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This article was written by a guest contributor. The author's views below are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of WHSR.
Brand awareness can be defined as how recognizable a brand is— how easily consumers can distinguish it from competitors. It’s crucial for your brand to increase brand awareness, because people won’t readily purchase your brand instead of a competitor’s if they don’t know what sets you apart. But if they do recognize what makes you different, and appreciate you for it, then you’ve got a leg up over the competition.
Google’s arguably the king of brand awareness. It’s such a well-known brand that we use it as a verb: when we search for something online, we usually say that we’re going to “Google it.”
But don’t get intimidated. Although becoming a household name is the brand awareness holy grail, you don’t have to reach Google’s level to increase your brand awareness.
In fact, people don’t even have to remember your brand’s name for you to reach a basic level of brand awareness. As long as they remember some factor that sets your brand apart, such as your packaging, your colors, your slogan, or part of your story, they possess awareness of your brand. They know what makes you stand out, and this gives them a reason to choose you.
There are plenty of simple brand awareness strategies that any brand can implement. 91% of retails brands use 2 or more social media channels, according to statistics. Today, we’ll cover the easiest ways to increase your brand awareness.
Your brand can cultivate brand awareness in two basic ways: through the direct actions you take to promote your brand, and through positive word-of-mouth.
Word-of-mouth marketing occurs at any time people positively share your brand with their friends, family, or peers. This sharing is vital to your brand’s success. People trust the opinions and recommendations of their peers far more than they trust advertising and other messaging that comes straight from your brand. So, if someone hears about you from a friend, they’re highly likely to remember you— and to eventually purchase your products or services.
Almost all of the other brand awareness strategies we’ll cover depend on, or are easily augmented, by the powerhouse that is word-of-mouth. So, encouraging other people to share your brand is the most impactful way to increase brand awareness.
People are spending increasing amounts of time on social media, where they naturally share content with many peers at once. So, creating branded posts that people can’t help but share is a solid way to boost your brand awareness. The trick is to make your posts look and feel like content people naturally share, and not like ads.
Wendy’s is a powerhouse at creating iconic, shareable posts— their Tweets have gone viral several times over, causing awareness of their brand to skyrocket. Although you can’t guarantee whether a post will go viral (the internet is very unpredictable), you can still easily take several cues from Wendy’s to create branded posts worth sharing.
Wendy’s knows that its audience loves humorous, witty content, and boy, has it delivered. Every single post they craft is focused on entertaining. A prime example? Their “roasts,” or snarky and sassy replies to tweets mentioning their own brand and/or their competitors, as well as to tweets from other brands. Check out this example below:
Now, consider your own audience. Do they want humorous, entertaining content, or more serious information? Do they want to be educated, inspired, or something else? Whatever they desire— and whatever they naturally share— should guide the type of social media posts you release.
Wendy’s injects wit and branded humor into every post— whether it’s roasts, memes, or their own role-playing game with numerous inside references, you’ll always find that signature tone in their content.
Find your own brand voice, whether it’s snarky, serious, or somewhere in between, and stick to it with every post you make. This consistency is key to generating brand awareness because it gives people another piece of branding to remember you by.
Wendy’s knows to focus on Twitter (and secondarily, Instagram) because that’s where their audience spends the most time. Trying to cultivate a presence on every social network is too time-consuming, and will usually result in wasted effort, as it will put your posts in front of people who aren’t candidates to buy your product. Instead, concentrate on the platforms your audience frequents most.
Wendy’s consistently tweets with an eye on the trends. In this recent tweet, they play off of actor Emma Watson’s use of “self-partnered” as a more empowering alternative to “single.”
As long as you don’t try to piggyback off of a controversial topic, playing off of what’s trending can help you increase your brand awareness. And even if your tone is more serious, you can still increase brand awareness by highlighting trends in your industry.
Your social media strategy shouldn’t just include producing your own quality content.
Encouraging and leveraging user-generated content— the social media posts customers make about your brand, and the images and videos featuring customers using your products in their daily lives— is just as crucial to generating brand awareness.
