A friend recently sent me the CramerSweeney branding quiz, which is a lot of fun and only takes a few minutes to complete. Beyond the fun of seeing how many of the great brands you get right, it reinforced for me just how powerful great branding really is.
In my job at Nielsen, I routinely see advertising performance results for hundreds of CPG brands. And it’s surprising to me how many brands succeed in breaking thru the clutter with strong recall and messaging about the brand’s core benefit, yet fall short when it comes to communicating the brand itself.
What’s the Issue ?
In previous blog posts, I’ve written about brand salience—the ability of consumers to think of your brand when they’re in a buying situation. But the branding issue I’m describing here is specific to advertising: when consumers see your brand’s ad, do they know it’s for your brand?
This is not just an issue of being sure that consumers know the ad is for your brand–more branding, of course, is always better. But less branding is worse, too. It’s worse in that the consumers who aren’t recalling your brand are usually recalling one of your competitors. That’s right, if your brand recall is below 50%, then it’s likely that your advertising is doing more for your competitors than your own brand–ouch!!
Brand Recall Benchmarks
Various “brand recall” benchmarks have been established over the years. Most put the desired target of at least 2/3 of recallers; that is, 2/3 of consumers or more who recall your ad should also know that it’s for your brand. Benchmarks are great, but what about achieving them? Sadly, the results are not positive. Various studies have put average TV brand recall at about 40%. So, for most advertisers, there is huge upside in simply increasing the number of people who know your ad is actually for your brand.
4 Ways To Achieve Better Brand Recall
1. Develop and Use a Brand Icon – Use of an iconic character or visual identity can clearly increase brand recall, particularly when the icon becomes an equity thru repeated usage over time. Examples include the Merrill Lynch bull, the Geico gecko, the AFLAC duck and the Pillsbury Doughboy. Advertisers often tire of their icons before consumers do, so if you have a good one, use it.
2. Create an Acoustic Identity – Icons are not limited to visual characters of identities. Music can be iconic, too. Think of the NBC ding-ding-ding, the Intel dum-dum-dum-dum, or many other well known musical flourishes. As I wrote about in “Why Your Brand Needs An Acoustic Identity,” musical icons can be ones that you create and attribute meaning too over time (like Intel’s) or adopted from popular culture and owned by your brand thru repeated usage (as in United’s use of Rhapsody in Blue).
3. Show and Tell Your Brand Early and Often — Research has usually shown that showing your brand early and often enhances consumers ability to recall your brand. Showing and telling also works to improve brand recall. And finally, there is new research which suggests that showing your brand periodically throughout your commercial minimizes the likelihood that viewers will switch away.
4. Execute Cross-Platform Advertising Plans — There’s also something you can do which has nothing at all to do with your TV creative. Run your advertising on the web as well. This is because there’s a growing body of evidence that TV ads perform better, including branding, if consumers have also seen your ad on-line. So, it turns out that your media plan can also have a powerful impact on your brand recall performance — don’t neglect this often overlooked opportunity.
Better Branding for Your Brand
So, how did you score on the CramerSweeney branding quiz? If you’re like me, you probably got close to 20 out of 20 correct. Why? Not because we’re brand geniuses, but rather, because each of the advertisers made it easy to remember their brands.
How? Using a brand icon, creating an acoustic identity, showing and telling your brand early and often, and executing cross-platform media plans are all proven ways to improve your advertising’s brand recall.
No doubt your brand is above average and surpasses the 40% average brand recall. If so, that’s great. But most brands don’t, because they don’t take advantage of the basic opportunities outlined above. Do so and perhaps your brand can be in the next edition of the CramerSweeney branding quiz.