I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with measuring brand awareness, especially aided awareness (“have you ever heard of a brand called….”). Aided awareness is a good measure when a brand is healthy and can be used to compare progress across markets. However, it becomes a useless measure when a brand declines. I remember being at Unilever in the late 70s and seeing really high aided awareness levels for some brands that once were leaders but had since dwindled to tiny shares (Pepsodent and Lifebuoy to name two; the reader probably is still aware of them today—admit it!). Sometimes awareness is high for brands that don’t even exist (called “ghost awareness”) like a made-up Betty Crocker sweet baked good, because it seems so damn logical.
Look at this table of data of aided awareness vs. brand shares from a household products category and you’ll see little relationship.
Aided awareness is what we measure but it isn’t really what we want to know. In an era of shopper marketing and Procter’s call for store-back thinking, CPG Marketers want to know how to get their brands noticed at retail. That means the brand broke through the clutter and became relevant to that shopper at that moment; it got in the game. It could even mean that a shopper became instantly aware of your brand and bought it. THAT is shelf-back thinking!
Getting noticed at retail is NOT a no-brainer; it is hard and requires great marketing. There are 40,000 SKUs in a typical supermarket and a shopper buys 1% of them over the course of a year. John Dranow from Smart Revenue says the first thing a shopper does on a given trip is deselect 90% of what’s in the store. The 90% of products that are deselected are like the gorilla in the video with kids bouncing basketballs. You are so intent on counting the number of passes by those kids in white shirts amidst the chaos, you don’t see the person in the gorilla suit. “Inattentional blindness” is the name of the phenomenon and it happens to shoppers on every shopping trip.
What a marketer should want from their communications efforts is to make their brand relevant to break through the chaos. Create anticipation, curiosity, meaning, and desire pursuant to actions like getting people talking, searching, visiting your owned media sites, and looking for your brand at retail and ultimately buying it. Post-purchase, media can help guide the experience consumers are having with the product to get them to want to replenish as they run out. Yes, media is about post-purchase influence; can you say “below the funnel”?
The ability for a marketer to get their brand noticed on the shelf and then instantly have people make meaning or mentally retrieve information about it is critical. Even better, is if it gets noticed first, which, any behavioral economist will tell you, is a really good advantage to have. The best thing for a marketer is if the shopper puts THEIR brand on the shopping list by name and then every other brand becomes the gorilla. The best marketing and media strategies for accomplishing this will vary, depending on how people shop for that type of product so shopper insights must inform media strategy.
Literally, awareness is a survey construct that measures the ability of a respondent to retrieve a brand memory during survey questioning regardless of whether or not the product category was relevant to their lives at the moment they clicked the link. In contrast, what CPG marketers really want to know is how to make the retail experience evoke a brand memory and create meaning while someone is shopping and what communications approaches best accomplish that given the path to purchase for their product.
If marketing research wants greater impact on marketing decision-making, if it is to get that seat at the table, it has to start measuring what the business really needs to know.
Postscript: if you still think awareness is a prerequisite to purchasing, come back tomorrow where I will post a picture of my shopping cart at mid-trip from yesterday with commentary.