In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris answer a listener question about proving the value of brand awareness.
Sophie asks, “Our marketing strategy as a young startup is to drive sales, to try and make money. But how does brand awareness affect that? I could just run lead generation ads to try and get people to get bookings, but I know part of our marketing needs to be brand awareness and getting people to the website. If your focus is on sales, how do you communicate or justify brand awareness campaigns, if they won’t directly justify sales?”
We review what a brand is, where brand awareness fits in the customer journey, and how to think about measuring it. Tune in to find out!
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.
Christopher Penn 0:17
In this week’s In-Ear Insights, we have a listener question from Sophie, Sophie asks, our strategy as a young startup is to drive sales and try and make money.
But how does brand awareness affect it? I could just run lead generation ads to try and get people to try and get bookings.
But I know that a part of our marketing needs needs to be brand awareness and getting people onto the website.
So if you’re focused on sales, how do you communicate or justify a brand awareness campaign if it’s not going to be generating sales directly? So Katie, that’s a very common question.
What’s your first instinct to Sophie’s inquiry?
Katie Robbert 0:53
Mike? Well, my first instinct is, yep, I hear that all the time.
And to me, it’s a lack of understanding of how, you know, the funnel or the journey works.
And so the way that I would approach it is trying to help people understand how the sales and marketing funnel works, and how conversions between steps you know, lead to more sales more leads in the pipeline.
And so without awareness, people aren’t going to directly just buy anything, because they don’t even know who you are, they don’t know that you’re selling anything.
And that’s really what it comes down to, is, you need people to know about you in order to sell things.
And the more people who know about you, the more things you’re going to sell, it’s very, it’s a very basic principle.
But it’s hard for, you know, people who are budgeting to justify, well, it’s not doing anything, immediately, I don’t have time to play the long game, I need those direct sales.
And so that’s where that’s where we as marketers get stuck.
That’s where we get stuck sometimes to have, like, it’s great, we can push out all this content, but we really just need people to buy something because our p&l is short this month.
Christopher Penn 2:12
One of the things that I remember, at a previous company I worked at, that complicates to some degree, is that very often sales folks are responsible for their own pipeline, I remember it at the email company used to work at every salesperson was responsible for their own pipeline.
And if marketing generated leads, great, but every salesperson was also expected to be going out and cold pitching you dialing for dollars as it were.
And so a lot of the feedback that we would get in marketing was, well, sales, marketing should be feeding more leads to sales, because, you know, sales folks need to be calling on the phones all day long.
And brand awareness doesn’t get somebody to pick up the phone.
Whereas, you know, salesperson saying, hey, you need this thing.
Does Now that said, when we looked at the numbers behind the scenes, the numbers for cold calling, were not stellar within about a 1% success rate.
Katie Robbert 3:11
Well, and, you know, I completely, you know, I just, you know, I agree with the data I disagree with the premise of brand awareness doesn’t get someone to pick up the phone, I would rather I guess, and this is just my own customer journey as a consumer is I would rather find out about a brand and get to learn more about them before I give them my money.
And if someone’s cold calling me and I’ve never heard of you, you’re getting blocked, like that’s just it, like I don’t want to be cold pitch.
And so I do feel like that’s such a backward antiquated way of thinking because, you know, believe it or not kids, there was a time where the internet didn’t exist, and you couldn’t just, you know, Google something to figure out like, Hey, I think I need a new pair of shoes, and then you Google it, and 80 different brands of shoes pop up.
Like that just wasn’t how it operated.
So there was a time when cold calling you know, door to door salesman, you need this, that strategy did work.
But that is not the world we live in.
And that is not how consumers purchase anymore.
A lot of purchases, majority of purchases, especially with the pandemic, were done online.
You couldn’t do them in person.
And so people were taking more time to do their research.
They go to social media to see does this brand have a handle? Do they even exist? Well, if they’re not on Facebook, they must not really be a thing.
And that’s just sort of an anecdotal mentality.
But a lot of people have adopted it of if you don’t exist on social media.
Are you even a reputable brand?
Christopher Penn 4:51
It’s interesting when you think about it from the consumers perspective, like I was looking for wireless thermometers for grilling yesterday.
Go to Amazon type it in.
And two things happen.
One, you get a whole bunch of companies whose names look like badly mangled, misspelled English words, I believe they’re overseas companies.
