The Importance of Front-of-mind Awareness (and How You Can Achieve it)

The Importance of Front-of-mind Awareness (and How You Can Achieve it)

Did you know that the chances of winning the lottery are so slim that economists have lovingly nicknamed it The Stupidity Tax?

In fact, your odds of winning the lottery are so small that you’re more likely to:

  • Be killed by a vending machine
  • Get squashed to death by a meteorite
  • Die from the sting of a bee, wasp or hornet
  • Get killed by random plane parts falling from the sky

While those are all pretty morbid examples, the point is that you absolutely never hear of any of those things happening in the news and they’re STILL more likely to happen than you buying a winning ticket to the Euromillions Rollover.

So why is it then that, in spite of the staggering odds (1 in 139,838,160 to be exact in the case of the Euromillions), so many people still buy a ticket every single week, without fail, each time getting that same glowing feeling of positivity in their stomach that this week, the stars will align, the Gods will smile down upon them and the balls with their numbers on will emerge, one-by-one, from the magical spinning machine?

The answer lies in a psychological principle called Front of Mind Awareness and is one of the most important ideas to consider in any marketing, sales or business strategy.

What is Front of Mind Awareness?

Front of Mind Awareness (also known as Top of Mind Awareness) is defined in Marketing Metrics as the first brand which comes to mind when someone is asked an unprompted question about a category or industry.

Ask most people across the world to name a football club and many will say Manchester United.

Ask people to name a soft drink and many will say Coca-Cola.

Ask people in the UK to name a comparison site and many will say GoCompare.

But why?

Why them and not a competitor?

It’s certainly not performance.

Man United have been seriously eclipsed by their noisy neighbours in recent years, Coca Cola’s revenue has fallen each year since 2012 and there are now dozens more Comparison Sites nipping at the heels of GoCompare since they launched in 2006.

Interestingly, it’s also not likability.

Man United are one of the most hated clubs in English football, many people prefer Pepsi, Sprite and Fanta to Coke, while GoCompare’s adverts are so infuriatingly annoying that most people turn them off as soon as they hear even the first note of their hellish jingle.

So on the flipside of the coin, why is it that many of the other, just as big, high-performing and – in many cases – far more likeable businesses are also so much more forgettable and fail to achieve that first spot in the front of our minds?

A big part of the answer lies in ubiquity.

Going back to my earlier analogy, the first images that spring to mind when you ask people about the lottery are those of Ferraris, Yachts and Luxury Properties, not of millions of people throwing their money down the drain every month.

That’s because it’s the winners who are reported in the press, not the losers.

Maris Wanzcyk holding her cheque from The Lottery Mavia Wanczyk, winner of the biggest ever lottery.

Combined with this is the lottery’s advertising strategy, which pushes positive images right to the front of your mind.

But if the news was cluttered with video footage of everyone who lost the lottery each week, using infographics to illustrate to people just how much of a waste of their time and money it is, those who do play would be far less likely to repeat the purchase of their ticket.

And when you think about it like that – even if what you sell is a far less frequent purchase than the above example – the art of pushing positive images and ideas related to your business right to the forefront of your prospects’ minds is an incredibly powerful sales tool.

Coca Cola advert of a man rolling a large can

So how can you achieve Front-of-Mind Awareness?

If you’re reading this article, odds are you’re not the director of a huge conglomerate Coca-Cola-sized business looking for new ideas on how to spend your billion pound budget.

And, judging by the fact that our web traffic is in the thousands rather than the tens of millions, you’re definitely not a lottery winner, either.

There’s more chance you’re the victim of a nasty bee sting or rogue vending machine accident.

But looking into my crystal ball, I’d say you’re probably an ambitious business leader looking for clever new ways to grow the awareness of your SME in order to take it to the next level.

The question then is how can a business with an SME budget achieve big brand awareness to ensure that, whenever someone thinks of your category or needs what you sell, your brand is the first thing that springs to mind?

strategic marketing roadmap advert

Step 1. Be Different

It can be quite tricky to say something different to your competitors when, realistically, you all pretty much do the same thing.

But, as my mother used to tell me when I was in trouble, it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it.

On that note, being different isn’t about dying your beard purple, driving a bright pink car and making your newfound wackiness the focus of your business.

Being different just for the sake of being different might ensure you spring to mind first, but not necessarily for the right reasons; the second thing that springs to mind will likely be an expletive or two, a couple of chuckles, and absolutely no leads will come your way as a result.

The key then is to work out the one thing you want to be unique about your business which nobody else is saying about themselves and making that a staple in your communications.

I saw a brilliant example of this in a book on marketing and advertising I read a few years ago called Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This!

The example was centred around asking people for the first word that springs to mind when you give them different car brands, with the results often being very similar:

BMW: “Sporty”.

Ford: “Value”.

Rolls Royce: “Luxurious”.

When you get down to Volvo, everyone tends to say: “safe”.

A huge part of the reason for that is in their marketing and advertising strategy:

volvo safety advert
A brilliant example of exactly what print ads should be.

But did you know that Volvo are almost never in the top safest car brands on the road?

Every now and then, one will sneak into a top 10 somewhere, but generally speaking, their cars have been so off the mark safety-wise for so long that the notion they should be renowned for their safety is actually pretty ridiculous.

Of course, it’s important here to mention that this is a disastrous approach; boasting brand qualities which you simply don’t have is disingenuous and honesty is always the best policy.

Otherwise, you open yourself up for customers to leave bad reviews and – in the case of Saab (as you can see just below) – competitors to point out your lack of honesty.

With that said, Volvo’s approach is proof – and very interesting proof, at that – that your target audience will remember your values if you subtly reinforce them over Saab advert and over again in your marketing strategy.

