Brand awareness is foundational to the marketing process. Although marketing is a cycle; if it starts anywhere, it starts with awareness. At this stage in the consumer’s journey, he or she may not even be aware of any particular want or need–let alone be actively attempting to satisfy it.
Whoa, whoa, whoa!
At this point, most managers pump the brakes and wonder why in the world they’d spend time, effort, or money on people who haven’t even expressed an interest in their product or service, i.e. on “unqualified” leads.
Salespeople love qualified leads, or MQLs, but that’s quite a ways downstream. Marketing can’t focus only on people with specific interest and intent. Awareness campaigns are far upstream at the top of “The Funnel.” It behooves us to grow brand awareness broadly, and there’s an added benefit to doing so.
Communicating early and often with (what the sales department might call) “unqualified” prospects buys irreplaceable access to the the customer’s basic concept of a particular need and what it would take to fill it.
For Example: Pretend you’ve never heard of X. You see an ad for Brand 1 Xs. You have no interest in Xs, so you ignore it; but if you picture an X in your mind, you picture Brand 1. Can you see how this deep brain access might be valuable down the road?
Awareness campaigns are more sophisticated than that–or at least they can be–but the concept is relatively clear: present yourself as an option and be part of the overall picture. So what forms might an awareness campaign take? What do they look like, and where might you see them?
- Public Relations: PR certainly falls within the realms of this type of campaign. No purchase or decision is expected from the readers of your news releases, interviews, and awards; but PR is a great way to get in front of broad swaths of possible prospects and to put your best foot forward.
- Radio and TV: In the Information Age, these two media still hold real marketing clout. It’s true TV and radio aren’t the most direct drivers of conversion, but there’s a reason Super Bowl ads still cost as much as they do: traditional media still offers broad access for brand awareness.
- Online Advertising: Pay-per-click ads in search engines or social media are most often used to attempt to drive conversion, and often the measure of their success depends upon it. Indeed, PPC advertising platforms spit out gobs of data to measure conversion rates and cost/conversion. We’ll definitely use it for that, buy you can also use online advertising for top-of-funnel brand awareness work.
The other important goal in the awareness phase is to begin to make the prospect aware of a want of need. Here, the tools of the marketing trade come to bear and the best marketing minds can apply their psychological insights to plant the beginnings of need.