What is one of the biggest, most common problems that small businesses around the world today? That problem is UBIQUITY! A ubiquitous brand is one that seems to appear everywhere and simply blends into the crowd. In today’s cluttered business space, it is no wonder brands find it so difficult to break out of their ubiquitous chains.
Forbes completed a study in 2017 that found Americans are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 brands DAILY! Just think, with the increase in the digital presence of businesses in the past three years, I wouldn’t doubt if that number has close to doubled.
So, how do you stand out from the crowd in the oversaturated digital market space that has come to encapsulate today’s brands? The answer to this question, my friend, is through increasing your brand awareness.
Now you might have some questions…
What is brand awareness?
How is brand awareness different from brand recognition?
Why is brand awareness important?
How does one increase their brand awareness?
Don’t worry. I have all the answers you will need to increase your brand awareness in the oversaturated digital market and build a following in no time.
Let’s start by building a brand awareness foundation.
What is Brand Awareness?
Brand Awareness, as defined by Investopedia, “refers to the familiarity of consumers with a particular product or service.” I want to take that a step further and say that Brand Awareness includes a level of emotion that accompanies the familiarity. Consumers come across your brand and feel a specific type of way, whether that is motivated, happy, excited, and curious or disgusted, confused, and angry. It is your job to create a brand that builds a loyal following of brand advocates who support you. You want them to be curious to learn more when they see your brand and associate you with positive feelings.
Your brand should not only be recognizable by your target audience, but it should be correctly associated with what you do. It should also strike a chord with them. You want your brand to both intrigue and resonate with your target market.
Let’s be real here, as a small business, you might not ever reach the brand awareness level of brands such as Nike, Starbucks, or Google. That is okay if you don’t. Even if that is the end goal, you likely have a ways to go before you get there. So let’s start here, with the mini-wins. Some of the mini-wins that you can scratch up as successes are:
- Your target customer knows what solution you provide.
- Your socials evoke an emotional response with your target audience, and they INTERACT with you.
- You have formed ACTUAL relationships with members of your target audience, and they have begun choosing you over your competitor simply because of your brand.
- Your target customer searches directly for your name in their search bar.
All of these mini wins are little pats on your back telling you that you are on the right track to building a brand with a substantial amount of brand awareness with your target audience.
Now for the next question:
What is the Difference Between Brand Awareness and Brand Recognition?
Brand Recognition means that your audience sees your logo and the colors associated with your brand, and they recognize them to be a part of your brand. For example, if I see a green and white cup with a mermaid looking creature in a circle, I’m automatically going to assume that you went the drink is from Starbucks. Starbucks has grown their brand enough for it to be widely recognized around the world.
On the contrary, the level of Brand Awareness that I have for Starbucks is lower than others. I do not consistently go there. I do not necessarily have good or bad feelings toward Starbucks, except that maybe it is a bit overpriced, and I do not keep up with what they are doing in their business. On the other hand, I have friends that have a very high level of brand awareness with Starbucks. They follow them on social media. They feel happy when they see a cup. They know exactly when their seasonal cups and drinks have hit the market. They have become partial toward Starbucks and would choose it over another brand. They would even be willing to pay a premium to get it. This example demonstrates how increased levels of brand awareness can lead to brand equity.
So, ask yourself,
“What do consumers feel when they interact with my brand?”
If they have feelings about your brand, they likely have a high enough level of brand awareness for these feelings to have been formed.
Why is Brand Awareness Important?
As seen with the Starbucks example, higher levels of brand awareness lead to higher levels of brand equity. People are willing to pay more specifically for your brand’s products. If you can gain a tribe of loyal followers that are interested in what you are doing and feel like they can relate to you, you will be able to grow your business much quicker.
At the end of the day, all of this talk on brand awareness and branding your business comes down to two things:
AUTHENTICITY + CONSISTENCY
If you can clearly communicate to the customer, on a personal level, what your brand stands for and you continue to show up day in and day out, your target audience is going to develop an emotional relationship with you. Creating these types of personal relationships has been made possible through social media platforms and video conferencing technology. You can make personal relationships even if you have never met the person in your life. By doing so, your target audience will develop a higher level of brand trust toward you and will gravitate toward your products/services over others.
The stronger the relationship you can create, the easier it will be for you to widen your presence to reach more people than before, expand your product offerings, and build a high level of brand awareness.
Now for the good part…
How do I increase brand awareness for my business?
