This answers the question: 'Who knows you?'
Brand awareness is when the brand goes public. Awareness constitutes a high level of knowledge and consciousness of a brand in its market to the extent of recognition and recollection among consumers. This means that the brand is in the subconscious of the consumers and easily remembered whenever they come across products or communications of the same category. In other words, the target audience are able to pull the brand name and its associations from their memory unconsciously.
Brand awareness comprises of two elements: brand recognition and brand recall. Recognizing a brand involves remembering the brand and its associations when exposed to that brand or a similar brand (for example, through print advertisement). This is usually less challenging to achieve as recognition could be developed in the early stages of the brand awareness creation through publicity and advertisements.
Recalling a brand from memory occurs when consumers relate a brand directly to its goods category without prior exposure to or direct interaction with the brand. This means that the brand has attained a powerful level of visibility and it has been imprinted in the memories of consumers as the most recallable brand in its category. For example, the luxury brand Gucci has high brand awareness among both male and female luxury consumers and Gucci might be the first brand that comes to consumers' minds in association to luxury fashion. This level of brand awareness is challenging and requires time and effort to attain. It is the desirable level of brand awareness for luxury brands.
As an illustration, take a moment to reflect on the first three brands that jump to your mind when you think of luxury fashion. These are the brands that have attained a high recall level within your mind. Now think of the numerous luxury fashion brand advertisements you see in the print media. How many of them do you instantly recognize? How many do you have to look at several times or study closely before recognizing or establishing their associations? The brands that you were able to recognize instantly are those that have high recognition while the others could have medium or low recognition levels.
Luxury brands generally have the advantage of attaining a higher level of global brand awareness than mass fashion brands. This is because luxury fashion brands, as the name denotes, fall within the category of 'luxury goods' and this offers an aspirational and unique quality that distinguishes them from an overcrowded fashion market. As a result, consumers remember them because they crave for products from within luxury brands. Also, the luxury sector is smaller than the mass fashion sector in size and focuses on a global market, making it easier for the brands to stand out. However, the task of creating brand awareness for luxury brands is becoming more challenging especially with the lowering of the sector's entry cost and subsequent expansion.
How can brand awareness be achieved?
The major tool of brand awareness creation is visibility, visibility and visibility. This means achieving a high level of exposure for the brand among its target consumer audience. Luxury brands should however attain high visibility without over-exposure. In other words, placing the brand to be seen, heard and thought about by the right people with the aim of registering the brand in their memory.
The effectiveness of brand awareness tactics varies between industries but communications tools like advertising, sales promotions and sponsorships can be used to increase familiarity with the brand and attain high brand awareness. The luxury sector also has the additional advantage of the global reach of the Internet, the increase in international travel and the globalization of the marketplace to enhance rapid brand awareness.
In creating brand awareness, luxury brands face an additional challenge of staying visible while retaining exclusivity. Luxury brands are elite by nature and are required to maintain this quality and the status of prestige. This means that they must be seen only in the appropriate communications media that enhance the 'luxury' quality. Consequently, the process of creating brand awareness for luxury brands is a carefully managed process that applies the most effective communications channels. For example, British luxury accessories brand Jimmy Choo attained rapid global awareness through celebrity connections, notably in Hollywood. The brand features celebrities in its print advertisements and associates itself with major 'Red Carpet' events like the famous American Oscar awards. The brand was also frequently featured in episodes of the world-famous American TV series, Sex and the City. An additional celebrity-linked promotional tactic by Jimmy Choo is the production of the book titled Four Inches, in 2005, which features photographs of Hollywood stars wearing nothing but Jimmy Choo shoes. Proceeds of the book sales were donated towards cancer research but the publicity generated from this venture was enormous. Similarly, shoe designer Manolo Blahnik attained a global consumer following through celebrity connections despite having only two stores. By adopting the celebrity promotional tactic, these two relatively new brands have succeeded in creating a link between their brand and the luxury goods category.
An additional brand awareness creation tactic is 'Word-of-mouth', which is often underestimated. Creating awareness for a luxury brand through word of mouth is both tricky and challenging. It is not something that is achieved on the street but is rather most effective when implemented through opinion leaders and experts in the luxury field and the fashion world. Examples abound in fashion magazine product reviews and features. Other effective methods of word-of-mouth promotion include the endorsement of experts in the luxury sector such as those that have authority in the global luxury fashion field. Think of who made Christian Louboutin famous.
Branding expert Kevin Keller asserts in his text, Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity, that if a brand desires a high brand recall level, then its name should be short, simple and easy to spell and pronounce. This opinion makes logical sense for conventional consumer goods such as FMCGs but it is unsuitable for luxury brands. Luxury brand names are more attractive when they are unique, symbolic and original. This is because the luxury consumer expects a high level of sophistication, exoticness and a degree of complexity in luxury brand names. For example, the brand names 'Comptoir Des Cotonniers', 'Marithe Francois Girbaud', 'Comme des Garçons' and 'Jaeger Le Coultre' are all difficult to pronounce for non-French speakers. The brand name 'Abercrombie & Fitch' on the other hand is a nightmare for the French to pronounce. However, the exoticness and originality of these brands' names atone for the difficulty in pronunciation and make them more appealing.
The brand awareness goal of every luxury brand is to attain a high level of familiarity with consumers, leading to affiliation with the brand. This will ensure that when consumers think of luxury goods, they would be likely to think of the brand. This can be achieved through repeated exposure and associations in the appropriate media.
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