The Brand Awareness Bullseye
by Felicia Rogers
As time goes on, building brand awareness is becoming more and more difficult. You might wonder how that is possible. Hear me out.
Media, in seemingly endless forms, has a huge influence on our lives. We humans are inundated with messages: verbal, written, visual. Experts tell us that advertising messages alone come at us thousands of times each day. Add to those other marketing messages, personal conversations, text messages, email, news feeds, social media activity, and so on. I’m distracted just writing these words.
So with all of that “communication” going on, shouldn’t it be easy to build awareness for your brand? I mean, a good communication plan can tell people 5,000 times a day that the brand exists. Right? Well, maybe not. It’s no secret this "fire hose" of information causes confusion, so in truth, it may be harder now than ever before to establish initial brand awareness and build it over time.
Before I go further, let’s take a step back and look at this from a broader perspective. Sure, brands can advertise and otherwise communicate with their target audiences on an ongoing basis. But that’s not all they can do. There are several brand-controlled, nonmarketing activities that influence awareness. Many of these have a positive impact, making it “easy” to build brand awareness.
To illustrate what I mean, let’s choose a product category to focus on for a moment. I’ll go with fast food restaurants. Here are several things that influence a consumer’s awareness of a fast food chain (FFC).
- Physical presence: The building and its outdoor signage tell people that the FFC exists.
- New store openings: New buildings = increased physical presence.
- Expansion into new markets: “Coming soon” signs and more stores in new places inform new people of a brand’s existence.
- Public relations: Locally and nationally – the FFC gets involved in the community, makes the news (hopefully in a positive way), etc.; this tells or reminds people they exist.
These are examples of the first level—the center of the bullseye—and probably the most obvious types of nonmarketing activities that drive awareness. But let’s look beyond these types of FFC-controlled activities. The next outward bullseye “ring”, if you will, consists of activities we can think of as consumer dining trends. This is where we begin to see a pattern of challenges. Here are a few:
- Focusing on better-for-you eating: healthy, locally sourced, etc.
- Replacing 3 “square” meals daily with more frequent, smaller meals or snacks.
- Trading up from FFCs to quick-casuals: seeking out different brands or types of food, for whatever reason, means paying less attention to fast food brands.
- Less dining out/more preparing meals at home: FFCs are out of sight, out of mind.
And if we go out one more ring to population macro trends, we see some additional challenges to awareness building. These are beyond the control of the FFC and have nothing to do with eating or buying food from fast food restaurants. But they do have an impact on FFC brand awareness. And over time, if the trends are prolonged, the impact can be pretty substantial. Here’s what I’m thinking of:
- Aging population: Older people tend to eat out less often than younger people do.
- Urbanization: More people living in cities; covering less ground as they go about daily routines—so they are not driving by as many FFCs
- Transportation habit shifts: Urbanization increases use of public transportation; less visibility of or attention on all those fast food restaurants along the path.
- Fluctuating fuel prices: When prices are high or rising, people take fewer road trips and drive less in general–thus, fewer chances to see those fast food signs on the highways.
- Economic instability and unemployment: When fewer people are employed, we see more focus on saving money, less eating out—less focus on those fast food brands; when more people are employed or receiving raises, the focus may shift to pricier restaurants (e.g., fast-casual or casual dining)—again, less focus on fast food brands.
So if we consider all of these forces together, they form a bullseye like the one below. In the center, the brand has complete control. Each ring farther away from the center is less directly influenced by the brand itself. Yet these forces all have an impact on the brand.
So I ask you, is it or is it not more difficult than ever before to grow brand awareness?
About the Author
Felicia Rogers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Executive Vice President at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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