When brand awareness is not enough thomas oosthuizen


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This article explores the difference between brand awareness and brand differentiation, and when a brand needs what kind of approach.

It gives pointers and examples of how to determine what the brand needs and how to then identify the best way to go about it.

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When brand awareness is not enough thomas oosthuizen

  1. 1. 36 strategicmarketing September–October 2013 Branding: Awareness vs Differentiation September–October 2013 strategicmarketing 37 When brand awareness is not enough‘Awareness’ versus ‘differentiation’. Dr Thomas Oosthuizen ponders on one of the eternal branding problems. W hat is more important, brand awareness or brand differentiation? It’s an often-asked question and the answer is – it depends! As a marketer, whether you enter a market first or second will largely determine which of the two is more important to your situation. First entrants to a particular market need brand awareness first and foremost. That’s because they will, by virtue of being first, become the default brands unless their quality is bad or they are adversely affected by some other circumstance. If you are a marketer in a first- entrant brand you need establish broad awareness in your target market as quickly as possible. This creates a strong barrier to entry for competitors and generally makes you top-of-mind among buyers. Once a brand has attained such a position, it is extremely difficult for later-arriving competitors to unseat it. That is why, generally, first mover brands retain their leads in markets, even when very strong competitors eventually arrive on the scene. Of course, it is a bit more complicated than that – otherwise we would only have one ‘first mover’ brand operating in each market segment, with other potential competitors simply electing to stay out of the market because it would be unviable. The key requirement is that the brand must ‘work’; if it doesn’t deliver the expected quality and value to its consumers, it will fail, either immediately or as soon as a better brand offering comes along. Many global multinationals clearly understand this well, hence the reason they will enter markets with a dominant marketing expenditure, excellent product quality and distribution dominance. If these aspects of the brand are aligned, the rest is easy and it becomes difficult for later entrants. Companies like Proctor & Gamble and Unilever are great examples of this. In SA, our own MTN has achieved the same in Africa. For such brands, dominance of brand saliency is important, rather than what they say. Their entry will generally establish them as the generic for the category – as in Sta-Soft being the generic brand of fabric softener. To be ‘generic’ means the brand offers the So the bottom line is: if you are not brand number one in a category, tell consumers why you are a better option than number one. Focus on a different benefit and be clear in your own mind that it is one that consumers seek. Alternatively, target a different group of consumers who may not have been exposed to the market leader. Unfortunately many brands do not understand or achieve this, which leads to them simply being lesser versions of the brand leader with lower market shares, inferior volume consumption per user, and lower profit margins. They then float around in an ill-defined space. Although Rolex sells fewer watches than Swatch, Rolex has a profit margin that correlates with its design integrity and positioning as a high quality brand that is worn by people of distinction. Consumers do not even compare Rolex with Swatch or Citizen watches, knowing that each offers buyers something totally different. Coca-Cola, Rolex and Emirates Airlines are all examples of branding excellence in their respective fields key benefits consumers of the category seek. In telecommunications networks, for example, it will be network coverage and capacity. When market research is conducted, it will normally be found that brand leaders ‘own’ the key benefits of the category in the minds of relevant consumers. Although a brand like Coca-Cola has done a superb job to keep itself top-of-mind and evolve over the years, it is probably less about what the brand says about itself today that matters. Rather, it is that the brand speaks to its consumers consistently, dynamically and at a high level of spend. This is an instance where the leadership of the brand is so strong that it straddles its First mover brands usually retain their leads Dr Thomas Oosthuizen has a doctorate in marketing communications. He is an honorary professor in business management at The University of Johannesburg, a board member of the Independent Institute for Education at the JSE-listed Advtech Group, and an advisory board member of the Vega Brand School. category and may even have taken on a significance that transcends its category. Most consumer research will also indicate that when a leading brand starts lagging in quality, marketing spend or innovation, it will gradually be eroded by smaller brands offering unique benefits. So if you lead the market, make sure you retain that lead … it is far easier to retain it than to regain what has been lost. When differentiation matters Second, or later, entrants to market still need brand awareness. But, more importantly, they need to show reasons why they should be bought instead of the market leader. If you are not the first entrant or the largest brand, what you say matters a great deal. Unless a number two, three or later entrant brand is very clear about what it offers consumers that is different, it can expect to play second fiddle forever. To give another example; even though Emirates is far from being the largest airline in the world, it offers travellers better service and the public perception is that it has grown its market share. So, while American Airlines flies far more people to far more places, Emirates is perceived as providing a higher quality service to the wise few. The bottom line is that, as a marketer, you need to understand what is required for your brand to achieve success in the marketplace; is it awareness/dominance, or is it differentiation? It’s unlikely to be both. PHOTOS:supplied