In this ever-increasing cluttering of the digital world we live in today, especially with the COVID pandemic, we need ways to stand out from the crowd and defeat the ubiquity our brands so often are accustom to. I have compromised a list of actions you can take to skyrocket your levels of brand awareness with your target customer. (Inspiration for this list provided by Megan Marrs over at Wordstream.)
1. Create a Custom Hashtag
Creating a custom hashtag to be used on your social media platforms is a smart way to communicate a message with your target audience. It could be a call to action, a stance on political beliefs, your brand name, or countless other options. The great part about creating a custom hashtag for your brand is that it allows your target market to join your movement. They can participate and hashtag your brand to be seen among your feed and feel as if they are contributing to your cause. This type of community feeling is key to increasing levels of brand awareness in your target audience.
When choosing a custom hashtag, research if the hashtag is already being used by others.
For example, you would not want to hashtag something that already has millions of posts under it. Lululemon created their custom hashtag of #thesweatlife. Whenever they created the hashtag, it was not being used by many people. There were a few sparse occurrences where the hashtag was being used, but it was mostly a blank canvas for Lululemon to paint their name on. Now, #thesweatlife has over 1.3 Million posts, almost all related to the Lululemon brand. This goes to show you the power of community when trying to increase levels of brand awareness.
2. Participate in Local Events
Though the COVID landscape and a migration to a more digital world have made this a bit more difficult, you can still stay up to date with local events to participate in. Some of these events might be over the computer using Skype or Zoom. That is still perfectly fine. You are creating a personal relationship with people in your area. After these people have been able to have an actual conversation with you, they will be able to associate how they felt speaking with you with how they feel about your brand. Again, brand awareness is associated with feelings. Make sure to leave a positive mark!
Participating in local events also shows your community that you care about the well-being of others and want to give back to those giving to you. This is another positive attribute that will be associated with your brand once individuals become aware of it.
3. Post Regularly on Your Social Media Platforms
I want to preface this actionable step by saying that there is a balance between quantity and quality. You do not want to post so much work that you have lost the quality of your social presence. Make sure that each social media post is made with intent and purpose to strengthen your brand.
Like with brand awareness, consistency and authenticity is also the key to creating an engaging social media presence. You should be posting every single day, and each post should allow others to gain a better understanding of your business.
I have been asked what the proper amount of social media posts is. This will vary upon your target audience and your brand. Do not be afraid to post twice a day. Twice a day should be a minimum for your posts. Make sure you are posting quality content. Again, it is quantity over quality in this regard, but the more you post, the higher your brand awareness will be amongst your target audience. This is because you are strengthening your relationship with your audience every single time you post.
One of my favorite Instagram influencers is Aubrie Bromlow (@aubrieb). She posts a picture or video almost every single day that provides VALUE to her audience. Where she especially sets herself apart from the rest is through her Instagram stories. She is constantly posting videos and pictures of her day on her stories. Sometimes she will have over 30 posts in a single day. Some would think this excessive posting would annoy people. It does the exact opposite. Her consistent posting has allowed her to create a massive following of 553K people that care about what she is doing and want to stay updated on her life and her brand. She has created an extremely high level of brand awareness with her target audience.
This high level of brand awareness has allowed her to expand outside of her typical fitness space. Aubrie and her husband, Brad, have also started their own cookie company, Fat and Weird Cookie, which has been massively successful thus far @fatandweirdcookie. Their cookie company has been so successful that they consistently sell out of cookies week after week and have decided to open up a storefront.
They have also just announced the release of a new athletic clothing brand called Modiv, coming in 2021.
Aubrie is a wonderful example of someone who has used consistency and authenticity on social media to massively increase her brand awareness and create a loyal tribe that has invested in her brand.
Creating a referral program for your brand is a great way to encourage your audience to tell friends about your business. It is a win-win-win situation. You get more business and have an increased level of brand awareness. Your customer has a valuable product/service that they can share with others about and get rewards from. The person they tell is introduced to a new product/service that will help make their lives better. Everyone wins with referral programs. Never underestimate the power of a word of mouth recommendation. They are often the most influential type of advertising you can have for your brand.
6. Provide Free Content
Every person your brand comes in contact with will be thinking one thing, even if it is on a subconscious level. They will be thinking, “What is in it for me?” They want to know how your brand can make their life better. This means you have to show them value in every interaction. If you want someone to pay $2,000 for your product/service, give them smaller versions of free value to show them you are worth it. This blog is one example of free value. I want to help people trying to grow their businesses. By providing FREE value now, I can provide PAID value later. Providing free value to your audience increases their levels of brand awareness and brand trust. It will make them much more likely to pay for your product/offering in the future.
