For marketers focused on demonstrating immediate ROI, the idea of investing in a non-digital marketing strategy can be nerve-wracking - but with the potential reward being larger than ever, what goes into getting an awareness strategy 'right'?

No matter your size, brand awareness or ‘ATL’ channels can often feel like an unknown entity. From TV advertising to radio to OOH advertising, harder-to-measure channels hold several misconceptions around cost, measurability, and targeting. 

This week we invited experts from our network to speak with marketers across the industry about the changes to 'awareness' marketing, creating your awareness strategy, and building a brand with impact.

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Why are people cautious when it comes to investing in brand awareness?


As Aaron Wells, Strategy Director at Big Cat says, marketers often think that they need an immediate return on investment.


“Instead, you need to be categorising it as a long-term investment. Don’t expect immediate ROI on these long-term investment channels.


Christine Colbert, Managing Director at House Creative, agrees and adds that brand awareness is traditionally seen as something that is difficult to measure.

"You need to take a long-term view that your brand has got to be 'always on.' It’s only going to be ‘on’ and raise awareness if you’re willing to invest and prepared to roll the dice on its success.”


Common misconceptions: TV isn’t as expensive as you think


One of the major awareness channels that marketers often assume is too expensive and hard to measure return is TV advertising. Naeem Alvi-Assander, Founder of Notepad wants to break the misconception that TV is “super-super expensive.”


“You do need some capital in order to make it work, but if you look at the latest Thinkbox data, TV ads cost about 6p per impression, which is the same as Facebook. As well as it being 6p per impression, the attention rate that you get on TV verses Facebook is about 4/5 times higher than what you’d see on Facebook, so the ROI is actually higher.”


Understanding 'awareness' marketing strategies


For some, it can be easy to blur the lines between awareness and other forms of marketing.

For Christine Colbert Managing Director of House Creative, “awareness marketing is about a long-term strategy and consistency. You need to keep a cool head, be very clear on the channels that you want to use and be very aware of your target audience. Who are they and where are they? Awareness must be routed in consistency and longevity, and this can be done without deep pockets.”

Awareness vs. PR

Some people might think brand awareness and PR are one of the same, and there certainly can be some crossover if you can build an effective-enough awareness campaign. Naeem at Notepad differentiates them by explaining that “PR is where news does the work for you and an awareness campaign is when you use paid for channel.” He also believes that while awareness campaigns can get some PR traction, they are completely different challenges.


Christine Colbert at House Creative says that in terms of brand strategy versus PR, “PR is about getting your brand written about and getting that content, whereas brand strategy is a much bigger framework – who you are, what you stand for, what your values are and your tone of voice – that is your brand strategy. PR delivers the content about that personality.”

Christine Colbert of House Creative discusses Brand Awareness

How do you compete with established brands on awareness channels? 


Smaller businesses might wonder how they are supposed to compete with larger, established brands in getting their voices heard with a limited budget and resource.

Know your audience

Christine Colbert advises that the key for this is to know your audience. 


“Audience is really important. Understanding your audience is absolutely key to getting the right creative and the right message, and it should always start there.

From a channel point of view, you need to know where those audiences are. Budgets won’t allow a campaign for challenger brands to be so wide with their targeting.”


For those businesses with a smaller budget who need to target the right people, AdSmart from Sky can be a good entry point into the world of television advertising. You can learn more about it here.

Creativity is key


One of the best ways of ensuring success for a challenger brand going into awareness is to have a strong creative and invest in the concept. Christine Colbert of House Creative believes that this is as equally important as investing in the right channel strategy. "Awareness is very achievable for challenger brands with a great idea and being very single minded.

Aaron Wells of Big Cat backs this up, saying "a distinctive creative has got to be the number one factor for getting an effective ad out there. You need to be able to invest in an agency or creative person who understands your audience and how to bring the brand to life in a distinctive way.”

Setting key goals for smaller businesses

Considering that awareness marketing is a more long-term effort for which ROI cannot be measure straight away, many smaller businesses might struggle to know which initial goals to set when starting their awareness strategy. 


For Naeem at Notepad, it’s best to “start small and then grow. It’s easy to do this with awareness channels, such as taking over just one Tube station or using video on demand and Sky Ad Smart for more targeted campaigns. The most important thing to remember when investing in bigger channels is that creativity is the thing that’s going to win.”



Measuring ROI with brand awareness strategies


Assess your non-awareness channels


If you’re a non-retail brand and your goal isn’t to drive sales, it can be challenging to justify why to invest in what is essentially ‘priming.’ Naeem explains that it takes about four years to build real, emotional resonance on TV. 


“When convincing clients to invest in awareness channels, we can demonstrate an uplift across other channels such as generic search, online and video-on-demand and paid social.


To justify spend on awareness, take a benchmark of where you are with your non-awareness channels (paid and digital etc), invest in bigger channels on top of that, and then assess the uplift. This is a better way of measuring ROI.”

Naeem Alvi-Assender of Notepad discusses Brand Awareness


Measure your performance with brand tracking


Aaron Wells believes that it is good to look at goal setting from a multi-faceted approach. “Look at things like website traffic increases and spikes in branded search terms. Social listening and surveys can be used to assess pre and post awareness.”


“The Holy Grail of brand awareness is brand tracking and having an ongoing measurement of brand-building efforts. There are several things you can do in terms of measurements, but if brands are serious about looking at measuring brand awareness over long term, then brand tracking is the way to go.”


There are several tools that can help with brand awareness and Brand Monitoring. You can take a look at some of them here.


Choose the right time to evaluate your efforts

Brand awareness is a long-term strategy, but it’s still good to know when you should be able to start assessing your efforts. And for Aaron Wells, this can vary by sector, market size and budget.

Aaron Wells of Big Cat discusses Brand Awareness


“All research around short-term and long-term tactics say that long-term tactics like awareness and PR have more of a lasting effect after twelve months, whereas a short-term activation is more like six months. There are ways to look at success on a shorter-term basis, but awareness is an investment in a lasting effect, not a long-term effect.”


Conclusion: Consistency is Key

Although ROI may take longer to emerge, the most important part of an awareness project is sticking with it.

Aaron highlights that current research shows that when investing in brand versus short-term activation, 60% should be invested in long-term brand building awareness, with the other 40% into short-term activation. “This will give you the most bang for your buck.” 

Christine Colbert believes that as long as there is consistency, “Strategies can be dialled up and down to enable your budget to flex as much as possible. To hit sales targets, you should integrate tactical messaging into your awareness campaign. Tactical, together with brand, will give you really good and robust messaging.”

If you're wanting to start a brand awareness strategy but feel you need some extra support or advice, GO! can help. Get in touch here.


With thanks to our contributors:


Christine Colbert, Managing Director, House Creative

Aaron Wells, Strategy Director, Big Cat,

Naeem Alvi-Assander, Founder of Notepad

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