18 Sneaky Ways to Build Brand Awareness [Updated 2020]
When you need a tissue, do you ask for a tissue, or for a Kleenex? When you’re ordering a drink at a fast-food restaurant, do you ask for a cola, or a Coke? What about when you cut yourself? Do you look for a plastic bandage, or a Band-Aid?
These terms are known as proprietary eponyms, and they’re the apex of brand awareness. These brands have become so well-known, they’ve replaced the generic terms for similar products in our language.
For a brand or product to become a proprietary eponym is pretty much the pinnacle of brand awareness (sorry, Pepsi). Although you might not achieve this with your small business, that doesn’t mean you can’t do a lot more to boost awareness of your brand. So in this post, we're going to equip you to do just that. We'll cover:
- What brand awareness is and how it compares to brand recognition.
- The importance of brand awareness in achieving your marketing goals.
- Strategies and real examples of successful brand building.
What is brand awareness?
Brand awareness is the extent to which a brand is recognized by potential customers and correctly associated with its particular product or service. In the case of a small business, their level of brand awareness may not reach eponym status (e.g. asking for a Kleenex instead of a tissue), but simpler forms are counted as success. This could mean:
- Consumers having knowledge of what your business is known for.
- A social media user knowing your ad is going to be funny when they come across you in their feed.
- Customers choosing your brand specifically over others, even if there are cheaper options.
- Search engine users typing your business name or other branded terms into search.
ThriveHive is now a part of the WordStream family, but you can see in the example below that one of the top queries that led to their site traffic was their brand name. This is good brand awareness.
When your consumers have brand awareness, they often learn more about your business because they know it exists and are actively seeking out information on it, rather than discovering it in a Google or Yelp search.
Brand recognition vs brand awareness
Brand recognition is the extent to which a consumer can correctly identify your brand based on visual indicators such as logo and colors. For example, if you see the Dunkin Donuts pink and orange letters up ahead, before even making out the words, you’d automatically recognize it as Dunkin Donuts.
Brand awareness takes brand recognition a step further. It involves recalling not only the business name, but also the general feeling of the business, information about its products and services, and other experiential details. When a business has a level of brand awareness, their marketing and advertising campaigns mean something to their audience. They elicit feelings and emotions in the consumer.
Brand awareness is all about what the mind state your ideal clients enter when they see or hear your company’s name.
The importance of brand awareness
No matter the quality of your products and services, no matter how much you spend on advertising, and no matter how much you post to social media, your business isn't likely to get very far if it doesn't have a brand to set itself apart. Your brand packages up your company name, logo, offerings, and content into an experience for your audience and customers. It is the aspect of businesses that consumers come to trust, that places businesses ahead of their competitors.
Yet simply having a brand is not enough. It's important to be consistently building that brand and strengthening its associations in the minds of your target audience. The more familiar people are with something, the more they trust it and gravitate to it. The more familiar your target audience is iwth your brand, the easier it will be to:
- Promote your business across multiple channels.
- Successfully introduce new products or services.
- Build a strong business reputation.
- Find and retain loyal customers.
As you can see, brand awareness is important because it helps pave the way for achieving a variety of your small business marketing goals and objectives like staying ahead of the competition, building an audience, and generating more leads. So how do you build a level of brand awarenes that facilitates this kind of success?
How to build brand awareness
Sure, you can plaster your business name on every billboard in town, but most business owners don’t have the budget for high-priced advertising. Plus, increased exposure doesn’t necessarily equate to increased brand awareness. For some simpler yet effective ways of building brand awareness, you may want to:
- Create a custom hashtag for Instagram.
- Participate in or sponsor local events.
- Post regularly to social media using your brand voice.
- Run display ads on the Google Display Network
In addition to the Kleenex and Dunkin Donuts examples above, here are some more companies that have a high level of brand awareness.
- Coca Cola
- Johnson & Johnson
Most people can identify these brands and feel their unique atmospheres from merely catching a quick glance at their logo or a snippet of their jingle. Using eye-catching visuals, adertising in the right places, and developing a distinct voice in your content, you too can build brand awareness for your company. The key is to be consistent so that you can strengthen your image in the eyes of your audience with every encounter.
The key is to be consistent so that you can strengthen your image in the eyes of your audience with every encounter.
To effectively execute on your strategy, be sure to identify ways of measuring your brand awareness so that you can make necessary adjustments and improvements along the way.
Strategies and examples of building brand awareness
Traditionally, online marketers use the display network to build brand awareness. You can generate thousands of affordable impressions on Display, and when you create enticing display ads (say, by using our Smart Ads Creator), you give yourself a good chance of generating affordable clicks as well. But today, we're going to talk about some brand building techniques that you can use aside from or conjunction with the display network.
While there’s no quick fix for becoming a household name, here are 18 brand-building strategies to help launch (and continue) your efforts. You may not become as well-known as Coca-Cola, but it can’t hurt to try, right?
Here are our best pieces of brand-building advice.
1. Referral programs
Users will gladly spread word of your product or service when they know they’ll get an added perk. Dropbox is a great example of how smart referral programs can growth hack a business. Dropbox gives existing users 500 MB of extra storage space for every friend they refer (up to 16 GB). Back when Dropbox was still new, this referral program helped generate tons of word-of-mouth, delivering a huge number of sign-ups and saving Dropbox countless advertising dollars.
2. Impressive guest content
Another great way to get your brand known on the web is to deliver ultra valuable, gorgeous looking content to share on other blogs. Guest posting (despite what some might tell you) is still a powerful way to get your name known in your industry.
However, run-of-the-mill content won’t cut it – you need to be guest publishing high-quality stuff. Create memorable, valuable content and you’ll be introduced to new audiences and make a lasting impression.
