine the point in the sales cycle the user is at. But, being a Google company, they go one step further. They measure how your ad campaign affected search behavior. They randomly choose a group that saw your ad and a group that did not see your ad and then measure how many people from each group searched for your brand online.
Brand awareness FAQs
We define brand awareness by the ability of consumers to recognize your brand and correctly associate it with specific products or categories of solutions.
Some key benefits of stronger brand awareness include more effective marketing, greater brand trust, and higher perceived brand value.