If you want customers to choose your brand over a competitor’s, you’ll have to communicate what makes you different.The complexity here is that people don’t pay attention to everything they see or hear from a brand. Let alone that it will stick to their minds.
How to make your message stick? Whether a brand message will stick (and help to increase preference), basically depends on four factors:
- what you say
- how you say it
- how often you repeat it (visibility!)
- whether you’re recognised as the sender
What you say –it’s all about relevance! People’s information processing capacity is limited and the information overload they face is huge. Therefore they make snap judgments. It takes consumers only 0.02 – 0.05 seconds to determine whether something (like an ad, shop or social update) is worth their attention. If your brand’s message doesn’t stand out and intrigue them immediately, they’ll shift their attention as quickly. Never mind how much media-budget you have invested to reach your target-audience. Once they divert their attention your investment is down the drain!
Often what consumers like to pay attention to, is not the same as what companies love to talk about. Clients don’t desire an insurance policy with 8 usp’s, they desire security. They don’t want a bed but they want to sleep well. They don’t want an accountant but they want tax benefits. They don’t want a lawyer but a righteous solution.
Therefore you won’t catch people’s attention by talking about those fantastic products, services and usp’s. Eventually, in a later phase of their decision making process they might want to know more about them. You’ll catch their attention by talking about what keeps their minds occupied (what problems and dilemma’s do they face?); by showing you understand their problem.
Compare it with being at a party. Nothing is more tedious than somebody who only talks about himself at a party; insensitive to the needs and interests of his audience. Soon enough you’ll find yourself nodding without actually listening, scanning around for an excuse to leave the conversation. Brand communication works in the same way. If you want your (potential) customers to listen attentively, you’ll have to say what they want to hear.
Before you start communicating about your brand ask yourself first what keeps your customers minds engaged. With what kind of information of insights can your brand add value something for them.
How do you say it – make it easily digestible Every minute, people get more incentives offered than their brains can possibly process. Their attention span is short (not much better than a Goldfish…) and other stimuli are competing for their attention all the time. Therefore, it is important to make your message as quickly and ‘easily digestible’ as possible. The easier people can process it, the higher the likelihood that it will stick. Short and simple sentences are remembered faster than long and difficult ones (however clever they might be).The simpler your brand essence, the more easy it will be to get it i between your customers ears. And a powerful image can say more – and communicate faster – than a thousand words. The fewer words you need, the better.
Regardless of how well a campaign is targeted, its overall success will depend heavily on the strength of the creative. Being present doesn’t equal being noticed, liked and remembered. Just like in the ‘old age’, not every bullet you fire at consumers leaves a lasting impression. Leave alone that it helps to set your brand apart in peoples minds and influence them.
What you say – contribute to your brand’s image! A remarkable creative concept – whether an outstanding print campaign, brand-activation or PR/guerrilla stunt – may be a Trojan horse to get attention. But not every creative idea also reinforces the brand image. Creativity isn’t effective for a brand unless it enriches or reconfirms the brand image. This applies to all kinds of marketing communications, from advertising to sponsorship and social media.
The power of visibility & repetition: do you reach your customers often enough? Just like learning a language, increasing brand awareness and knowledge works via a process of repetition. The more often people see/ encounter a brand, the stronger engraved and the more ‘top of mind’ it will become in their memory. The more often they are reminded of its difference, the more outspoken they will be about their preference.
To increase your brand awareness, you have to be visible as often as you can. If a brand fails to be visible for a long time, its existence will fade in consumer’s memory (and competitor brands will take over your position).
The more innovative, rare or uncommon your product or service, the less often you’ll have to reach people. Services such as the free music service Spotify and Airbnb went like wildfire across the web, to spending a dime on advertising. Likewise a likeable and relevant campaign usually takes less media pressure before it kicks in and stays in consumers’ minds than a mediocre one. Only the best and most brilliant campaigns are embraced by the whole world and manage to build up contacts without significant media budget. But these are the exceptions.
On average, you have to reach people three times (within a relatively short period of time) before they will remember they’ve seen or heard a message. A one-off ad – whether on television, radio or in print – therefore usually has little effect, however large the exposure of a medium is. So do not get carried away by media vendors who sell you a single ad with “turbo range”. It’s about whether you can achieve enough repetition. The repeat effect is also important. For the long-term (see chapter 7). The more consistent you are in time, the deeper your brand will become etched in consumers’ memory.
Is your brand recognizable as the sender? As strategy director in an advertising agency, I was involved campaign-monitoring research of many different brands. Many of the campaigns suffered from the same execution problem. Due to the high creativity, the aided campaign awareness was often high. But asked for the brand, they often couldn’t tell the sender anymore.
“I loved that hilarious commercial, but the sender? I seriously don’t have a clue”.
If consumers remember your advertisement, but failed to recognize your brand as the sender, your message won’t be linked to your brands name in their memory.
Which means yours investment is practically wasted…
The use of a long-term campaign theme and recognizable form or ‘advertising property’ can accelerate brand recognition. The condition is that you use it for long periods.
Once you successfully establish you brand’s unique proposition in an unforgettable way, you can move onto the next leg of your journey.. The most defining moment is yet to come: the first ‘live contact’ customers have with your brand. Will it live up to the expectations you have raised with your target audience?
Whether a customer is making a trial purchase, contact your customer service or take a peek in your store: the ‘live experience’ should match the expectation. Especially for service brands, this is difficult to manage. In the next chapter you’ll read how to create brand-worthy live-experiences and how to turn your employees into brand-champions.
Summary & checklist There is a big difference between what customers of a brand and see how they remember it.
Visible does not guarantee that your brand seen and remembered. Reaching customers does not guarantee that you hit them. Media Reach ensures no recall.
- unremarkable communication = remaining undetected
- insufficient repeat = no memory ( = investment down the drain )
Whether a brand message is effective depends on the:
- content: relevant message for brands and customers
- shape: striking and so ‘digestible’ as possible
- frequency: no repetition no memory
- recognition: as a sender or a brand recognized and remembered
Creativity is a “Trojan horse” to win attention, but never an end in itself.
- If people remember only the form, while the content of the message does not pick up, it makes no sense.
- Communication is only effective for your brand, as it is contributing to the establishment (or strengthening) of the desired brand image among customers
You can spend your brand communication budget only once. Everything you do can and must contribute to the brand image, whether it’s a sales campaign, a social media strategy or a campaign theme.
With remarkable, recognizable and relevant communication, you realize the same investment more effectively.