Coca-Cola is history’s greatest example of brand awareness. Whether or not you even like the stuff, chances are you know exactly how Coca-Cola’s logo looks, how it’s glass bottle is shaped, and that it’s the preferred drink of Santa Claus. So it makes sense that marketers are encouraged to study Coca-Cola, and to use that “iconic, timeless logo” as inspiration when creating their own designs. Their brand strategy has stood the test of time.
All that said, Coca-Cola might not be the best branding role model. For starters, the company has been around for 125 years. And it’s worth $190 billion. And according to LinkedIn, it has more than 63,000 employees.
Those are three things that you and your online store won’t have. At least not this quarter.
So let’s take a deep dive into branding, ecommerce store style.
- First, we’ll hit on a few key things to keep in mind as you build a brand strategy.
- Next, we’ll look at how to make noise once you decide what branding means to your business.
- Then we’ll wrap up by going over some actionable brand awareness tips that ecommerce stores like yours can take to increase brand advocacy.
The whole time, we’ll study examples of how businesses — businesses like yours, not business like like Coca-Cola — have made brand awareness come to life.
- What is Brand Awareness?
- The Difference Between Brand Awareness and Brand Identity
- How do you Measure Brand Awareness and Brand Identity?
- 6 Tips for Building Strong Brand Awareness
- Want to Learn More?
What is Brand Awareness?
Brand awareness is the process by which businesses of all sizes cultivate recognition their products and services. Companies cultivate brand awareness through messaging, design, social media, ads, and more.
Brand awareness is a hot buzzword and has inspired countless books, including Sticky Branding, Brand Thinking, The Brand Gap, and Archetypes in Branding, among many others. And indeed executing successful branding and brand awareness strategies is complex enough to justify multiple books.
But if we’re talking narrowly about What is brand awareness, let’s not overthink it: It’s awareness of a brand. That’s it. Knowing that a brand exists, and hopefully having some idea about what that brand does.
Now, that doesn’t mean brand awareness is easy. As far as buzzword-y definitions, though, there are trickier ones.
The Difference Between Brand Awareness and Brand Identity
Alright, so brand awareness is pretty simple – awareness of a brand. What, then, is brand identity?
Brand identity is what people think about when they think about a brand. So if brand awareness is making noise about a brand, then brand identity is the content of that noise.
A strong brand identity stirs up feelings and emotions about a brand, leading to an association between the brand and certain characteristics.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
This is an Apple ad from years ago. Now, clearly we can’t all have the marketing firepower of Apple! But there are some very basic brand identity lessons here. Stuff that we don’t need a gajillion-dollar marketing budget to implement.
Apple was trying to cultivate a brand identity that was cool. It’s no coincidence that “Mac Guy” on the right is younger, has longer hair, and is dressed casually, his hand comfortably resting inside his pockets. His older counterpart, meanwhile, is wearing a stuffy suit, is interrupting, and is generally all things not cool.
Here’s another great marketing video from Scandinavian furniture maker Hem. Someone who sees this video will be exposed to the main elements of Hem’s identity – namely that it’s stylish, comfortable, and elegantly simple.
If you check out Hem’s FAQ page, you’ll notice that they describe themselves just about exactly how you’d expect based on that video:
We create original designs together with our extensive network of designers and manufacturers, and by selling our products directly online, we make them affordable and accessible. We also innovate on assembly solutions to make things even easier for you.
Basically that video is the film version of their FAQ page. Incidentally, videos and FAQ pages are great ways to build a brand identity – more on that soon.
How do you Measure Brand Awareness and Brand Identity?
Without comprehensive market research surveys – and ain’t nobody got time for comprehensive market research surveys – it can be tricky to measure the effectiveness of our brand awareness and brand identity activities. After all, you can’t open up Google Analytics and check a Brand Awareness report.
There are, however, perfectly measurable things you can look at to gauge how your branding activities are going.
Page views and impressions, for example, could be the direct result of a brand strategy, especially if those views and impressions are coming from channels being used for branding.
You can also use tools like Mention and TweetDeck to measure how much noise your brand is making on social. Google Alerts, meanwhile, lets you measure chatter about your brand on the web.
Not every page impression, social share, or blog mention can be attributed to brand awareness. But all of these numbers should move north as your branding efforts gain strength.
You can also pay especially close attention to which branding messages are moving the needle. If certain messages are resonating better than others, you can let that shape your marketing.
For instance, let’s say you want to be known as a fun business. But lo and behold, your Facebook ads about product quality are converting better than the fun ads. You could swim upstream and double down on the fun messaging – or you could lean into product quality as a selling point because, hey, it seems to work.
