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What do you do if you don't have brand recognition? Five tips to make your brand unforgettable

While today’s buyer journey has changed dramatically from years past, at least one thing remains the same — either consumers know your brand from the start, or you have to interrupt their buying-decision process to get their attention. 

McKinsey research suggests media fragmentation and product proliferation leads consumers to limit the number of brands they consider at the beginning of their buyer journey. Data also suggests that top considerations are “up to three times more likely to be purchased” than ones that didn’t make the cut.

Where does that leave you if you don’t have brand recognition? 

Rather than seek a silver-bullet approach, think long-term. Building a brand is a journey that you build upon and evolve as your business evolves. 

I know this is not easy to do. Long-term brand building is no small feat. But if done well, it can pay off in dividends. 

With strong brand recognition comes higher pricing power, lower customer acquisition costs and continual customer loyalty. Plus, you can attract and retain top talent, and improve your ability to grow related products and services. 

Here are five strategies that will get you on a path to stronger brand awareness over the long-term:

1. Get Your Brand Identity Right

target logo
Target has a memorable name and versatile logo to go with itPHOTO: Via corporate.target.com

Your name and your logo are the first branding decisions you’ll likely have to make, and they are biggies.  

The name and the logo should coherently and authentically speak to your company’s values. Be bold, and mix memorability with practicality so that your company pops into the minds of your customers instantly. 

I love citing Target as an example of this. The name, Target, is easy to read and remember. The bullseye logo, though literal, is simple and bold — elegantly connecting the name with the visual. And the bullseye itself is extremely versatile with the potential to delight (like Bullseye the dog, Target’s mascot). 

The Target brand identity was built over decades and it is reaping the rewards. In fact, it could almost claim to own the color “red” in the retail space — a momentous achievement for a brand.

2. Tell a Good Story

Bonobos’ CEO Andy Dunn masterfully crafts a compelling customer story by integrating his personal details of starting the company with major trends that his company ignited. 

Bonobos started as an online retailer in 2007 before vertical ecommerce exploded and has since placed his company among the first digitally native vertical brands (think Dollar Shave Club, Everlane and Pinrose). Bonobos opened its first brick-and-mortar presence in 2011 when it launched “Guideshops,” where customers can try on merchandise before they buy. 

Dunn humanizes the company through authentic stories, which help close the sale without you even knowing it. 

Telling a good story helps customers understand your brand’s journey. It helps them understand where you started and where you’re going. It also gives you something interesting to keep repeating — as repetition is required for long-term brand building.

3. Be Part of Something Bigger

Toms shoes and bag
Toms products support the company’s social purpose workPHOTO: via toms.com

Take a page from the leaders of Toms, a one-for-one shoe company that gives one pair of shoes away for every pair purchased. Toms is proof that building a brand through social purpose works. 

As an example, the company successfully engaged 3.5 million people by participating in the annual One Day Without Shoes (ODWS) campaign. Originally started at Pepperdine University, ODWS encourages people to go without shoes for one day to raise awareness for things that millions of people live without. 

ODWS complimented Toms' mission and helped the company spread its message while strengthening existing customer connections and forging new ones.

4. Obsess Over Your Customer

Warby Parker store
PHOTO: via Warby Parker blog

Experts say Warby Parker’s success in building its brand has been, in part, due to the founders’ obsession with customer experience and the designers who ultimately design those experiences.

When starting their business, Warby Parker's founders knew they were up against major goliaths in the eyeglass industry. But the lightbulb came on when they realized they needed to take the middleman out of the process. 

By designing their own products in-house, they were able to avoid licensing fees, then cut costs by starting as an ecommerce business. Later, the business created a point-of-sale system at physical stores where people could enter their prescription information, choose their desired frames and pay when the glasses were ready.

Obsess over your customers’ experience. Think about how you can address pain points. Go to where they need you most, and satisfy their need. Being there for customers how, when and where they need you is a sure way to earn brand recognition and loyalty over the long term.

5. Build Community

Connecting with customers is important. Building a community of users who can contribute to shaping and advancing your product or service is invaluable. Community members, for all intents and purposes, are brand ambassadors who can represent and promote your business more efficiently and scalably than you can on your own.

Take DuoLingo, which offers free online language classes. After starting with a handful of languages, it quickly realized it needed help if it were going to scale to multiple other languages. After all, going from German to Italian and Spanish to Italian are completely different. 

In order to scale in a reasonable timeframe, it looked outward for help. Rather than hire in-house language experts, it made its underlying technology available to its users, who then worked to build 24 different languages. 

Another way to create community is by enabling your clients to connect to one another and exchange knowledge on the topics that matter to them. Host regular gatherings of like-minded professionals or, if you have the ability, host other groups in your office space for their events. 

These kind of efforts give you the chance to meet with existing or potential clients in person while creating value for them through relevant content-sharing and networking opportunities.

Don’t Be Afraid to Evolve

Brand elements — brand identity, your story, communication, the customer experience, etc. — need to evolve and be reinforced many times over to achieve the mental staying power you’re looking for. 

Try different combinations of strategies to build awareness and maintain loyalty. And keep in mind you don’t have to spend millions to get what you want. One great idea on a shoe-string budget can be worth millions in recognition and engagement. 

Focus on what matters — your customer and their needs. Shape your brand identity and your story to engage them. And let your results guide your plan for delivering a great brand experience over the long-term.