6. Google My Business
In my opinion, Google My Business is one of the most underutilized tools for increasing brand awareness. Google My Business is 100% FREE, and there is no reason why you should not be leveraging it to grow your brand. Not only does it help your SEO rankings, but it also allows customers to get a better idea of what your business is about from the home page of Google. Many people register their business and leave it at that. No. Do not be one of those people. Google gives you other tools for a reason. They work! Utilize Google’s option to post pictures of your business and post updates on what is new with your brand. Your Google My Business profile should give customers the inside scoop on your business and evoke a feeling within them.
If your Google My Business profile has all of these personal elements added, your level of brand awareness will be increased for every person that comes across your listing. They don’t even have to click on your website to do so. This is how you turn branded search results into direct search results. (Instead of people searching for graphic design Lake Charles, LA they will search for Honeywave Creative). That, my friends, is a mini-win you want to be a part of.
7. Free Publicity
There are so many people out there searching for content on your area of expertise. They are thirsty for it.
Use that to your advantage. Check your local newspaper to see if it has any sections where they ask for local businesses to send in information. Most of them do. Keep an eye out for opportunities on Linkedin or other social platforms for individuals seeking your expertise.
One of my favorite ways of getting in touch with content-thirsty reporters that need my expertise is through HARO. HARO stands for “Help A Reporter Out.” It is a website that brings together reporters with experts that have the answers to their questions. HARO is free and will send you three emails a day with a list of content topics from reporters needing information.
Any links to your website not only boost your SEO but also increases your brand credibility. Getting to tell your story to another source’s network increases your brand awareness as well.
8. Car Wraps
Wrapping your car with branded content is a wonderful way to create higher levels of brand awareness, especially in your local area. Bonus points to you if you have a car that fits into your brand identity. One company in Lake Charles, Louisiana, has executed the car wrap strategy extremely well. Shoutout to The Grounds Guys of Lake Charles, LA. They have a Hummer H1 (I think this is the type of Hummer. I’m not good with cars.) wrapped entirely in their branded The Grounds Guys content.
Anytime they are driving around town, they get a ton of eyes on them wanting to know more about their brand. People take pictures and send them to friends. Others visit their website to learn more about them. Their brand awareness is increasing with each trip they take across town.
As mentioned earlier in the free publicity section, content creators are thirsty for content, and easy-to-use content at that. They don’t want to actually research what they are talking about. They want you to type in their search on Google and have a pretty infographic pop up to make their job easier. You can’t blame them. That’s what I’m wanting when I search on Google as well. Knowing this fact, you can use it to your advantage. If you have completed research on a topic or you have established a system to execute a process, make it into an infographic. Make sure the infographic is branded and has your name on it. This is an easy way to increase your brand awareness and even SEO if the reporters link the infographic back to your site!
Podcasts are a great way to increase brand awareness and authority by providing free value to your target audience. With podcasts, you can create a more personal relationship with your audience. They can hear how you talk, get a better insight into your personality, and learn about what drives you and your brand. At the same time, you are providing them with free information that is beneficial to them. They will begin seeing you as an authority in your space and will be more likely to buy from you and recommend you to others.
11. Write a Book/E-Book
Like with Podcasts, writing a book is a good way to let your audience get a better idea of what you stand for. You can move them with emotion through your storytelling abilities. This allows your audience to form a deeper relationship with you and gives you a higher level of brand awareness within them.
12. Interactive Content
The more you can get people interacting and contributing to your brand, the better. It lets your audience feel like they share in your successes. I saw a great example of this on Shark Tank last night. The brand is called MobCraft Beer. They have established a following of craft beer lovers and have built their whole business model around the feedback they give. Customers can make proposals for new flavors of craft beer and then rally their network around their flavor to get enough votes that it gets produced. This is a creative way to get consumers involved and feeling like their opinions are important and heard.
Another way to utilize interactive content is to use voting stickers and polls in your Instagram stories. People want to feel like they are being heard. If you don’t allow them to give feedback, your branding becomes a one-sided conversation. Let the people be heard!
Other examples of interactive content include checklists, quizzes, graders, and templates.