The question you need to ask then is: “What do you want to be famous for?”

The second question is “Can we genuinely say this about ourselves at the moment?”

Then, do all you need to do to make your values ring true – from the way your staff deliver your service right down to the tone of voice used in your emails – and make that message a constant throughout your communications.

Step 2. Be Everywhere

Once you’ve found your desired identity, it’s time to spread the word.

Sadly, many businesses think this means buying the expensive kind of exposure.

I spoke to a director recently who said they’d purchased advertising space in an airport in order to run a recruitment campaign and, while thousands would’ve seen the ad, the results, in his words, were “F*** all!”

The goal then isn’t just to be everywhere all the time – as it may be for the likes of Coca-Cola – but instead, to work out where your prospects spend their time and strategically place your business’ messaging there.

Social Advertising is one fantastic tool for this, allowing you to build a profile of your target audience based on social groups, interests and publications you know they’re likely to be interested in, then advertising against everyone who meets this profile.

Taking this one further though, you don’t actually need to work out where your prospects will spend their time because technology can do it for you.

Re-marketing Ads are one of the best ways to boost your profile with people who’ve already visited your website.

Whenever someone comes onto your website and clicks “accept cookies”, that website plants a little tracking file called a “cookie” onto their machine.

Then, while browsing the web, they’ll see ads for your website pop up, trying to get them back.Cookies are key to ubiquity in digital marketing.

For B2B businesses, this is a great way to push people further down the funnel; if the person has viewed a page on your products for manufacturing businesses, for example, your remarketing ads could be on manufacturing business case studies or downloadable industry reports on the manufacturing industry.

The real beauty is that you’ll only pay for the ad when it’s clicked, meaning free exposure for your business even if they don’t revisit your website.

In a funny sort of way, you’re effectively planting a cookie in your prospects’ minds by reminding them you exist in a soft, non-salesy way, just as the big brands do when you walk past a bus stop, flick through a newspaper or walk through the shops.

Another great, widely un-utilised tool for increasing ubiquity is email.

We’ve got a pretty strong mailing list here at Catalyst and there’s a good chance you came in off the back of one of our emails.

In all honesty though – while I’m glad you’re here and hope you’re enjoying this piece – the goal of our emails isn’t necessarily to get everyone to read everything we write.

It’s all about that free exposure.

If we pop into your inbox once or twice a week for a year or so, with you reading the odd piece here and there, when you come to think of a marketing agency, who’s going to spring to mind?

You might not even remember our name, but you may remember the title of an article, the image in an email or one of the analogies we use in our blogs, giving you that little mental hook you need to go back and find us in your inbox.

Whichever tactics you decide to use, that memorability is what will work in the long-term and is exactly what you should be aiming for, too.

Step 3. Practice Random Acts of Kindness

The final point is arguably the most important and can in fact bypass the other two completely in making sure that people remember you.

By doing something small that proves to your customers that you genuinely care about them and understand them as people and not just random numbers in a CRM system, they’ll remember you forever and spread the word about your business.

In the same way, it’s important to think about your customer base beyond the point of sale, beyond the CRM system, beyond the data and analytics.

No matter how slick your automation setup is, how well priced you are or how good the product is itself, all of that can be seriously spoiled by one thing: bad service.

We’ve all experienced bad service at some time in our lives and it’s pretty much all we remember about a place.

Conversely, if the service goes above and beyond what we expect, with small details we never expected, that lasts in the memory far beyond any other kind of brand related experience.

More importantly, the world is a smaller place now than it’s ever been; word of something positive and genuine happening spreads thick and fast.

Big brands have known this for years, using social channels like Twitter to do good deeds for customers who most deserve them.

girl smiling behind a giraffe sculpture made of bread

Sainsbury’s for example, received a letter from 3-and-a-half-year-old Lily Robinson asking why Tiger Bread is called Tiger bread when it looks more like a Giraffe.

Their responding letter – which confirmed that this was a brilliant idea and that they’d be renaming the product Giraffe Bread – went viral.

sainsburys letter

Coffee outlet Pret a Manger also famously hand out random free drinks to customers as an extension of their loyalty programme, in a bid to improve repeat business.

In the States, eyewear company Warby Parker’s General Counsel Anjail Kumar sent a customer who had lost a pair of glasses a new pair for free in pretty cool fashion:

Warby Parker customer service review on Facebook

For SMEs, the lesson here is simple: practice random acts of kindness which will enhance your service and positively surprise your customers.

How you do that completely depends on your customer base.

I’ve heard of local garages secretly leaving bunches of flowers on the back seat for ladies after having their car MOT’d.

While this would be a relatively small cost, the word of this one good deed likely spread pretty quickly locally and resulted in a big boost in sales in the short term, as well as a strong chance of repeat business each year.

This of course wasn’t advertised as a freebie, but instead disguised as a random act.

Working out the bunch of flowers-equivalent for your business – even if it’s a free trial of a new product or service in order to get some case studies and feedback – is a brilliant way to engage your customers, increase loyalty and inspire word of mouth.

Maya Angelou famously said that:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

With that in mind, devolve some power to your account managers and those who deal with your customers.

Instructing them to give a few things away for free and look for opportunities to help customers and generally just be nice is one of the most powerful ways to create a human experience through your brand, ensuring you remains front of mind long after the interaction.

Achieving front-of-mind/top-of-mind awareness isn’t easy – if it were, everyone would do it, and we’d all be at the front of everyone’s mind which, when we think about it, would probably get quite messy quite quickly.

At Catalyst, we use years of digital marketing expertise to help our partners achieve front-of-mind awareness in a way that helps drive commercial success.

With a careful combination of content, automation, branding and much, much more, we can help your organisation achieve the brand awareness that you deserve.

Get in touch with our team today