Another thing to keep in mind is that conversions – sales – can play a huge role in brand awareness and brand identity activities. For one thing, conversions – like traffic and mentions – will increase with a well-executed brand strategy. That’s great, of course. But a sale doesn’t mark the end point of your brand’s popularity. It’s more like the midpoint. Because a sale opens up new opportunities to further increase brand awareness.
A sale gives you a chance to send a followup email with discounts codes, or to inform the customer about your referral program, or get them to sign up for your newsletter. In short, a sale solidifies someone’s place inside your brand ecosystem. And the more people you can get firmly planted in that ecosystem, the better your chances to increase your brand awareness.
So brand awareness is measurable, and sales are important. Got it. But how do we do it? Here are some steps that even the non-Coca-Colas of the world can take.
6 Tips for Building Strong Brand Awareness
1. Identify What Makes You Different
Brand awareness is awareness of something. What’s your something?
The first step of building a brand identity is identifying a trait (or traits) that sets you apart from your competition — your USP. So study your competition. How do they define their brands? And just as importantly, how don’t they define their brands? Look for characteristics that you can call your own.
Negative Underwear does a brilliant job of this. Just look at their “About” page, which says, “When we realized that most lingerie companies were run by men (not exactly experts in bras, right?), we decided things needed to change.”
So they identified an issue with the market — that women’s underwear was being dominated by men — and made the solution to that issue part of their brand.
Then they wove this USP into their brand strategy:
“Unlike much of the lingerie world” is a pretty strong statement that this brand is different.
Negative Underwear incorporates the “We don’t believe you need decorations, embellishments or pushing up” message into other aspects of their brand awareness, as well.
Just look at their name: Negative. Negative suggests taking something away, that something has been removed. The design is also decidedly negative, with parts of letters missing:
This is a great example of a brand finding an issue with the market and turning their solution into a brand strategy.
2. Be Consistent with Branding
Chances to engage with potential customers are precious. If your brand strategy is different on different channels, people won’t be able to decode what your brand is all about.
Brand awareness requires consistent messaging. And crafting a consistent message requires keeping your channels harmonized. That means your website, sure, but also Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, email, and more.
For example, if you build an identity around how much fun your product is to use, then that lightheartedness should carry over to all channels. That way, your brand is optimized for both of these scenarios:
- Someone bumps into the messaging on one of your channels — any channel – and sees that your brand is fun.
- Through a combination of strategy and luck, someone is exposed to your messaging on multiple channels. And because the brand messaging on those channels is synced, they combine to create a quasi drip campaign that reenforces your brand.
The sunglasses store Sunday Somewhere does a beautiful job of keeping their brand messaging consistent across all channels. That message? Let’s have a good time.
To start with, the homepage greets you with the tagline “We could dance forever” overlaid on a festival — Ferris wheel and hot air balloon included. Where do I sign up?
You’ll also find people lounging in hammocks…
… and chilling poolside:
Alright, so this is what brand awareness is all about for Sunday Somewhere — at least on the website. But what about the other channels? Well, it’s more of the same.
On Instagram you’ll see more pools, someone who’s exploring (hence the map), and even a floating basketball court in Thailand. Um, yes please.
The vibe is the same at Facebook: What says “Let’s chill… and maybe party, too” better than a waterside pina colada?
Finally, if you sign up for Sunday Somewhere’s newsletter, you’re going to again be invited to daydream about sun, convertibles, and living life to the fullest:
The result? No matter where someone runs into Sunday Somewhere, they’ll be greeted with the same message. And if Sunday Somewhere succeeds into reaching the same person multiple times, the consistency of their branding ensures that their message is getting amplified.
3. Showcase Positivity in Your Brand Strategy
Brand awareness means different things to different brands. For some, it hinges on being environmentally friendly. For others, brand awareness is daytime cocktails and majestic scenes by the water (see above).
One thing you won’t see with successful brand strategies? Negativity.
There is so much negativity in the world, especially online (have you ever been on Twitter?). The last thing consumers want is negativity while they’re shopping.
This doesn’t mean that your brand strategy needs to contain poems, inspirational quotes, and a bunch of heart-eye emojis. What it does mean, though, is that your brand strategy shouldn’t bring people down. People want to feel good.
Beardbrand does an awesome job of this. Beardbrand, as you might expect, offers products for beards. To clean them, cut them, and generally make them look their best.
As any guy will tell you, there are plenty of negative things to say about beards. They require daily maintenance. The tools for that maintenance are expensive. What looked good this morning might look shabby this evening.
But Beardbrand is masterful at taking something that could easily be considered annoying and giving it a half-glass-full spin.
Look at the newsletter sign up, for example. Newsletters, as we’ve discussed, can be super helpful so be sure to include them in your brand strategy. And not only does Beardbrand have easy-to-find newsletter signups scattered throughout its site, but the call to action on that signup is absolutely positive: Keep on growing!
