Brand awareness can seem like an abstract concept. How do you make people aware of your brand? What makes a brand stick out in people’s minds? Shouldn’t the product just speak for itself? How can a brand really convince customers that their product is the best option?

How to build brand awareness
Illustration by OrangeCrush

The truth of it is, people aren’t just consumers. They want connection and relationships, and that extends to the brands they choose to buy from. 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers. But in order to connect with loyal customers who keep coming back, you’ve first got to make them aware your brand exists. How? With a memorable brand is a narrative that people will remember the next time they pull out their wallets.

Create brand awareness with the 3 components of a compelling story:

Writing a compelling brand story is kind of like baking a cake. Even though you change up some of your ingredients to get different flavors of cake, other ingredients, like eggs, vegetable oil, flour and heat, stay the same.

Beers with Bears logo
Beautifully made logo by Virtuoso

Every compelling story, no matter what it’s about, also has some constant ingredients. These include exposition, the information the reader needs to get context for the story, a conflict and resolution for that conflict. Creating brand awareness with a compelling story doesn’t mean writing a whole novel—as you can see in the logo design Virtuoso created for Beers with Bears, an image can tell a whole story.

There’s exposition: we see there’s beer, there’s bears, and despite being established in 2020, there’s an established, old-school feel to Beers with Bears as evidenced by the font and badge-style logo. We’re intrigued, we want to know how the beer and bears come together and how we factor into that situation, so we read on to find out exactly what the event entails. We’ve been made aware of the event through a compelling story.

Let’s take a closer look at how different storytelling elements function in brand awareness marketing:

What was the previous state of things?

Explain in full what the scenario was like prior to your brand creating the solution that benefits the buyer. Make the customer feel known and recognized. Acknowledge to the target audience that the way things used to be doesn’t have to be the way things are in the future.

round logo showing a small airplane flying against a large cookie background
With caffeinated cookies, you can fly high! Logo design by Saturan™

For example, before your brand of coffee-infused chocolate chip cookies was around, cookies were just okay, oatmeal raisin was an acceptable option, but there was just something missing. Show the people who need this brand that the things they felt in their current situation were valid feelings. Maybe a lack of chocolate chips made lunchtime boring or afternoons in the office dragged on too long without that pop of energy that these particular chocolate chip cookies deliver.

What is the conflict?

Explain what the friction is in this situation. What is keeping things from being in the state they should be in? The dessert world went back and forth, trying new ideas for energy-boosting cookies, but nothing seemed to fit right. Peanut butter cookies delivered protein, but they tasted just okay and never completely satisfied the palette when paired with a glass of milk.

What is the resolution?

How does this brand provide the solution a consumer needs, and how do they do it better than any competing brand? This is the moment to cast the brand as the knight in shining armor in the story.

Talk about the clear, concise solutions your brand offers and show how they relieve the buyers’ pain covered in the exposition. Keeping with our energy cookies example, the resolution here is unique caffeinated chocolate chips that have a sophisticated taste for the professional who needs energy all afternoon. These aren’t your kid’s cookies—they’re Mommy’s scrumptious secret weapon.

Products aren’t just products, people want to know that on a fundamental level the things they’re feeling are valid, common and can be resolved. Creating brand awareness starts with showing people there is a solution to their struggles, and brand loyalty starts when they experience, for themselves, that your brand is uniquely equipped to provide that solution.

Creating brand awareness in crowded spaces

According to Forbes, the average American sees 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day. With that many ads crossing your customers’ vision every day, creatively grabbing their attention has never been more important.

round blue and yellow logo of a siren
Call out to your buyers with a unique song they can hear over all the ambient noise. Logo design by Vikstar

People seek intentionality in the brands they like. What’s your story’s unique spin? Is it a 100% sustainability promise? Was it founded by an underdog with a vision? Maybe it’s the philosophy that everyone should have a good pair of socks? Your story doesn’t have to be an epic—it just has to be an attention-grabber (and keeper!) With so much content available at everyone’s fingertips, the key here is to think about what people should walk away with after reading the compelling story. Knowing the important twist helps anchor the brand to its brand awareness marketing and keep it consistent.

black logo showing two skeletons working together to bbq
What’s the story here? They’re hardworking, old-school and make killer food. Logo design by GOOSEBUMPS

Several successful companies have created ongoing, memorable brand awareness campaigns. Once a brand is considered “established,” that doesn’t mean the brand awareness efforts stop. In fact, it means the opposite—the world has expectations for that brand, and for the brand to stay relevant, they need to keep meeting those expectations.

Coca-Cola ad showing Santa Claus holding a coke bottle and text
Through years of effective brand awareness campaigns, Coca-Cola is now inextricably linked with Santa Claus. Via CampaignUS

Brand awareness is not a one-stop shop, it’s a constantly evolving process to reach new people, tell the brand story and build a lasting relationship. For example, Coca-Cola, one of the most widely recognized brands in the world, spends an average of about $4 billion each year on advertising between 2015 and 2020. Just like Coca-Cola, you can create brand awareness by creating with a great story and crafting brand awareness campaigns that reach your brand’s ideal demographics.

Five ways to build brand awareness

A compelling story communicates your brand’s mission and values. But that story doesn’t matter if you aren’t getting it in front of your target audience.

In 2020, over 89% of shoppers said they stay loyal to brands that share their values. Building brand awareness means showing people that your brand is living its values. You can do that through brand marketing.

Brand marketing is the overall strategy of advertising your products or services by advertising your brand as a whole, and brand awareness campaigns are strategies like social media posts, podcasts and blogs that establish a brand within its industry without overtly selling buyers on specific products. When they’re successful, these kinds of campaigns don’t just connect with the target audience, but create organic engagement that makes followers feel like they’re interacting with a friend.