And you see all the pricing and stuff.
And then you see a brand or two you recognize and go, Okay, I know who makes that.
And what’s interesting is that, if you are confronted with a list of at least this is my experience, if I’m confronted with a list of no name companies like now, I look for the cheapest product I can get, because I’m pretty sure it’s gonna break within a year.
Right? On the other hand, if I see a brand, I recognize, I’m probably going to go with that brand if I want the thing to last, because I know that the brand can be trusted to make something that is worth having.
And so to Sofia’s question, it’s not just a question of generating sales.
But it’s also a question of getting somebody out of the commodity mindset.
If you’re not selling something that no one else makes, then, if you don’t have a recognizable brand, you are competing on price, and it’s always a race to the bottom.
If you are competing on brand and trust, then you can justify those higher prices.
Katie Robbert 6:08
See, and I operate differently than you do.
On surprisingly, if I’m, if I’m looking at, you know, a bunch of no name companies selling the same product, I don’t look at price, I look at reviews.
And so I look at not only the number of stars, but also the number of people who have left a review, because that to me, gives me more information of like, okay, so they are either just going to take my money and never send me anything.
Or even though this is a no name brand, maybe this is a brand that I should start paying attention to because they sell a good product that other people have started buying.
And so it’s another way to think about brand awareness.
And it sort of goes into that loyalty, evangelism, like the customers are selling for you.
Part of the customer journey.
But yeah, I think that you can’t skip over brand awareness at all, especially now where everything is online, you have to have a presence, you have to have an even a basic website, even a basic social media page that gives some information about you.
And then, you know, if you don’t have that stuff, and you’re still cold pitching people, everyone’s gonna think it’s just a scam.
Christopher Penn 7:26
So here’s the here’s the challenging million dollar question.
What is your definition of what a brand is?
Katie Robbert 7:37
Oh, I don’t think it needs to be like a household name, necessarily.
I think it needs to be something that has it needs to be an entity accompany a person that has some kind of a digital findable digital footprint.
That gives enough information to say this is what I do.
This is how I solve your problem.
Person who was looking for the thing that I have.
That’s my definition of a brand.
So Chris, you as an individual are a brand.
And you have your website, you have your social accounts that explain here’s what I as the Chris Penn brand, do if you need these things, here’s how you reach me.
And then we have Trust Insights, which is a brand.
We have our website, we have our email and our social accounts that say here is what this brand does.
And this is how we solve those problems.
And so it’s a discoverable thing.
of you know, it’s a collection of services.
It’s a collection of whatever, but that’s how I define a brand.
Christopher Penn 8:57
Katie Robbert 9:00
The definition brand.
Christopher Penn 9:02
The definition I personally like the most is by Ze Frank from back in 2006 popular entertainer comedian who said a brand is the emotional aftertaste of a series of experiences you so that’s why you can sell grandma’s cookies.
You can’t sell old people’s cookies, right they’re they’re logistically the same thing.
But one has an emotional attachment to it one does not unless he said I was grandma was a heroin addict and they have a very different brand.
Christopher Penn 9:40
but I like that because it it emphasizes the fact that brand and decisions we make around it.
All decisioning is inherently emotional in nature and we rationalize it later on.
Right when you encounter the no name pile of brands on Amazon, you don’t feel any emotion towards them.
When you encounter a brand new recognize As on there, it calls up the past experiences you’ve had go, Yeah, I trust this brand.
I like this brand, I have an affinity for this brand.
It’s one of the reasons why there’s such a debate in marketing, about marketing and companies getting involved with social issues, because that does change your emotional reaction.
If you know that a brand, for example, is a staunch supporter of LGBT stuff, that creates an emotional affinity that the brand might not otherwise have, especially if they make a commodity, right.
Like wireless thermometers, it’s, there’s not a lot of passion behind like, oh, this device does this, right? The features the benefits, like Yeah, you’ll you won’t overcook your steaks.
That isn’t a strong emotional resonance.
Whereas a brand saying like Patagonia, like we are firmly for preservation of the outdoors, because that’s what our product does.
It helps you enjoy the outdoors.
And so, when we talk about brand awareness, one of the things I think is missing from that equation is what emotion are we trying to convey.
So like with Trust Insights, literally, in our name, we have an emotion, right? Your trust itself is an emotion, and we want to convey that to people.