Like all word-of-mouth marketing, user-generated content is powerful because your customers’ friends and followers trust what your customers choose to share. As a result, people are more likely to remember your brand when it features in their friends’ original content. Encourage user-generated content with these strategies:
Among the people who create user-generated content, you’re bound to find several standout customers who share glowing posts and comments about your brand without prompting.
Think about recruiting these customers to serve as brand ambassadors— long-term representatives of your brand, who regularly promote you on their own platforms and in their own genuine voice. They’re motivated to spread the word about your brand because they’re passionate about you and want to see you succeed, and because they think their audience would benefit from your products or services.
You may have heard the term “brand ambassador” in connection with a brand’s celebrity representative. However, ambassadors don’t have to be celebrities or people with a large following, as long as they hold authority in your niche or among members of your target audience. It’s all about choosing representatives your audience trusts, who are comfortable with holding one-on-one conversations about your brand and its products.
For example, many brands targeting college students run campus ambassador programs, to leverage the connections students have already made with their peers. The Bumble app is one example—they run a detailed “Honey” program of student ambassadors.
If there’s a cause that your brand’s passionate about, making a donation will show your empathy and increase your standing in the public eye.
Set monetary donations are beneficial, but also consider these more memorable ways to give back.
Of course, any philanthropy should be conducted because you genuinely want to help a cause. If giving back is just done for publicity, your audience will be able to tell, and this will backfire.
Sharing authentic stories about your brand makes it easier for people to remember you and share you with others. So, be sure to engage in thoughtful brand storytelling.
Did you start your brand to meet a need that no one else meets? Are your products built to solve a specific problem? Let the world know, because stories like this are highly shareable.
But don’t worry if you don’t fit into one of these categories. Your brand can still write a “signature story” in your unique voice and tone. This authentic and memorable story showcases your brand mission and values, how and why they originated, and how you commit to these values in everything your brand does and says, including your relationships with customers.
Your customers’ stories are a vital part of your own brand story, so consider sharing their experiences with you on your blog, on a “testimonials” page, or in video form. This will be even more effective if you let your customers tell their own stories!
Check out the above Zendesk’s customer testimonial for Zoom, where they share why they love the video conferencing platform.
In this digital age, the “unboxing” experience is becoming even more prominent. On social media (especially digital video platforms), people focus on all the aspects of discovering a product, starting with the packaging. This proves that, if your packaging is memorable, people are even more likely to remember your brand. So, consider placing your branding on shipping boxes, redesigning your packaging to stand out, or even creating an experience of opening your product.
The viral LOL Surprise toy line has mastered this experience— opening the toy’s “layers” to discover what surprises are inside is just as important as the resulting toy itself, and this unique “unboxing” is what has made the toy so popular.
You don’t have to go as far as the LOL ball, but carefully retooling your packaging is an easy way to boost brand awareness. But what if you sell software, a service, or another product that has no real “package?” Regardless of what you sell, there are plenty of other branding elements that you can focus on making memorable, such as your slogan, colors, and mission.
In case you are looking for logos for branding purposes, here are the free logos you can download – no signup required.
Crafting informative blog posts is a strategy that will work well for all brands, regardless of what you sell. If you write about topics in your niche, that meet the needs of your audience, this will increase your authority in the eyes of your potential customers. And once you’ve helped people out, it will be hard for them to forget you, especially if they stand to benefit from your products. They’ll likely come back to purchase, because they trust your content So, figure out the questions that people are asking in your niche, and write blog posts that answer those questions.
Don’t limit your blogging to your own website. Submitting high-quality guest posts to other websites related to your niche, but that don’t directly compete against your own website, is a solid way to place your brand in front of a new, relevant audience. Ideally, the site you’re guest posting on will let you include an author bio with a link and one-sentence description of your brand. If they don’t, you can at least insert a few links to your own site’s content, which will hopefully help boost your traffic.
Also, think about blogging on LinkedIn or Medium. These sites already have a large audience built up, and you’ll always be able to include a short plug for your company at the end of these posts. Tag your content so it will be grouped with other posts in your niche.
