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Branding 101 Part Four: Why Brand Awareness is So Darn Hard to Measure

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Brand awareness is something that most companies recognize as a necessity, but not all companies are willing to sacrifice in order to earn it (even though it is perhaps the most important part of any successful marketing plan).

What does that statement even mean?

Let’s take a look at advertising to explain this one.

The first question that comes to a decision maker’s mind (e.g., CEO, CFO, Owner, President…) when he/she thinks of advertising is:

“What is my ROI (Return on Investment)?”

That’s a fair question. Different forms of advertisements and marketing mediums have different projected ROIs, and the number of new customers is generally the only ROI that decision makers tend to look at when measuring the success of an ad.

But what about brand awareness?

In the previous branding articles, didn’t we just decide that strong brands are what make most sales happen?

How do you measure brand awareness, brand recognition, brand comprehension and brand affiliation from each marketing piece? How do you measure top-of-mind awareness? How do you measure your success in moving a customer along the path to brand affiliation? How does customer retention factor into your measurements?

Boy do we wish there was an easy answer to any of those questions.

Even if your sales team asks new customers how they heard about your brand each time they called, chances are slim that they will say, “The first place I had contact with your brand was through a radio commercial on this station,” or “My friend forwarded me your monthly specials email, and then I decided to visit your website.”

A more likely response will be something like, “I found your website online.”

But how did they find your website online? Did they first hear your radio commercial, then see that monthly special email and then, recall hearing your brand name before taking to Google to further the search?

Then through their online search, did they specifically Google your name: “ABC Catering,” or did they Google something more general like, “Catering in Someplace, Somewhere, USA” and recognize your name before deciding to click on your website?

The first two highly unlikely examples—where your new client specifically says she called because she heard your radio ad and/or received your forwarded monthly specials email from a friend—you can credit one or both of those marketing tactics when calculating their specific ROI.

But in the much more likely scenario No.3 where the consumer just said “I found you online,” despite her receiving that email from her friend and/or hearing your radio ad…

…you miss out on calculating the actual return on investment for both your radio commercial and your email marketing even though they both played a part in getting the sale.

You could credit your SEO (search engine optimization) for ranking your website at the top of the Google search results for “Catering in Someplace, Somewhere, USA” if that’s how she found you, but you’re still missing the first two “touches” she had with your brand.

Believe it or not, consumers often do come into contact with your brand before they decide on taking any action; they just don’t recall or remember the specifics.

(That’s why movie trailer teasers come out for a brief period of time well before the full movie trailers are released to the public, so when you see the full preview, you turn to your friend in the theater and say, “Hey, I think I’ve heard of this movie before!”)

Consumers generally have to see your brand three times before they can recall you or become “brand aware.”

Just because brand awareness is tricky to measure doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be an important factor when determining your marketing plan because we know that to earn a brand loyal customer (the end goal!), you must go through the brand awareness phase.

Building a Consistent Brand is Crucial!

Getting your company’s name out through various mediums, unfortunately, is not always enough. Your message, your image…everything has to be consistent from one marketing medium to the next.

To help with this new concept, think about a piñata. If you take your first swing and hit the piñata in the leg, it probably won’t break just yet, but chances are you weakened a spot on that leg.

If you take your second swing, and this time you hit the piñata in the head instead, you’re basically forgetting about the soft spot on the leg, (meaning you just wasted that swing for no reason—which translates to wasting money and time!).

But, if you continue to hit the piñata in the leg, you’re consistently weakening that same spot until the third or fourth hit when you finally bust open that leg and all the wonderful candy falls out.

If you had continued to swing at different parts of the piñata instead—first the leg, then the head, then the stomach, etc.—it would take you so many more swings to get that darn piñata to bust open.

The piñata is the consumer’s mind and the metaphoric walls each consumer has built up around it. It takes some time to get through them, especially nowadays when marketing messages are everywhere.

But, if your message hits the consumer in the same spot (meaning you use the same colors, message, tagline, logo, tone of voice, slogan, design, look and feel, etc.), then you will bust through the walls around the consumer’s mind much faster than if you threw together a random array of advertisements, messages, designs, taglines and slogans.

When it comes to your brand, be consistent!

  • If your brand uses bright colors, use them all the time! Don’t use forest green on your social media page and then lime green on your website—it’s confusing.
  • If you use boxes in your website design, then don’t use circles in your email blasts—also confusing!
  • If you market yourself as the cheapest caterer in town, don’t advertise your brand new menu as “high-end and ultrachic” because that’s going against the weakened spot in the piñata leg that you’ve worked so hard to create!

Overall, you must first figure out who you want to be to customers (where you want to attack the piñata), how you want to communicate that identity to them (what you want to hit the piñata with) and then make sure that comes across in every single marketing channel.

That’s how you build brand awareness!

More branding:

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Nuphoriq is a marketing company for caterers and event venues. And we're fun to work with! We work alongside everyone from family businesses to the Leading Caterers of America and partner with organizations like the ICA, LCA and Catersource.
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