Insights implies, you know, knowledge implies wisdom, and apply implies all these things that are part of trust, but also emotionally, kind of that sense of relief of security, like, Oh, I’m going to know something I didn’t previously know.
Right? And so, inherent in our brand, are those those two emotions, when you’re a new startup, like, like Sophie’s company, part of the thing I think they need to figure out is, what emotion are they trying to convey? You know, what does the brand stand for? What’s the reputation? And then are their campaigns or their marketing? Does it resonate with that brand promise, because if it doesn’t, like, like, you were saying earlier, I have a personal brand, there’s a certain amount of emotion that goes with that people’s emotional aftertaste of their experiences with me.
If I do something that is out of alignment with that, then it creates dissonance and and it diminishes the brand, like if Trust Insights, published some research, that was completely unpacked check, no methodology, it we just kind of winged it that would damage our brand, because it literally damages the underpinnings of trust.
So that’s sort of the definition of brand I go with is that that what emotions are trying to convey? And so a big question that Sophie has to ask is, are you communicating those emotions, because if you are doing it, well, then sales should be able to take the elements of the brand campaign in their sales pitches and say, Look, this is continent we say, we stand for, you know, emotion we tried to create is satisfaction, or happiness, or fulfillment, or content, or whatever.
And here’s all of our sales scripts, and our brand content, everything that is aligned with that or not.
Katie Robbert 13:06
I think one of the one of the challenges there is that there are a lot of companies or a lot of brands, who refuse to say, here’s what we stand for, or here’s our or publicly say, here’s our mission, vision and values, here’s our values at all, because they want to be almost like a chameleon and be everything to everyone.
And that’s just not sustainable.
You can’t be everything to everyone.
I mean, there’s literally songs written about it.
And it’s, it’s one of those things, you can fake it for a while.
But eventually, if your values don’t align with your clients values that comes out that, you know, you you can’t pretend that you can’t pretend your way through being one thing when you’re really not.
And I think it’s that lack of authenticity, that really damages brands reputation.
And that becomes part of that brand story when people are looking online.
You know, I mean, Facebook is a really great example of it that we don’t have to get into the details, but what they say they do, and versus what they actually do are two very different things.
And it’s become very, you know, dividing for people of whether or not they want to use the brand, and the associated assets at all.
And that’s very damaging.
You know, and yes, Facebook is one of the largest brands in the world.
Everybody knows that everybody’s heard of it.
Um, you know, but for a smaller brand.
Not stating upfront, you know, you don’t have to stay your political views.
It’s not about you know, politics.
It’s more about, here’s the kinds of people we want to work with.
Here’s the kinds of work we want to do.
You know, you don’t have to say that you’re, you know, a vegan, we only work with vegans like that’s not necessarily important.
Like, if you’re a vegan brand, that might be important.
But if you’re a data science company that isn’t necessarily important, so really trying to find, you know, the appropriate values for your brand, that publicly aligned with who you want the brand to be, is part of that whole brand awareness and Chrystia point, those are the steps, you can’t skip over in order to fill your sales pipeline.
Because if nobody knows who you are, if nobody knows what you do, if nobody knows what you stand for, if nobody knows what your values are, they’re gonna have a really hard time buying anything from you.
Or they’re gonna buy the cheapest possible thing, assuming that it’s a piece of crap, which is also not great brand awareness.
Christopher Penn 15:49
Well, like you said, it’s awfully hard to have things coming out of the bottom of funnel if nothing’s going on at the top of it.
And yeah, to your point, the other point, what’s the largest fastest growing brand, in the last few years, what brand has had the biggest impact out of nowhere in the last few years?
Katie Robbert 16:10
I’ll probably get this wrong, but I feel like it’s probably something like zoom, or some sort of outdoor recreation thing or something around kn 95, masks,
Christopher Penn 16:21
COVID is the largest brand created in the last few years.
It is a brand it is a series of emotional experiences.
Now, to your point, like with Facebook, it’s not a brand anybody wants.
It’s not a positive brand.
But it is absolutely a brand, right.
And it came out of nowhere.
And it built literal global dominance into yours.
It is a word everybody knows and pretty much nobody likes.
But there is absolutely no doubt in terms of brand awareness, it achieved 100% brand awareness at a planetary level, probably the fastest in human history.
