We talk often about brand awareness. No matter the industry, the product or solution being offered, it’s a simple, omnipresent idea: people cannot buy your products, support your brand or change their behaviors if they are unaware.
Long before a global pandemic upended the lives of millions, new technologies and innovations were disrupting our day-to-days and building the foundation for a near-future where everything was digital, immediate and smart. At one point in time, innovations like the Internet, digital streaming services or smartphones were all tiny blips on the average consumer’s radar. Awareness had to be built in order to drive home the full disruptive and beneficial potential of each product.
The pandemic has changed many, many things but it will not pause the ever-present introduction of new, better ways of doing things into our lives. If anything, the pandemic will spur innovation and create the opportunity for brands to revolutionize the every day. That might mean providing solutions for homeowners to save money on their energy bills as they spend more time at home, creating the infrastructure that supports safe grocery delivery while simultaneously saving family-owned farms or implementing large-scale health and safety protocols that create safer work environments for essential employees while the world awaits a vaccine.
Whether the pandemic accelerates the adoption of clean energy technologies, fosters further partnerships between farmers and big-box grocery stores or drives innovation in health and safety, one thing will be crucial to the success of the brands behind these big ideas: successfully implementing awareness efforts that prime the market to participate.
Where to Start
Even on a smaller scale - introducing a new car into the market, or releasing the latest summer blockbuster - building awareness over time is a fundamental requirement for driving conversions.
Every marketing director has probably received a recommendation from their advertising agency of a channel or tactic they've never heard of. Sound familiar? If so, think about how the agency helped you understand what the channel was. Did the agency show you how it worked, or the value that it would deliver, both to your brand and to your potential customers?
For new products, brand initiatives or solutions, audiences need that same kind of context before they make a purchasing decision.
Unfortunately, in the excitement and rush to get new products, solutions or programs into a market, priming the audience often becomes an afterthought. Marketing isn’t brought to the table until late in the game and suddenly product teams expect to see immediate results and instantaneous conversions in an unprimed market.
When marketing teams are brought in early on, two fundamental components fall into place that build the foundation for successful awareness-driving efforts: brands learn who their target audience actually is, versus who they want them to be, and where that target audience is in their individual customer journeys. Understanding where current and potential customers are in their customer journey can help brands segment their audience further, a tactic that allows for the creation of messaging and awareness channels that will resonate with target audiences the most.
Customers actively looking to improve energy efficiency in their home may already be researching new heat pump technologies, for example, and have a slightly higher level of awareness than someone who only thinks about replacing their current heating system when it breaks down or needs repairs.
Creating a Communications Plan that Prioritizes Awareness
Another crucial component of priming the market is developing a communications plan that places priority on driving awareness, first and foremost.
It feels like an obvious thing to say, but many brands will put awareness secondary to conversions in their communications strategy, a tactic that is successful only if a high-level awareness of a product or service actually exists. For new, disruptive or complex solutions or technologies, brands will benefit from a communications plan that:
- Makes people aware that there is a product or solution available that solves their need.
- Helps people understand how that product or solution fits into their lives to both solve a particular need and lead to a greater benefit.
- Validates the value of the product or solution through a third-party endorsement.
- Clearly guides individuals so that they understand how to get started with the product or solution/
- Enables brands to intuitively guide individuals through the brand experience: Emulate Disney World and guide audiences in a way that leads them to the desired destination rather than making them try and figure it out on their own.
- Follows up, receives feedback from audiences and allows for tactics to evolve and be optimized.
Coronavirus has forced the world to adapt to a new way of life, and with that comes opportunities for brands to provide new, innovative solutions, some of which may be complex and some of which will be entirely foreign to the brand’s target market. But no matter the industry, the problem or the scale of the product or service, investing in awareness and making it a top priority, long before conversion-driving KPIs come into play, will help drive success by priming the market, building trust and establishing long-term brand recognition.