According to McKnight Kurland, people only remember between 10-20% of what they read or hear, but they remember about 65% of what they see. Clearly, if you’re only creating blogs and other textual content, that isn’t always sufficient to boost brand awareness. You’ll increase your odds of being remembered if you create compelling visual content— infographics, as well as other branded images and videos.
Infographics are awesome for communicating statistics and related bites of information; to find out just how useful and powerful they are, check out the infographic below from visual.ly.
You could also turn content from popular blog posts into short videos, so the content is easier to digest. Like images, videos are easily shared, they’ll help boost your brand awareness rapidly.
If there isn’t already a podcast in your specific niche, creating one to answer questions and spotlight others in your industry is a great brand awareness strategy. However, it’s likely that your niche is already crowded with podcasts, especially if you sell some sort of B2B multi-vendor software. In that case, you should have your founder, CEO, or another prominent person within your company appear on others’ related podcasts. Like with guest posts, this is a handy way to get your brand in front of a new, relevant audience.
When customers Google a topic, they usually don’t look beyond the first page of search results. But if your brand ranks highly on this first page, over your competitors, your brand will look more authoritative— and people will naturally learn about your brand before the competition.
And SEO is an affordable choice for building brand awareness. According to 59% of marketers polled in a Referral Rock survey, SEO is one of the most cost-effective methods for building brand awareness.
So, make sure to optimize your website for keywords closely related to your brand, that your audience is searching for. Ideally, you’ll optimize for three types of keywords: the general keywords that describe your product or service categories, the specific keywords that are more focused on your product type, and the specific keywords that pose questions related to your niche.
Also, research your competition on Google— the sites you’re battling against for your spot on page one— so you’ll know what you’ll need to do to fight for the rankings you want. You’ll usually find that longer, more specific keywords have low competition, and draw in people who are more likely to purchase from you, even though they generally aren’t searched for as often.
Who doesn’t love getting something for nothing? Giving away free swag with your brand name on them, or valuable coupons, can make a lasting impression. So, find an event in your community, such as a sports game, concert, expo, conference, or community day, where you’re likely to meet many people in your brand’s desired audience. Reserve a space, and distribute the freebies!
If you decide to give out swag, your best choices are items that people can wear or carry with them (think shirts, hats, water bottles, or tote bags). This will turn the people who use the swag into walking billboards, giving your brand awareness another boost!
Don’t forget about giving “bite-sized,” free experiences with your product or service. If the people who try it enjoy their experience, they’re even more likely to remember you and come back to purchase, and they might also tell their friends. Giving out trial-size versions of your products, or free samples, is a great choice, if your brand allows for it.
But what if your product isn’t physical? You still have options. If you sell a software or digital subscription, a demo or free trial is another solid “freebie” that you can give out. And if you provide a recurring service, you could offer a free first service, or credits towards that service.
We can’t emphasize enough how important word-of-mouth is in generating brand awareness. But word-of-mouth can be tough to track and control. Don’t worry, though— starting a referral program lets you easily promote and track word-of-mouth, putting the power back into the hands of your business.
Referral programs let you offer exciting rewards for existing customers who directly share your brand with their friends. You can choose incentives that will best motivate your customers to share, such as free products, store credits, discounts, service upgrades, or branded swag.
Also, referral programs make it easy for customers to share using the methods they prefer, in just a few clicks. And if you select a referral program software, it’s simple to track these referrals.
When their friends or family members personally refer them to your business, potential customers pay close attention, because they trust what their peers have to say. As a result, these referred leads are more likely to become your customers, and more likely to stay loyal to your brand for longer periods.
Brand awareness is all about making your brand more memorable, and showing your audience how it’s different from your competitors.
You can increase brand awareness in two basic ways— through direct actions your brand takes, and through others’ word-of-mouth sharing. Make sure to combine both of these approaches, because people remember and trust the opinions of their peers.
Which of the above strategies do you think will work best to grow your business online? Start to apply them, and boost your brand awareness.
About the Author: Jessica Huhn
Jessica Huhn is a marketing content writer at Referral Rock, where they believe that every business has the potential to increase their word-of-mouth marketing. When Jessica is not writing, there is a good chance that she is singing, arranging songs, or sharing and enjoying content on social media. Connect with Jessica on LinkedIn.