'Brand awareness' is a load of ...

‘Brand awareness’ is a load of …

A lot of people talk about ‘brand awareness’ – people both inside and outside of the marketing department – without really thinking it through.

I was there in the 1980s when brand awareness became a common phrase in marketing conversations. My view is that it was often used as a get-out clause for failed marketing campaigns. You can imagine a meeting between a CEO, the Marketing Director and the Marketing Agency…

CEO (angry):
“I gave you £100,000 to spend on marketing last year, and the sales figures are only £75,000. You made a loss!”

Marketing Director (fearing he may lose his job):
“I took the advice of our marketing agency. They are the ones that need to explain the loss.”

Marketing Agency (searching for an excuse):
“Umm, well it’s true the programme we suggested only delivered £75,000 in sales, but what you are not seeing is the ‘brand awareness’ we generated.”

CEO & Marketing Director:
“Brand what?!”

Marketing Agency (realising he has found a get-out-of-jail-free card):
“Brand awareness. We have successfully created awareness of your company and brand… that will turn into sales at some point in the future. But to guarantee those future sales, we need to continue with the marketing programme. If we stop now, you will lose all the future benefit.”

Marketing Director (realising this is a way to save his job):
“Yes, he’s right. We need to continue the investment in the programme. Brand awareness will eventually turn into sales. This is cutting-edge marketing.”

CEO (not fully understanding, but liking the idea of using a sexy new marketing term):
“OK, let’s continue with the brand awareness programme.”

While it’s true that keeping your company name front-of-mind is important for large organisations (who compete for the mindshare of busy consumers), we must remember their budgets are enormous.

For most firms, their modest marketing budgets are just too small to generate anything like brand awareness (I would suggest if your budget is less than £250,000 you need to concentrate on direct sales and lead generation).

I also have a problem with the phrase ‘brand’ awareness – I don’t think it is the brand. I would call it name awareness. Your brand is more to do with the service or product you provide – see my article ‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room‘.

There is also a question about the value of awareness. I’m aware of the name/brand Rolls Royce – I even know what the product looks like and have seen it on the road and in showrooms. But just because I’m aware of it does not mean I will eventually become a customer (even if I did have the money).

So if your marketing agency tells you, they have generated lots of brand awareness but minimal sales within a budget below £250k, suggest that you pay them with ‘brand awareness tokens’ when their invoice arrives.

Many marketers disagree with me, what’s your view? Comment below.

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