Brand Salience – Why It Matters for Your Brand

February 22, 2010
Woody Allen once said that “80 percent of success is just showing up .” Unfortunately, at purchase decision time, the vast majority of brands never show up at all. Getting consumers to “think” about your brand more often, and in more buying situations, is one of the most under-rated marketing challenges that brands face today.

Brand Salience — What is It?

Brand Salience is the degree to which your brand is thought about or noticed when a customer is in a buying situation. Strong brands have high Brand Salience and weak brands have little or none.  This helps explain to some degree why big brands are big and small brands are small: if no one thinks about you at the moment of buying truth, your brand is going to be relegated to the dustbin of small and unnoticed brands.

Moment of Truth - Does Your Brand Have Salience ?

Brand Salience IS NOT the same thing as top of mind awareness. Top of mind awareness is simply what brands come to mind when consumers are asked to recall brands within a category. Brand Salience is different. Why? Because it is what brands come to mind when consumers are in a purchase situation. More specifically, Brand Salience is the memory of your brand and its linkage to other important memory structures. The buying situation “mindfulness” and linkage to memory structures is what differentiates Brand Salience from top of mind awareness.

What Drives Brand Salience

This all sounds very simple. But there really is some science behind it. Jenni Romaniuk and Byron Sharp of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science have done research into Brand Salience, and the findings are surprisingly simple, yet counter-intuitive, for Marketers. Brand Salience is a function of the quantity and quality of the consumers memory structures. Brand Salience is the step before consideration–is your brand even “thought of” before the consumer considers a brand or brands and makes a final purchase decision? Or is it mentally screened-out, like the majority of brands?

1.  Quantity Of Memory Structures

In buying situations, consumers are often driven by mental “cues” that trigger their thoughts around brand consideration sets. For example, if I’m thinking about getting a quick meal for under $5, I’m likely to consider Subway based on their ubiquitous “$5 Foot Long” campaign.

Subway $5 Footlong - Building Brand Salience

Or, if I want to eat something “fresh and healthy,” then I’m also likely to think of Subway given their focus on fresh and healthy eating. The more memory structures your brand is linked to, the more salient your brand–e.g. the more likely it is to be thought of during a buying situation. The examples above point out something important: what buyers remember about brands isn’t always the same across buying decisions. So, the quantity of memory structures can make a difference.

2.  Quality of Memory Structures

Romaniuk and Sharp argue that the quality of Brand Salience is a function of the strength of the association and the attribute relevance.  Taking the Subway example above: because I’ve seen so many $5 dollar foot long creative executions, the linkage is very strong. Additionally, if value is important and relevant to me because I’m on a budget, this further increases Brand Salience.

So, to summarize:  Brand Salience is a function of: a) the quantity of memory structures your brand is linked to; and b) the quality of these structures, as defined by the strength of association and relevance of the structure. By building the quantity and quality of memory structures, you maximize the number of consumers who will think of your brand and the number of times they think of your brand in various buying situations. So, in Woody Allen parlance, your brand “shows up.”

Brand Salience vs. Brand Equity — A Conflict?

If you grew up in traditional CPG brand management like me, you were trained to believe that a brand should define its equity and rigorously and relentlessly focus on communicating it without deviation. I still recall senior P&G managers speaking scornfully of advertising which was “off-brand.” On the other hand, Brand Salience sounds a bit like a license for freelance communication–equity be damned.

There needn’t be a conflict. Marketers need to consider two approaches to building Brand Salience:

1.  Focus on Defining and Communicating Different Cues Against A Common Equity – Assuming you’ve defined a focused and important equity for your brand, you need to do the consumer research to understand the most important and relevant cues which link to your benefit. Then, having defined these, brands need to execute creatively against these cues to maximize the number of memory structure associations.

Subway Fresh & Healthy - Building Brand Salience

For example, Subway’s “fresh and healthy” positioning can be executed via a range of cues like “good for my kids,” “for people on diets,” “good for outdoor activities,” etc. These are all different cues that may lead to a consumer considering Subway for a “fresh and healthy” offering.