The product descriptions also lean positive. For example, the text about one of their brushes is written for “brush lovers”:
Meanwhile, the Instagram account has that same simple, affirmative three-word description:
And the conclusion to the “Product Ethos” page is about as chipper as can be:
Study the branding of your favorite brands, and you’ll see that the messaging is positive, or at the very least, it’s not negative.
4. Have an “Our Story” Page
The bios you write for your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts might be limited when it comes to brand awareness. There simply isn’t much space to let your brand strategy shine through.
If you want to further develop your brand strategy, consider executing an “Our Story” page. (You could also call this page “About,” “About Us,” or something along those lines.)
Lots of your brand awareness efforts will in one way or another lead to your website, and the About Us page is one of the focal points of your website. Or at least it should be.
Explain why your store is different, why people should feel good about shopping with you.
Sugarfina, an online and retail candy store, has an amazing About page. It has lots of really cool — actually, how about we just take a look.
Sugarfina also deserves a shoutout for this popup layer, which appears for shoppers who are abroad. What says “Welcome to our friendly, fun candy shop!” better than a big greeting of hey sugar?
5. Use Your Name, Logo, and URL to Strengthen Brand Identity
Remember earlier when we talked about how your website, social media channels, and newsletter should all deliver the same message? Well, the same goes for your URL, logo, and the oh-so-important business name.
First things first: You don’t want a name that’s already an Instagram handle for someone else, or that has a URL that’s already taken. It’s hard to generate enough brand awareness that people seek out your brand. So when they do, we need to make sure they see your own content, not something from a Twitter handle that hasn’t posted in three years.
No doubt, your logo, business name, and URL are massive brand awareness opportunities.
The toy company GoldieBlox could teach a course on this. For starters, the name: GoldieBlox. This is a charming twist on “Goldilocks,” the main character from the children’s story Goldilocks and the Three Bears. (For those not familiar, the lovable Goldilocks is a young girl.)
This already says something about the company: GoldieBlox — which of course owns goldieblox.com — specializes in toys designed to “inspire the next generation of female engineers.”
Get it? The name of this company trying to inspiring female engineers combines one of the most famous girls ever with a word that makes people think about building.
The logo further reenforces this message:
The Twitter (@goldieblox), Instagram (goldieblox), and Facebook (@GoldieBlox) accounts are all easy to find – they share the exact name of the company. And of course once you find them, the content you see matches the company ethos perfectly:
6. Know Your Audience
This is super important as if you don’t know who your audience is, you cannot know how to build brand awareness that turns the right heads. Define your target audience before you create your brand so that you will attract the right people and not have a mismatch between your company and your customer.
You can even take it a step further and talk to your customers during your rebrand. Invite your biggest customers into your office and ask them what they like about your logo, tagline, and other important identifiers of your brand. Make sure these things remain after the rebrand so that customers can still identify with your brand. These common characteristics will ensure that brand awareness will be seamlessly.
Sometimes your audience likes the old you and doesn’t want a change. Take Squarespace’s rebrand for example. Their logo didn’t change all that much even though their website and styleguide did after their rebrand. The illustration and text are almost the same, meaning that their audience is aware of their brand straightaway.
Alternatively Mastercard identified that their audience knew their logo well enough to exclude the brand name from the logo during their rebrand. This was a bold move that was a make or break moment for the company, as it could have caused a drastic decline in leads for them if they were wrong. Fortunately Mastercard did their research and the company’s brand awareness grew during it’s rebrand.
There’s a reason people talk about “building” a brand instead of “making” a brand. A proper brand strategy takes time, patience, and lots of work to execute. But you’ll be able to generate brand awareness over time by following the tips that we’ve gone over. So remember:
Identify what makes you different
You go head-to-head with your competition on price, search visibility, ad space, and so on. So if possible, don’t go head-to-head on brand awareness. Instead, find something that makes your business unique and make that the cornerstone of your brand strategy.
Be consistent with branding across channels
It’s important to capitalize on every chance you have to raise your brand popularity. So make sure that no matter where you reach that audience — social, newsletter, website, etc. — your message is consistent. That way, each time they engage with you, it’ll reinforce what you’re all about.
There are so many reason that people might not buy from you. Don’t let negativity be one of them. Build positivity into your brand strategy to increase the chances that people feel good about you, your products, and your store.
Have an “Our Story” page
The Our Story page is prime real estate for brand awareness. There is more space and more flexibility that those little slices of space that you have on social media.
Use your logo, brand name, and URL to strengthen your brand identity
You can reinforce brand awareness every time someone mentions your brand, punches in your URL, or see your logo. These are all part of your brand, so take advantage!