>>Learn how to use ads to raise brand awareness with our all-star playbook to online advertising. Get it here free<<
Infographics are a bright and colorful way to display interesting marketing data and statistics. These content powerhouses often get shared far and wide, making them a great tool for brand building and thought leadership.
Take a look at the infographic WordStream produced earlier this year – it got thousands of social shares and brought in valuable links as well!
4. Freemium with credit
Many awesome online products allow users to choose from a free version, which includes a watermark or credit line, or the option to upgrade to the paid version, which allows users to remove the mark or replace it with their own logo. While many users will opt for the free version, they’ll also be promoting your brand to others users. Some of those new users who see your product will go with the paid version! Providing a freemium product means getting yourself in front of more eyeballs, building your brand and bringing in paying customers.
5. Local partnerships
Another great brand building strategy is to get involved with local partnerships (this is tremendously important for local-oriented businesses, but can be applied for other businesses as well). Partner with other local businesses to hold join intro seminars or festivals. Sponsor local sports teams and donate to charity events. Getting your brand plastered around festivals and events will do big things for your brand.
6. Car wraps
A classic tried-and-true strategy for building your brand is getting a car wrap! Car wraps are customized designs that can cover your entire car (don’t worry, you can still see through the windows)! They can attract a hefty amount of attention, and it’s a great way to ensure that wherever you go, people are becoming more familiar with your brand. Wrap your company car or even your own personal vehicle!
Everyone loves free stuff! Put your brand name on koozies, pens, Frisbees, etc, then give away your items at local festivals.
Koozies from Philly Phaithful
8. Social media contests
Run a social media contest in which contestants submit a photo or video, with other users voting for their favorites. Contestants will share the link with friends and family to get more votes, building your brand awareness as a result.
A contest hosted with the help of Woobox
9. Social focus
With the number of social networks constantly increasing, trying to do active social media marketing on all of them is a fool’s errand. If your business is best suited to a particular network, then don’t be afraid to put the majority of your energy into a few sites. For example, photo-heavy sites might focus on Instagram and Pinterest. B2B companies often do best on Twitter, whereas small businesses in creative industries (like craft marketing) can do well on Instagram. Know where your audiences hang and focus on those networks. You won’t want to totally abandon the other social sites, but save your biggest efforts for what you know works. Not sure about your core network? Start digging into analytics to see where your referral traffic is coming from.
10. LinkedIn publishing
We already talked a bit about the value of guest posting, but there are also other methods to get published and spread your name across the web. Recently, LinkedIn began letting all users publish posts right to LinkedIn via the publishing tool. If your posts get enough attention, it could wind up in the LinkedIn home stream for many users. As an added bonus, having posts attached to your LinkedIn account also helps establish you as a thought leader! Of course you can also always set up your own company blog and post there – just make sure you share and promote your posts after publishing.
11. Pro story telling
Want to be a memorable brand? Start with stellar storytelling. If you can create emotionally moving, compelling stories that connect deeply with users, they won’t soon forget your name. Here are some storytelling tips to get you started
12. Unique personality
One surefire way to increase band awareness is by giving your brand a fun, unique brand identity. If you work in an industry were a little dose of comedy or personality is appropriate, being outrageous can make your brand extremely memorable.
A few major examples of businesses who inject humor and comedy into brand promotion include Old Spice, Poopouri, and Dollar Shave Club.
Not only did these hilarious ads leave an impression with audiences – they also became viral sensations, shared across the web and driving sales.
Starting your own industry podcast where you interview industry experts is a great way to build your brand while also developing relationships with others in your field. Some industries, like marketing, already have a hefty number of podcasts that would be tough for a beginner to compete against. (Here are a few of our favorite marketing podcasts.)
However, for niche industries where there isn’t much on the airwaves, you could easily make yourself a household name. You could also try podcast advertising!
14. PPC advertising
With SEO becoming more competitive every day, while organic Google real-estate shrinks, PPC is a smart solution for getting your brand seen on Google. With targeted keyword research, you could be showing up at the top of Google for relevant searches. Even if users don’t end up clicking on your PPC ad, seeing your name at the top of the search results makes an impression and is incredible for building brand awareness. Check out PPC University if you're not sure where to start.
15. Remarketing campaigns
Remarketing is a pro strategy for boosting that good ol’ brand awareness. Why? Remarketing involves showing ads to users who visited your site, but left before converting. Remarketing ads are placed all across the web on sites your customers visit. Soon they’ll be seeing your business everywhere – on their favorite blogs, while shopping online, etc. This gives the impression that your brand is much larger (and has a much bigger ad budget) than it really is. And it's a great way to increase your conversion rate.
16. Paid social advertising
Organic social marketing is becoming more difficult by the day, leading more businesses to turn to paid social advertising. Facebook and Twitter ads are relatively cheap and help get your brand seen on social. Whether or not users convert immediately, every added piece of familiarity counts when users finally are ready to make a purchase.
While this strategy isn’t for everyone, one way to get your brand noticed is by being controversial. Take an unlikely stance on a hot industry topic, and you may find yourself attracting quite a bit of attention. Whether it’s good or bad attention depends on the subject matter and your approach. Then again, there’s no such thing as bad press (so they say anyway).
18. Influencer marketing
Getting friends in high places is another easy way to boost your brand awareness. Find existing influencers in your industry whose business you could potentially complement, rather than compete with. Make use of your partner’s influencer network to promote your brand (while also building up valuable partnerships you can continue to make use of long-term).
With these brand awareness tips, you’ll be a super-star brand in no time. Any bonus pieces of brand awareness advice you want to dispense? Add your thoughts in the comments.