2.  Create and Own Distinctive Executional Memory Structures – A second approach is to increase the quantity and quality of executional memory structures. For example, the Subway logo, usage of the Jared Fogle character, the $5 dollar foot long music, etc. are all examples of creating executional memory structures. These executional memory structures help create a platform that enables consumers to more easily remember your brand in buying situations.

Subway's Jared Fogle - An Executional Equity

So, Brand Salience is an important but often ignored challenge for Marketers. Do your brand a favor. Listen to Woody Allen. Make sure that your brand “shows up” and is salient — a very important step in ensuring your brand gets considered for purchase.

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Build Your Brand with Content Marketing

July 13, 2009

Building your brand with content Marketing is becoming increasingly important. In the good old days before the web and social media, it was enough to simply communicate your brand’s value proposition in a highly memorable and convincing manner and watch the sales roll in. No more. Relevant content can be an approach to engage your customers and smartly differentiate your brand. In an earlier post “Publishing — The Future of Marketing?,” I described why the importance of content marketing is increasing. And Joe Pulizzi of Junta 42, in his excellent post “The Decline of Advertising and Rise of Content Spending,” explains more about the rising tide of content in the future.

Subway -- Smartly Using Content Marketing

Subway -- Smartly Using Content Marketing

Subway has gotten a lot of attention recently for their “fresh and healthy” positioning and impactful $5 foot long subs campaign. But equally deserving in my opinion is how they’re using Content Marketing in their Subway Kids program. This program has taken the core Subway value proposition — “fresh and healthy” — and extended it to kids. Subway Kids adheres to a couple of basic tenets that are important to good Content Marketing.

First, they’re clear about their target(s). The quick serve category serves two masters — parents and kids. And Subway Kids markets effectively to both. Check out the recent Subway Kids TV commercial showing creative kids outdoor games and see if you, as a parent, can resist feeling good about the Subway brand and what they’re trying to do for kids.

Second, Subway Kids stays true to the “fresh and healthy” core value proposition of the parent brand. Many brands line extend into secondary benefits or segments and conveniently forget the core focus of the brand or fail to reinforce it sufficiently. Not so with Subway Kids.

Subway Kids -- Using Marketing Content to Extend & Deepen the Brand

Subway Kids -- Using Marketing Content to Extend & Deepen the Brand

4 Smart Ways Subway Kids is Using Content Marketing

Here’s four smart ways Subway Kids is using content to engage their customers and deepen the relationship — all of which support “fresh and healthy.”

  1. Suggest Activities — Subway Kids “Get Your Family In Motion” adds relevant and meaningful content about activities that families can do together — which are healthy and active. All of the activities  surround and deepen the “fresh and healthy” positioning.
  2. Explore Choices — The “Meet the Subway Kids” program provides the opportunity for kids to choose a Subway Kids friend on-line to hang out with. They can then follow the kid and see how they’re feeling, what decisions they make, and how this relates to their food choices–another route into the fresh and healthy value proposition.
  3. Engage Schools — Subway Kids “Random Acts of Fitness” program  extends their core benefit to schools with calendars, stickers, educational programs, etc. designed to help teachers and parents reinforce healthy and active behaviors.
  4. Educate and Inform Parents — Subway Kids offers a convenient widget which provides parents with daily nutition tips and activity suggestions .

What’s Right About Subway Kids Marketing

The “red thread” throughout the entire Subway Kids proposition is easy to see and follow — healthy and active kids. And the Kids programs all relate directly to and are mutually supportive of this theme. Now, remember the Subway core value proposition — fresh and healthy ? It’s obvious how the Subway Kids “healthy and active” proposition surrounds,  enhances and deepens the core “fresh and healthy” Subway value proposition. My only complaint is that it’s a bit difficult to find Subway Kids on their website.

Is it working ? Well, I don’t have access to Subway sales vs. target, but at least one recent book, “Brand Bubble,” by Gerzema and Lebar, identifies Subway as one of the few brands that are growing both brand market value and consumer brand equity ratings. What’s not to like about a brand that delivers compelling, relevant content that’s supportive of their core brand promise and “good for you” food ?

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