Why Brand Awareness Is Actually Bullshit!

Why Brand Awareness Is Actually Bullshit!

In this guest post, Synergy Group’s Jason Perelson (pictured below), argues that the crutch of the aging ad man, the concept of running a campaign where the benefit is “brand awareness” is, in his words, bullshit…

Society is too bright, the world too fast, information too available, and messaging too crowded to rely on the old tropes of pure brand awareness.

And yet, in 2020, we still hear how the primary importance of a campaign is its ability to generate brand awareness; and worse, an ineffective campaign is made to appear effective by the ethereal objective of brand awareness.

Picture this: you find yourself in a situation where you are asking, “How was the campaign successful in the end?”

“Well, the aim was really to drive broad brand awareness, and we got great reach in the end” comes the reply, filled with bravado and self-congratulatory vigour.

So nothing happened of value, really.

Or worse still, there was no insight as to any business benefit, because the “sell” wasn’t to do anything of business benefit. Awesome. Great job. Nailed it.

Pro-tip: that’s largely because the agency wasn’t particularly confident they would be able to deliver any. If that happens – walk away. Results aren’t guaranteed, but if you avoid them out the gate, you’re not even in the race.

That example actually happened. The perpetrator, in this case, was not some fly-by-night creative, or new entry – but rather a multinational agency level, awarded, director (there’s some article fodder in that too around talent VS resume… but enough has been said on that topic by far greater writers and creatives than I).

Case in point: Hitler ice-cream.

Something which did, in fact, happen. Arguably without tremendously deliberate intent behind it, if you choose to take the reasoning on face value here. But happen it did.

No amount of brand awareness is going to shift much volume. Other than by collectors of world oddities, and those within the Uttar Pradesh village with no apparent context to political history.

No alt text provided for this image

Take an astronomical shift

To be merely aware of a brand is no longer valuable; as buyers or consumers, we are inundated with choices, messages, visuals and opportunities. To be aware of something means nothing more than that. A fleeting awareness that’s gone in an instant in favour of the next thing.

The ability to build relationships, and to take the audience on these whimsically long journeys of awareness through to desire and action over time is a fool’s errand. And the creatives who’re worth their salt dropped that errand a long time ago.

To truly be effective in creating something meaningful, useful, and ultimately commercially tactical, you need to attack the consumer journey every time, in different ways and at different velocities.

If you take the old AIDA model by way of example (whether process, funnel, pyramid or infographic – pick your poison), and think about that linear process of Awareness to Interest, to Desire and ultimately Action (and even Advocacy) – what we need to do is relook that process altogether.

Think about it more like a solar system, with an individual moment for the audience at its bright-hot centre – with all of the components of your campaign, its messaging, and the activity-drivers orbiting at various degrees, pushing and pulling with every increasing gravitational force in the moment.

No alt text provided for this image

Brand value may be closer, or further away from the core consumer need – but that doesn’t necessarily distract from purchase intent. Nor would purchase intent necessarily deter a desire to purchase.

I specifically differentiate desire and intent as separate – with one driven by an emotional, reactive response (desire), and one with a more rational, purposeful driver (intent) for my own demonstration’s sake. 

Just walk through a supermarket aisle starving and you realise the power of desire over intent, just as much as taking a turn through a store like Aldi shows the fallacy of brand over necessity or cost.

Albeit it’s fair to argue Aldi trades on brand associations in package design to great effect. 

It is for that very reason that this experience solar system view revolves around that individual moment where the alignment of intent, brand, and necessity deliver not a swift triumvirate of motivation intended to create some cataclysmic purchase event, but rather finds the balance of a gravitational pull to shift the tides in our favour.

To return to the Hitler Ice-cream example above: the direct consumers in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh have no political context of their brand ambassador and therefore their purchase intent is related directly to whether or not the cone serves as an appropriately sturdy vehicle for ice-cream, and whether the ice-cream itself does the job on a hot day.