Giving out free brand swag is another great way to increase your brand awareness. However, this one can get a bit tricky if not done properly. You need to make sure you are not throwing money away on gimmicks that will be thrown away once your audience gets home.
In my opinion, when it comes to freebies, you are better off giving out 100 highly targeted, quality products than 1,000 cheap gimmicks that will be thrown away within a few days.
The key to making sure your freebies are successful is to consider who makes up your target audience. You want to think of something that they will find value in and be able to use for years to come. Bonus points to you if you can think of a freebie that is put on display to others.
For example, Lululemon has invested in high-quality shopping bags to give to customers who shop at their store. These canvas bags are much more expensive than the cheap plastic bags you commonly seen used at retail stores. However, it is a genius tactic to increase their brand awareness. Lululemon gives out their red, branded bags to customers. These bags are useful to their target market. People use them to go grocery shopping, to carry goodies to the beach, to bring their change of clothes to the gym, and countless other ways. Lululemon shoppers proudly carry their bags as a status symbol and display them for everyone around to see. On top of that, the fabric bag is consistent with their brand identity of being a sustainable company. Everything is in alignment with their red shopping bags. These bags are an investment in a freebie that has paid countless dividends and will continue to pay them for years to come.
14.) Social Media Contest
Social Media Contests are everywhere on the internet. Everyone wants to win free products/services. You want increased brand awareness. Social media contests are a way for you to make a tradeoff with your audience. You can exchange something of value for likes, shares, comments, and referrals for your business. Instagram makes this easy by allowing people to tag people in comments and to post in their story about the contests they are entering. Each time they do this, they are spreading the word about your brand to others in a way that also increases your brand trust because individuals usually have a high level of trust with their following.
A good example of this is Pink Lily Boutique. They have been able to gain a following of over 1M individuals strictly through their social media presence and constant giveaway contests that encourage users to share their brand with their network.
15. Local Partnerships
This isn’t necessarily a digitally native way of increasing your brand awareness, but it is effective nonetheless. You need to get out and form relationships with other business owners in your area. Check online and see if you can find a local social group for business owners in your area. There are often groups that get together regularly to discuss business topics and share insights to help one another. The extremely valuable partnerships are ones when you can consistently send each other business.
For example, I have recently formed a partnership with a printer in Lake Charles, LA. They provide printing and graphic services to their customers. However, they do not offer web design. Web design is one of the services I offer. Therefore, as a result of our relationship, they have an added customer who will consistently need their print services, and I have a consistent flow of website leads.
Forming partnerships like these can very quickly increase your level of brand awareness in your local community.
16.) Professional Appearances in Other Networks
Make an effort to reach out to people in similar industries as yours. You might even want to partner with people who are in the same industry as yours. Try to find ways you can benefit each other. Do they need podcast content? Well, maybe you can make a guest appearance to help provide value to their target market in an area the host is not necessarily an expert in. Do they need blog content? Write a blog that will provide fresh and valuable content to their target market and will be easy for the blogger to post.
Making an appearance in someone else’s network allows others to perceive you as an expert on the topic. It builds your credibility.
17.) Create a Blog and Promote it
This strategy goes hand in hand with the free value touchpoint, so I won’t repeat myself on that side of it. The key to this point is to promote what you write. It is already difficult to drive users through your blog through keywords and SEO. Help yourself out and make a post about your blog on your social media platforms. LinkedIn is a fantastic way to share information because the platform lends itself to informational content in an environment where people are looking to learn.
18. Local/Regional Public Speaking Events
This one can be a little more difficult to land than others, but it is nonetheless an effective way of increasing your brand awareness. Search out public speaking opportunities where you will be able to share your valuable knowledge with a wide network. This allows you to create a more personal relationship with your audience and build your authority in your subject area.
There are many places you can go to book these types of talks. I suggest one of the first places to be at your local University. Universities are constantly seeking ways to keep their students engaged and learning. This is especially true in Business Colleges. If you have valuable experience, they would love to hear you speak. They have speaking opportunities in the classrooms, at career fairs, and even at other promotional events put on to aid students.
Another place to check is online through an events calendar. You can search out events that are relevant to your area of expertise. Figure out who is in charge of the event and contact them to see if they would be interested in you speaking. They might say no, but they could also say yes, allowing you the opportunity to expose your brand to hundreds or thousands of new faces.
Keep your eyes and ears open to speaking opportunities. I also suggest adding that you engage in speaking events on your LinkedIn and website. This allows others to know that public speaking is a tool in your arsenal.
