Updated: Oct 25
Imagine you’re in an electronics store looking for a new smartphone.
You’ve decided on your budget and you already know which specs will suffice your needs. You finalise three smartphones that have almost everything you need. But while you’re debating the extra features, you realise that you’re slightly biased towards one brand more than the other two, even though the others offer a couple of extra features at a lower price.
Sounds illogical, doesn’t it?
But rest assured that it's not you, it's the brand’s image.
The perception of a brand
How brands appear to us affects our purchase decisions on a daily basis. Whether it is the occasional indulgence in an expensive chocolate bar or something as common as the brand of our everyday packaged milk, brand perceptions affect us consciously and subconsciously - often a lot more than we’d care to agree.
Gone are the days when a new brand could enter markets and take over another’s existing customer base by simply offering quality products at lower prices. In today’s markets, when a number of competitors sell the same product, a brand’s identity and awareness are just as important as the product. Brand recall, which is when a consumer recalls a brand from memory, and brand recognition, which is a consumer’s ability to confirm their familiarity with a brand upon its presentation in any form, are the basic tenets of brand awareness.
Think of brand recall as when you think of a footballer and associate them with the colours of their jersey and subsequently, the logos on the jersey; while brand recognition is looking at the logo and thinking of the brand and its products. A coherent brand identity comes into play by creating a synergy between these two.
When did brand identity become a thing?
Brand identity and awareness may seem like terms for the 21st century, but they’ve been around for years. Since when? Probably ever since people started buying and selling anything.
The way we experience them.
In the 80s and 90s, consumers were familiar with brands through the jingles in their advertisements, while in the 2000s, brands turned to witty catchphrases and campaigns, to appeal to millennials.
So what’s different now?
We know that brands like Zomato and Durex are the wit-masters of social media as they have a pun for every moment of public interest. A few decades ago, Amul pioneered the same through newspaper comics.
Today, the rise of social media has been such that reaching a brand is as easy as DMing a friend or commenting on their posts. A survey by Instagram showed that 9 out of every 10 users follow at least one business account. In the same survey, 7 out of 10 people said do not mind advertisements when watching videos on the platform. This reinforces the thought that social media is a significant playing ground for brand wars and that a brand’s identity is incomplete if it doesn’t have an active presence on social media. However, brand awareness efforts on social media are not limited to talking about its products alone and this directly affects the brand’s positioning and strategies.
Actor and ace marketeer Ryan Reynolds has shown the world how impactful ‘fastvertising’, which is publishing campaigns as a quick response to a new trending topic, can be. He believes that “Ads should be fun.” and has certainly shown that through his advertisements for Aviation Gin, 1Password, and Mint Mobile, which have been very well received, as noted by thousands of Youtube viewers the world over.
Okay. So what does the rising competition mean for existing brands?
It's not just new brands riding the rising waves of competition, but existing and well-established brands as well. Brands are focusing on both brand recall and recognition to ensure an increased lifespan in the market and to open up opportunities for growth in new markets.
The rising competition also means that every potential for grabbing attention is capitalised on. From aesthetic online marketing campaigns to interactive advertisements such as the swimmable billboard from Adidas, brand awareness has taken a new drift.
Ingenious marketing is the way of the future, and many brands are acing it. One example is what Red Bull did when they used social proof for their marketing in the 1980s and 1990s. Red Bull strategically placed empty cans of the energy drink everywhere. There would be empty cans outside popular nightclubs, inside popular bars, and in spaces that catered to the youth. What did this do? People started seeing these cans everywhere and got the impression that everyone was drinking Red Bull.
Red Bull not only is an example of ingenious marketing, but also how to use your identity to step into new niches. It has gone from just an energy drink manufacturer to a brand synonymous with sports and extreme performance. Over the years, by sponsoring events, producing massive stunts, and making awesome content, Red Bull has been successful in staying at the very top!
However, this level of popularity takes great care, effort, and time to achieve. Another such example is the Dove campaign for Real Beauty. The campaign has strived to promote body positivity and build self-confidence in women for years. Not only has this helped the brand garner recognition, but also enter new markets. Even today, Dove strives to let customers experience beauty and body image positively. From a $200 million soap brand in the early 1990s to a brand value of 5.1 billion USD today, the Real Beauty campaign has helped the brand reach new heights.
What can businesses and brands do to rise above their competitors?
Day after day, we see several means of raising brand awareness. Brands focus on retaining their position in consumer lives through awareness campaigns and whatnot. What does all of this point to? Raising awareness about a brand is a never-ending process. So what can businesses and brands do, or rather continue to pursue, to ensure that they always rise above their competitors? Here’s what we suggest:
Develop a unique brand voice: Brands can establish a distinct voice and personality by utilizing various channels such as blogs, websites, and advertisements. Consistently delivering content that aligns with their brand values and resonates with their target audience helps create a recognizable and memorable brand identity.
1. Businesses should recognize the importance of utilizing modern channels such as social media platforms to reach a wider audience. They can create engaging content, leverage influencers, and actively participate in relevant conversations to increase brand visibility.
2. Capitalize on social media presence: Businesses can leverage their presence on social media platforms to engage with their target audience effectively. Brands like Boohoo have made amazing use of their presence on social media through endorsements from influencers and engaging a young audience through their communications to build a strong online presence and foster brand loyalty.
3. Jump on trends and capitalize on opportunities: It's important for brands to stay agile. By keeping an eye on emerging trends and popular events, brands can create timely and relevant content that captures the attention of their target audience and differentiates them from their competitors. Recently, the upcoming Barbie movie was followed by reactions from other brands using the same template.
4. Measure brand awareness and analyze marketing efforts: Businesses should employ metrics to measure the impact of their marketing initiatives. Metrics like brand mentions, website traffic, and engagement can provide insights into brand awareness levels. Additionally, techniques and tools like social listening and Google Analytics can help analyze online conversations, gather audience insights, and fine-tune marketing strategies accordingly.
5. Adapt and alter brand identity when necessary: Brands should be open to evolving and modifying their identity to stay relevant in a dynamic market. Researching case studies and conducting thorough market research can provide valuable insights into how other successful brands have successfully altered their identity.
What does the future of brand awareness look like?
Creating brand awareness and marketing is a response to our behaviour as a human species. It is safe to say that in the coming future, though the platforms, mediums, and strategies may continue to change, a brand’s need to shape an impactful identity will be ever-present.
For brands to stand the test of time, they also need to adapt to the ever-evolving audience, and while there will always be a conflict between what works and what does not, experimentation and evolving attitudes will always be the key to success.