Think “brand awareness” tactics are dead? Think again.

By Heather Akerberg, Marketing & Media Strategist

The reality for marketers and advertisers today is that budgets are tight. And while our budgets are getting smaller, the expectations for results continue to grow. With this quest for better and better ROI, we’ve seen clients over the years shift dollars away from tactics focused solely on brand awareness.

We get it. At first glance, brand awareness appears expensive—with hard-to-prove ROI. So, it’s often the first tactic to go when you’re trying to trim the fat. Sometimes this makes sense, but there’s also a lot more to think about when it comes to developing the optimal media mix.

Let’s not be hasty.

It’s tempting to cut brand awareness tactics like TV, billboards, radio and display banners. They’re too expensive and hard to track, so it’s better to put dollars where you know you’re getting a return, right? Not necessarily.

We think there is still a place in media plans for more traditional awareness-focused tactics. You just have to be smarter about it – and that starts with adding a little specificity to your goals and objectives. (More on that in a minute.) Time and again, we’ve seen strong correlation between offline media (TV, radio, print ads) and a lift in conversions from digital campaigns.

For example, one of our clients saw a significant increase (+42.86%!) in conversions from their paid search and social campaigns when they had TV ads running in the market. Attribution is tough in today’s multi-channel world. However, we’ve seen correlations like this enough to believe traditional, awareness-focused tactics are still well worth the investment.  

Modern marketing means lots of touchpoints.

Integrated marketing campaigns are born out of the assumption that it takes multiple touches to get prospects to convert. And marketers have an increasing number of screens and channels through which to reach their audience. How do you make sense of it all? Set objectives by tactic – in addition to by campaign.

Specific tactic-level objectives help you identify what effect or desired action is expected from each channel or tactic. Every billboard, print ad, TV spot and social ad plays a role in the strategy. With your objectives defined, it’s easy to see how the tactics support each other. And, better still, when you craft the best messaging for each tactic, each tactic works that much harder to move the consumer to act.

1961: A model year.

Before we go any further, let’s take a trip back in time to 1961. (Bear with us. This is going somewhere.) That’s when Robert Lavidge developed the hierarchy of effects model. This model mapped the states of mind a consumer goes through on their path to purchase. The model was designed to be a tool for the development of effective advertising. Six mental states were identified:

Hierarchy of Effects

This model may seem familiar because the modern marketing funnel is based on this same thinking. Today, when we talk about the Buyer’s Journey, we talk about awareness (Prospect identifies a need), consideration (Prospect starts to look for a solution) and decision (Prospect makes a purchase decision). It’s easy to see how these two models can work together. Essentially, the hierarchy of effects model outlines how brands can use advertising to influence the Buyer’s Journey.

Unpack brand awareness. Get to the desired action.

With effective advertising and influence in mind, let’s get back to media objectives. When it comes to traditional advertising, the term “brand awareness” has become a catch-all. But we think there’s more to brand awareness than just awareness.

Here are just a few objectives we have used in place of or alongside brand awareness to be more specific about the desired action we’re looking for:

  • Create need/spark desire: We want to create a need that did not previously exist in the prospect. This is relevant to new products, but it can also be an objective for existing products that have new features or have been improved (“New and Improved”).
  • Prompt action: We expect someone to search for your product, visit your website or take some other action after seeing this ad. (“Call now”).
  • Establish preference: We’re going to communicate your brand’s value proposition or provide social proof in order to establish preference with prospects. (“Over 1 Million Served”).
  • Nurture consideration: We’re trying to nurture interest in those who are likely to convert or have previously expressed interest but not yet converted. (“Your cart is waiting. Save 20%. Use code: CART20”).

We all want to create smarter paid media strategies. Identifying what we want each tactic to accomplish can help us get smarter about messaging, measurement and, most importantly, budget decisions. At the end of the day, adding a little specificity to your plan can help you get more for your efforts and prove a stronger ROI.

Leanne Prewitt

President & Chief Executive Officer

Shaped by her background in creative direction, Leanne leads the agency’s culture and creative vision and also oversees the operations that allow a team of marketing, design and media specialists to create powerful and effective work for their client partners.

Leanne began her professional career in New York City working for some of the nation’s leading agencies. In 2016, after a five-month sabbatical around the world, she returned to her hometown and joined Ervin & Smith. Her global perspective and expanded professional experience influence the work she does today.