Storytelling is one of the best ways to increase your brand awareness. People connect through stories. Learn to perfect the craft. This might be through telling yourself stories in the bathroom mirror or talking to yourself in the car. Storytelling is a skill. If you were not naturally gifted, practice it to improve. Verywell Mind has created a helpful article on ways you can become a better storyteller. Click here to read it.
Another tip to storytelling is to take advantage of video when you are telling stories. In today’s digital age, the preferred content method is quickly shifting toward video. This can be seen with the massive user base Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube have accumulated. Use this to your advantage when telling stories to deliver content in a way your audience wants to receive it. Storytelling is a great way to increase brand awareness and drive engagement for your brand.
20.) User-Generated Content
People love sharing their opinions with the world already. Make the most of this opportunity. Whenever consumers talk about your product, take their content, and amplify it. Take their reviews and testimonials and post them everywhere for the world to see. Not only will this increase your brand awareness, but it encourages the customer to continue posting about your business because you recognized them for it. If you see someone posting pictures or stories about your product/service, thank them and encourage them to tag you in the post.
User-generated content is almost always a more powerful persuasive tool than if you were to tell others yourself about what they said. People like seeing other people like them giving honest reviews and sharing their experiences.
21.) Join Your Chamber of Commerce
Your local Chamber of Commerce is there to support you. It is their job to stimulate the local economy and help local businesses be successful. Your best interest is also their best interest, so make sure you join their team. Whenever you join your Chamber of Commerce, you will be added to their website and will be notified of helpful events to attend. It is also likely that they will send you discounts from other businesses who are a part of the Chamber.
Members of the Chamber of Commerce like to support other members. It is a massive networking opportunity in which business is shared with each other. The small yearly investment will pay for itself in no time at all when you see the increase in your brand awareness in a short period.
22.) Paid Advertising
Paid advertising is one of the tried and true methods that should be included in your strategy to increase brand awareness. You can pay for advertising in the newspaper, on the radio, on billboards, in magazines, online, and many, many other places.
The key to successful paid advertising is thinking of where your target audience is located. If you are a general contractor and find a local magazine with an audience similar to yours, it is in your best interest to get with the magazine to see how you can get featured.
Find where your audience hangs out, and then figure out how you can provide them value in their native environment.
23.) Influencer Marketing
It takes time to build a loyal community of followers that trust you. You might not have one for yourself yet, but many people around the world do. Try to find an influencer that has an audience base that aligns with the people you are trying to reach. Then reach out to them and see if they would be willing to do a product review or post a picture wearing your gear.
Your brand can gain a massive amount of attention very quickly by seeking out influencers to promote your product.
The key point to remember here is that the influencer you choose NEEDS to have values that align with your brand values. You are becoming associated with this influencer once your brand begins showing up on their page. This is especially true if they are an avid promoter of your product. You want to make sure that, if you are paying for it, you choose an influencer that will be a good representation of your brand values for years to come.
(P.S. Don’t be the person that sends out those scammy, “Hey! can we collab?” messages. Do your best to get to know the influencers first and create a relationship with them before shoving your product in their faces.)
You have the opportunity with your brand to bring something special to the world. You have something that nobody else has. Whether that be your personality, your optimistic spirit, or your canny sense of humor, you have something. Take what makes you unique and share it with the world. Being authentically unique to what makes you, YOU will help you build your brand awareness in a way that makes your audience feel an even more powerful connection to you.
Remain a Strong Cup of Coffee
When you are branding yourself and growing your business, it can be tempting to start venturing out into other areas. It will always seem like the grass is greener on the other side. Figure out what you want your brand to stand for. Know exactly what you provide and who you provide it for. Figure out the best way to reach them through your social media platforms. Once you have figured out all of these things, STICK TO THE PLAN! Don’t stray from your niche. Don’t try being everywhere at once. Don’t change your voice to fit in a different category. All of these actions are diluting your brand. Remain strong in what you stand for and stay loyal to your audience. Your brand will be rewarded.
Alright friends, that is my spill on ways to increase your brand awareness in a digital world. Following these tips will help you to stand out from the crowd and make an impact on your target audience.
I would love to hear what you all think about this topic. Can you think of any brand awareness strategies that I forgot? Leave them in the comments below, and let’s discuss them!
Until next time…
Upward and Onward,
Founder of Honeywave Creative