Katie Robbert 17:02
But that said, you know, it goes back to the brand reputation, the authenticity of the brand, the information that swirls around that particular brand.
People have a hard time knowing what’s true and what’s not about the brand.
If we’re just, you know, using the analogy of a brand.
You know, it’s hard to say, you know, for a lot of people like this is what’s true about the brand.
This is what’s not to true about the brand.
And the brand itself, like let’s say, you know, for example, there was a social media manager for this brand.
Is that person promoting the right information, the wrong information, what emotions are they convey about it? You know, are people buying what this brand has to offer? Or, you know, in this case, this brand is a cautionary tale.
And are people heeding the messages that this brand is trying to say, you know, if you do this, you’ll be safe.
If you don’t do this, you’ll be safe.
Christopher Penn 18:08
No, I guess the other part that’s implicit.
So first question is how do you measure this stuff? How do you communicate to executives, hey, this thing is a thing.
I would start one of the metrics that I think people have dramatically underused.
And this is going to also be a shameless plug.
But is branded organic search, right? How often do people search for your brand by name? If nobody’s searching for Trust Insights, we’ve done it wrong, right? We have not built a brand that people know by name, also why your brand name shouldn’t be so unpronounceable and unscalable that nobody could Google it for it.
But if you were to go into your Google Search Console, you can see how often your website is found for your brand name.
And if that answer is zero, then you’ve gotten it, you’ve got a pretty serious problem.
And if you’re not sure where to find that, please take our free are not free.
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Katie Robbert 19:08
to that point, Chris, and this is something that, you know, when I was introduced to the world of digital marketing, even if the name of the excuse me, the name of the company isn’t the thing that people are searching for, are the principal people in the company being searched for.
And so, you know, your personal brand is well known in the digital marketing community.
So there’s an assumption that people should be searching for you specifically.
And that that should then bring them to the Trust Insights website.
And then by extension, they learn about Trust Insights.
So that needs to be part of it as well.
So if the if the name of the company isn’t known are the principal people known?
Christopher Penn 19:56
And those are brands to know When we set up Search Console and do SEO for our clients, we ask what are your products and services names, right? What’s your company name, who your major executives names, your, your, your spokes people.
And those are all things you set up monitoring for.
And if you don’t, you’re not getting a complete picture of the brand.
Now, here’s where we get into bit of math.
If you take all that data, like your Search Console data, like your organic search to like all the data, you get out of Google Analytics, and you put it on a real big table, and you do some regression analysis, you should see a relationship between your brand activities, right, your organic search.
And those sales, it may be there may be a lag.
But there should be some kind of mathematical relationship, if what you’re doing for your branding is working.
And if you don’t see that relationship, then you have to question are we are brand building activities insufficient that no one’s searching for us more this month than last month? No one’s searching for us with related words, like if people are searching for Trust Insights, this is a topic we had a debate on for quite a while, people were searching for Trust Insights in relationship to Instagram TV.
And it said that wasn’t probably the best thing who now because it’s gone.
But it was a question, do we want to be found for this? And what are the consequences were found for this, even though it’s not one of our core competencies?
Katie Robbert 21:28
Right? No, I think that that’s absolutely a great start at measuring your brand awareness.
If you are a brand that focuses a lot on social media, then making sure that you have some kind of a social listening tool set up to catch all the mentions of your brand, not just links that are shared, but people who are talking about your brand positive or negative, you have to take the good with the bad.
That’s another way to mention to measure your brand awareness is are people talking about you? Are you giving them something to talk about? Do you have a piece of research that people are super excited about? Or do you have any product that everyone’s like, Oh, thank God, this finally solves the age old problem of x.
And so are people talking about your brand? Online? You know, they could be talking about you in a negative sense.
But that’s also an opportunity to, you know, insert yourself in the conversation.
But they at least know who you are.
So that’s a good start, I guess.
Christopher Penn 22:37
I have heard some PR folks say there is no such thing as bad PR.
And as folks who have worked at a PR firm, I can tell you that’s absolutely false, there’s not going to say that, I don’t believe that.
Things, you definitely do not want to be known for that.
So once you’ve done that measurement, then it should be relatively straightforward, not easy, but straightforward to say, Okay, we know the relative impact of brand.
