Building Brand Awareness to Create a Competitive Edge

Every brand has competitors, and every brand spends a significant amount of time and energy trying to establish or maintain an edge over these competitors.

Unfortunately, there’s no single silver bullet marketing technique that will allow your brand to outfox the competition. Success will come down to a multitude of factors, but one of the most important among them often comes down to the question of brand awareness.

The importance of brand awareness

Before we get into the “how” of developing better brand awareness, let’s do a quick overview of why brand awareness matters so much.

Something that no company could have failed to notice over the past decade is how much more difficult it has become to stand out and command consumer attention. Content channels have proliferated at a breakneck pace, and today’s consumers have nearly unlimited options for where they choose to focus their time and attention. Even when they’re engaged in one activity (streaming video on their computer, for example), they’re often also multi-tasking with another device (checking Instagram on their phone, let’s say).

It can be incredibly challenging to get consumers to pay attention in such a saturated media environment. That’s why establishing and building brand awareness is so important. Brands can no longer rely on being noticed wherever they advertise like they could in the early days of media. What moves the needle now is to find ways to be remembered and recognized so that when a consumer need arises, your brand is top of mind.

Steps to creating strong brand awareness

Differentiate yourself:

The first, and most important, element of building brand awareness is to establish a differentiating feature that will hook consumers. This differentiating factor is what makes brands memorable.

Keep in mind that your specific differentiator (or differentiators) will depend entirely on what kind of brand you are. For some brands it might be innovating in a space that’s ripe for disruption (think of Quip, ZipRecruiter, or Away). For other brands it could be a certain intangible cool factor (think of Glossier or The Wing). Still for others it might be a long history of quality construction and workmanship (think of Le Creuset or LL Bean), or even a commitment to sustainability and the environment (think of Patagonia and Reformation).

The key is to think about which of your brand attributes will get people talking. If a customer were to recommend you to a friend, what would they give as the reason for doing so?

Be seen everywhere:

After developing an enticing differentiator, the second-most important element of building brand awareness is playing in multiple content channels. You don’t know where your audience is until you look, so experiment with content in different formats and mediums.

Take as an example one brand that’s particularly good at getting people talking: Everlane. When Everlane is preparing to launch new, exciting products, they use multiple channels to encourage their audience to put themselves on a waitlist for that product ahead of time. They do a good job of building anticipation and often have massive waiting lists by the time the product launches. As a result, fashion and lifestyle blogs often publish articles with titles like “This pair of pants has a 10,000 person waiting list” which is, again, another content channel for them to be seen in.

Imagine how enticing a headline like that is for a user. It demands to be read. And once a user reads the article, what are the chances they will remember Everlane, the brand with the pants so popular 10,000 people put themselves on a waiting list to get them? Pretty high.

Invest in SEO:

At first glance SEO might not seem like a channel that’s built for creating brand awareness, but in fact it’s a powerful tool for this purpose. Users turn to Google for answers to their questions or to find a product they need or want. If your brand can have visibility in search when such a need arises and you can actually provide value to the user, your likelihood of being recognized or remembered in the future increases regardless of whether the user converts on that first visit.

Common brand awareness mistakes

There are a handful of traps brands can fall into when trying to improve awareness. On your brand-building journey, be mindful of the following:

  • Not enough content: It’s not uncommon for brands to assume that publishing a little bit of content will be enough to get them noticed. And while we’d never advocate for quantity over quality, the fact is you truly do need to have both. We live in an “always on” environment and repetitive exposure is key to winning consumer recognition.
  • The wrong platforms: Earlier we mentioned the importance of trying out different platforms and being present in many channels. As you experiment it will become clear that some channels outperform others, and still others are not right for your brand at all. That’s why it pays to always be on the lookout for opportunities to connect with audiences in new places. Cast a wide net and then hone and refine as it becomes clear where the best returns are.
  • The wrong impression: Occasionally brands are doing both of the above but the problem is not making an impression, it’s making the wrong one. It’s critical to understand how your brand is perceived. Does this perception line up with how you wish to be perceived? If not it’s essential to devise a content strategy that specifically and compellingly addresses those consumer misapprehensions. Domino’s, for example, has radically changed the conversation around their brand in recent years after listening to consumer feedback and addressing it head-on.

In closing

As content channels proliferate the competition for consumer attention will continue to intensify. With so many companies clamoring to captivate users, brands can’t rely on standing out simply by having a presence in a specific channel.

Investment in building awareness is key to any brand’s success in the modern media landscape. Brands should aim to do so through strong differentiating factors and content quality and volume on a variety of platforms.

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