When consumers think of sneakers, what are the first brands that you think come to their mind?

When asked, a majority of consumers’ responses included Nike and Adidas.

These brands are said to have high brand awareness, which academic literature defines as “a rudimentary level of brand knowledge involving, at the very least, “name recognition.” The sneakers example we just gave is a kind of “brand awareness test.”

Not coincidentally, the companies with the highest brand awareness tend to also lead their relative fields in terms of market share, as is true of the sneakers example.

This is because awareness may be the first and simplest stage of brand knowledge, but it has some pretty powerful effects on consumer behavior.

Brand awareness is important.

According to the American Marketing Association, the average U.S. consumer is exposed to 10,000 brand messages a day—and, believe it or not, the choices they make aren’t purely rational.

A number of factors, including brand awareness and perception, act as mental shortcuts in decision-making; people tend to intuitively trust names and brands they recognize, which explains why some of the most recognizable brand names also tend to capture the largest shares of their markets.

Studies show that brand awareness positively impacts word-of-mouth traffic and correlates to an increased likelihood of future, repeat purchases.

So how can companies effectively build brand awareness? One obvious answer is advertising—whether that means print, digital, viral campaigns, or (most importantly) video.

The weapon-focus effect: consumers remember what they feel.

The dynamic platform of video advertising provides an extremely effective avenue for emotional storytelling, much more so than regular static advertising. Emotional advertising can often build the strongest brand relationships, as opposed to functional messaging aimed at appealing to the “rational” consumer.

The reason why is related to the weapon-focus effect, which derives from a Boston College study that showed that events and ideas that contain emotional relevance tend to stick in the brain much more than neutral or rational messaging. This is both because we attend to emotional stimuli more and our brains encode emotional memories into longer-term memory.

This is why many of the most successful brands choose to market specific emotions in tandem with their products (think Coca-Cola and happiness).

A caveat: are all emotions equally effective?

The short answer to that is no. As effective as positive emotions are for encouraging future purchases, negative emotions can often result in the opposite.

Think about it this way: witnesses of a crime may remember every detail of the weapon used, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be inspired to purchase it afterwards.

Similarly, according to an MIT study, ads intentionally designed to emotionally evoke attention in a negative manner can lead simultaneously to increased levels of attention but decreased persuasiveness.

The lesson here to advertisers and marketers: your goal is to ultimately link your brand to a positive, action-inspiring emotion, while avoiding negative emotions such as anger or annoyance.

A tool to drive brand awareness: happiness

The brands with the most positive emotional tones associated with their advertising efforts tended to score highest across a number of key consumer behaviors, the most important of which are listed below:

  • How positively consumers felt about the ad
  • How positively consumers felt about the brand
  • Consumers’ intention to purchase
  • The amount of loyalty consumers felt for the brand

See how Uber utilizes happiness in their recent video ad:

A tool for driving brand awareness: inspiration

One great example for an inspirational video ad that went viral is the Always campaign #LikeAGirl.

A recent study focusing on this video found higher ad and brand attitudes, the reason being that it generated lower levels of defensive ad reactance (the automatic reaction that you have when you know someone is trying to advertise something to you, usually negative).

What does this mean for marketers?

  • Consumer behavior is far from purely rational, and in fact is highly impacted by external factors–which is where advertising comes in.
  • Video advertising, especially, can be an effective medium for increasing brand awareness when done right.
  • Positive emotions can have a monumental impact on a brand’s success
  • Marketers need to focus on impacting consumers’ emotions towards our brands, much more than their rational knowledge of our product.
  • When we increase favorability toward our brand using positive and engaging video storytelling, we then increase positive brand awareness—and thus, we line ourselves (and our brands) up for success.
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