Now if we increase our investment in it, we should see this downstream effect eventually.
And the challenge again, for folks is going to be connecting the dots through the funnel, to say this is the likely impact at this next stage.
But then it’s up to that next stage to do something.
So the analogy we always give is you may have done a great branding campaign for your coffee shop.
But if customers show up and the door is locked in the barista is passed out in front of the espresso machine.
It’s not the branding campaigns fault that you didn’t open up for business is, but you will still not see the sales numbers because we had this problem at my old company.
We had a great marketing team that delivered huge numbers of leads some qualified some not.
But sales, the salespeople were so terrible at their jobs, that they had a close rate of 1% in B2B, which is horrendous.
I mean, normally your close rates and B2B Anywhere between 10 and 25%.
Really good companies.
50% 1% is like you literally your dog could do a better job.
Your dog could just like push a sheet of paper in front of somebody and see if they sign it or not.
And so, marketing often got a lot of heat for that say like, you know, we’re not getting enough leads like Well, yeah, but if you didn’t lose 99% of the sales qualified leads that were handed to you.
And a part of that was the brand.
A part of it was we were attracted people were interested in theory with what the company had to offer, but the salespeople weren’t selling it.
Katie Robbert 24:39
I’ve worked at a company like that as well.
And as a product manager, it was really frustrating to see because my team that were pouring their heart and soul into improving this product, making it work.
You know, all of the UX and the UI and back end everything.
And then we would hand it to the sales team.
Even it would just sit there.
And somehow these people just kept showing up to work every day and literally doing nothing.
And so it was it was infuriating.
But that is really what it’s about is everybody has to work together and do their part.
It’s not just salespeople picking up the phone and saying, Hey, I’ve got this hot new thing for you, do you want to buy it, give me your credit card.
I don’t know who that works for anymore.
Quite honestly, it might work for some companies, but I would guess the majority it doesn’t work for people need to know who you are.
People need to trust you.
People need to have an understanding of what you do.
And then they will likely buy something from you.
It’s the whole premise of the digital customer journey that we help companies understand we help them see what channels they’re getting awareness on what channels they’re getting engagement on, and then what channels are converting.
But what we also see in that analysis is if you take out awareness and engagement, that purchase channel starts to crumble and fall apart because you need to front load, I mean, if you want to do something very, very simple.
You could even set up a simple Data Studio dashboard.
It’s like, here’s all the people coming into my website, here’s my website traffic.
Second metric, here’s all the returning users.
And then third metric is here’s all the goal completions.
That could be a very basic funnel to understand which stage is at broken at.
Christopher Penn 26:30
The last part, I think I’d say is, in order to do all this, any of this you have to be 100% clear what your brand is, and that every interface with the customer, marketing, sales, customer service has to reflect that.
One of the biggest problems people run into is you have this brand with it’s with the emotion that you want to convey.
And then you call customer service and you know, someone just choose your head off, and you’re like, Okay, that’s clearly not what the brand is about oh, is the brand is something like, you know, you know, it was Dick’s last resort, where you’re just gonna get your head chewed off period.
At every point, it’s consistent, the brand meets its promise.
Everybody in the company, from the CEO to the intern, represents the brand.
If you’re a customer facing you represent the brand.
And if you’re not customer facing, if you’re designing the product or the service of the interface, you’re representing the brand.
And if you’re not clear about that, then your brand awareness campaigns, even if you do get them funded, are gonna fall apart, because people will come visit you with this idea.
And this act anticipate expected emotional experience of some kind and have a very different experience that is out of alignment.
Katie Robbert 27:41
I would agree with that.
And so, to wrap up, Chris, it sounds like you can’t skip over the brand awareness piece.
It’s just as important as you know, selling things because people need to know who you are to sell something.
But you as a brand.
Have to decide who you’re going to be.
Christopher Penn 28:03
Exactly who Who are you what is the emotion you want to convey to people.
If you’d like to talk about this and maybe sharing what your brand is all about? pop on over to our free slack.
Go to trust insights.ai/analytics for marketers, where are you at over 2300 other marketers are asking and answering each other’s questions every day.
And wherever it is you watch or listen to this show.
If there’s a place you’d rather tune in, go to trust insights.ai/t AI podcast where you can find us on most other platforms.
Thanks for tuning in.
We’ll talk to you next time.
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