Here are five effective ways to build brand awareness:

Native ads

You’ve seen them before: as you scroll through Instagram or Facebook, you see an interesting post. To take a look and realize, it’s not from one of your friends—it’s from a brand, and it’s actually an ad. You’re engaging with a native ad.

Native advertising is ads that look similar to user-created content. You’ll see them on Pinterest, Buzzfeed and Facebook, both in your feed and when you search specific tags. It seems kind of tricky, but is very effective. Over 70% of individuals want to learn about products through content rather than through traditional advertising, according to Ignite Visibility. This means that Native ads are not going away, this is becoming the standard expectation of how ads are delivered across many digital platforms.

Videos showing the story

Basketball court with the words “Equality Has No Boundaries”
Screenshot from Nike’s Equality Campaign Video by Nike

A great example of a brand story is Nike’s Equality Campaign. Sure, they sell shoes, but it’s much more than that. They’re about providing opportunity, equality and support for the marginalized. Their phrase at the end of the video is “Equality has no boundaries.” Videos are a powerful tool to convey emotion and humanize a brand.

Nike had a clear message to send with this campaign. Engagement is easy to track with videos, comments, retweets, posts etc. Done well, with thoughtful core values at its roots, can change the narrative from just selling a product to much more.

Blogging

Blogging can be a complete game changer when it comes to creating brand awareness.

illustration interspersed with text describing healthy habits
Blogging doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as easy as creating a helpful infographic. Illustration design by Fe Melo

People go to the internet to see what the experts say on a variety of topics. Blogging—whether it’s on your own website or as a guest blogger—enables you to be that expert that people are looking for.

In blog posts, you can share thoughts, ideas and background to not only provide context, but show careful thought and consideration for a reader when you’re answering the questions they have. Positioning yourself as an expert in your industry creates trust and teaches people to associate authority and value with your brand. Blogging not only attracts curious web surfers, but also builds up SEO, search engine optimization, which means your website will rank higher on Google and other search engines…which only increases your brand awareness.

Partnerships

Pairing up with other companies can be a mutually beneficial marketing strategy. It makes it easy to reach more people and when marketed correctly, can really get people excited around it. A great example of a strategic partnership as a brand awareness marketing campaign is when Dunkin Donuts and Waze created a partnership in 2019.

smartphone screens showing the Dunkin and Waze partnership
Partnering with Waze also meant making it simple to order Dunkin’ ahead of time, making it even more convenient. Via Hill Holiday

They worked together to raise $100,000 in September for The Joy in Childhood, Dunkin’s foundation committed to giving children who are hungry or battling illness meals and the simple joys of childhood. Each Dunkin’ location was marked with a gold pin on the Waze app. There was also a “Going Gold Voice Pack” for Waze with a voiceover from children impacted by cancer. With every download of the pack, Dunkin would donate to the foundation toward the fundraising goal.

For Dunkin’ and Waze, this partnership worked because people hop in their cars and use the Waze app in the morning on their way to work, and make a quick stop over at Dunkin’ to grab a coffee and donuts for the office. If you’re considering a partnership as a means to raise brand awareness, think carefully about which other brands complement yours. For example, if you’re a sportswear retailer, partnering with a gym franchise or a youth sports organization would make sense, whereas partnering with a fast food restaurant probably wouldn’t.

Hashtags and follower engagement

They seem really simple, but are a great cataloging technique that can lead to high engagement rates when they’re done right: hashtags!

three 2017 Lay’s Do Us a Flavor varieties side by side
Inviting fans to pick the next chip flavor was huge for Lay’s brand awareness. Via Convenience Store News

Here’s recent example of an established brand using hashtags to spark new user engagement: Lays potato chips created the #DoUsAFlavor campaign, which invited people to vote on the three new flavors that hit the market in 2017. The internet spoke, and the crowning winner was Crispy Taco flavor. After the campaign was done, one case study reported that Lay’s had 3.8 million submissions, their sales increased by 12%, the Facebook fanbase tripled and they had 955 million story impressions on Facebook.

Hashtags are powerful and contagious! The secrets to a great crowdsourcing and hashtag campaign are:

  • Engagement with followers
  • Posting consistently
  • A catchy tagline. #DoUsAFlavor is funny and simple to recall.

Brand awareness is only the beginning

The reason why these marketing strategies work is that they don’t just ask the audience to buy products, they ask the audience to trust and invest in the brands promoting the products. And we don’t just mean investing in the monetary sense—we mean investing attention in the brands and becoming familiar with them. Creating this familiarity is the top portion of most sales funnels. A sales funnel is simply a process used to guide potential buyers to make purchases, so named because when diagrammed, it looks like a funnel.

multi-colored illustration of a sales funnel
Before people buy, they need to know your brand exists. Via Data & Marketing Association

Successful brand awareness campaigns are created by observing moments where people engage with the brand in their day. Zero in on where your target demographic expends most of their attention, then get your there.

How can you tell if your efforts are working? Track content on social media by using social listening tools like HubSpot and Hootsuite, send out surveys to your email list and using Google Adwords. With the data you collect this way, you can easily measure which campaigns achieved their goal and which weren’t worth the investment. Remember, when it comes to brand awareness, the most important ROI is how well the brand sticks in a person’s mind after the campaign is over.

Make your brand unforgettable

Building brand awareness starts with creating your logo, understanding your brand’s core values and developing a mission in line with these values. Once you have these, the next step is finding a good story and reaching your target audience with that story. People don’t want to feel like they’re buying something generic from a vending machine. They want to know their money is going to give them quality, consistency and meaningful products that make a difference in their lives.

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