Consumer intent is king

If you’re crafting a campaign, strategizing messaging or already delivering, and finding yourself relying on the importance of the brand awareness portion of your work – take a step back and ask… so what?

How is that brand awareness benefiting the goals of your client? Not the goals of your campaign necessarily, or even the goals your client may have listed in that first meeting – but the ultimate benefits to your client?

You need to ensure you can even answer that question before you begin.

How about getting to the real crux with a different approach to the questions you’ve been asking, with ones like:

  • What keeps the lights on?
  • What gets you up in the morning?
  • What will cause a spontaneous Mexican wave in your office when you read our results report?
  • What puts bread on the table?
  • What does success feel like; and what would make it feel twice as good?

Let me know if anyone ever answers with “…for them to be aware of my brand.”

Whether the work aims to increase footfall, purchase, uptake of service, or to influence behaviours, motivate action or inspire reaction; the consumer of the creative material is the same. Complex. Living in a complex environment. Surrounded by hundreds of other messages trying to do the same thing as you.

So, they’re aware of you? So what.

Please login with linkedin to comment

Jason Perelson

Latest News

Design Studio Nightjar Launches Publisher Platform For Sneaker Freaker
  • Uncategorised

Design Studio Nightjar Launches Publisher Platform For Sneaker Freaker

Sydney-based design and technology studio Nightjar have launched a new website for Sneaker Freaker. Founded in 2002, the street culture magazine is the first and only international footwear magazine. From its roots as a DIY-style fanzine to today’s global coverage, its print pages and online platforms document every colab, custom, limited edition, retro reissue, Quickstrike, Hyperstrike […]

Former Haystac Head Of Strategy Launches PR Toolkit For Small Businesses
  • Advertising

Former Haystac Head Of Strategy Launches PR Toolkit For Small Businesses

Haystac’s former National Head of Strategy, Haylie Marchant (pictured) has launched The PR Toolkit – an online resource and DIY PR platform educating and empowering small and medium sized businesses to do their own PR. Offering a mix of free resources and easy-to-use how to guides, the one-stop-shop for DIY PR covers media relations, media […]

Malcolm Turnbull & Janine Allis Elevate BIPOC Voices In Australia With New Series
  • Media

Malcolm Turnbull & Janine Allis Elevate BIPOC Voices In Australia With New Series

One Love Australia has launched a new social change initiative that will see a raft of high profile individuals, including former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Boost Juice’s founder, Janine Allis, take part in a video interview series set to turn racism on its head. The initiative – titled #ShareThePlatform – will see these […]

Omnicom’s Resolution Digital Named As Google Honours Agency Of The Quarter
  • Advertising

Omnicom’s Resolution Digital Named As Google Honours Agency Of The Quarter

Resolution Digital has been awarded the Australia’s Agency of the Quarter award in the prestigious Google Honours program. The Honours program for 2020 recognises the achievements of the very best performance marketing agencies and providers across Australia and New Zealand. The program consists of 3 quarters, 43 agencies and over 500 individuals; measured on account […]

Perth Agency Firefly Adds Six New Accounts & Launches New Media Arm
  • Advertising

Perth Agency Firefly Adds Six New Accounts & Launches New Media Arm

Firefly has brought on six major new clients as it continues to expand, adding new media planning and buying arm to its business. Managing Director Andrew Mathwin (pictured) said the independent agency, known for clients such as Air New Zealand, Buy West Eat Best, West Coast Eagles and Mrs Mac’s Pies, had a strong year […]

The Mint Partners Wins Pernod Ricard, Cemoy & Little National
  • Advertising

The Mint Partners Wins Pernod Ricard, Cemoy & Little National

Independent communications consultancy The Mint Partners has bolstered its integrated client roster and signed a number of premium lifestyle brands to kick start the new financial year. With an array of new products, services, and a focus on insight-led and creative integrated communications, MINT has enjoyed recent success with an expanded portfolio across new categories including fintech, […]