For many direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, it can be tempting to only consider the end goal: driving immediate conversions, or in other words, sales. But ignoring the first interactions with customers can mean missing out on opportunities to add value for in-market audiences who are unfamiliar with your brand. Essentially, building awareness is a crucial function for any D2C brand's marketing function. That being said, what is brand awareness really about?
Creating brand awareness is mainly about telling a brand story that creates emotional connections with customers. D2C brands that invest in brand awareness tactics and strategies have the opportunity to increase customer lifetime value (CLV) and decrease customer acquisition costs (CAC).
The real, long-term impact of brand awareness campaigns has been proven time and time again:
95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious, indicating that creating an emotional connection with your customers is important.
Emotionally connected customers have a 306% higher lifetime value (LTV), stay with a brand for an average of 5.1 years vs. 3.4 years, and will recommend brands at higher rates.
Seeing these types of results from your brand awareness investment takes patience, persistence, and diligence on your part. Look at it this way — your brand is your masterpiece, right? If Antoni Gaudí’s cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, is still under construction 133 years after it was started, you can spare a few months to increase awareness of your brand.
Now, we’re not suggesting that you should dedicate all of your time and resources only to brand awareness and ditch campaigns that drive immediate sales. We’re just saying that it’s crucial to take a step back and recognize that good marketing is more than just selling a single product or driving one interaction with a brand. It’s about telling a compelling story that illustrates the overall value of a brand and, hopefully, keeps people coming back for more, encourages strong word of mouth, and increases their willingness to pay a premium for a service or product.
Before we dig into the tactics that work best for building brand awareness, there are a few things that you need to understand in order to be set up for success.
Most D2C brands have a general idea as to who their target audience should be, but how do they gain a clearer picture of who they actually are? How do they find out the specific types of customers to target, their pain points, wants, needs, the type of content that will resonate with them, and so on? There are ways to find out this information.
Investing in surveys, analytical tools, focus groups, and other customer feedback methods is critical to crafting the right experience and messaging for customers. This will ensure that the right notes are hit and the right connections are made with customers.
Figure Out Your Brand Personality
Once you've identified the ideal customer for your offering, you'll have a clearer idea as to how to interact with them. For a D2C brand, establishing relationships with customers begins with being clear on their brand's personality. In other words, the way they package their marketing and the experience they provide customers. Some brands choose to inject a bit of humor into their ad campaigns, others prefer to connect over a cause their audience cares deeply about, and a select few keep their customer interactions strictly professional.
It's crucial for D2C brands to stay true to themselves; customers have become more sophisticated, making it easier for them to sniff out disingenuous brands. So, don't be afraid to strike an unconventional tone (as long as it's true to your brand). There are some clear examples that this really works. Two excellent examples of this are:
It would be tempting for brands like Squatty Potty to take a more clinical approach; after all, their product fits in a category that is not exactly fodder for traditional dinner table conversation. But the brand took a leap with a series of hilarious, quirky videos that quickly went viral, earning them a surge in sales.
There’s a good chance that buying insurance doesn’t exactly fill you with joy; however, the Allstate commercials just might. These commercials, complete with a character symbolizing the various things that can happen to drivers, show a brand that understands the real lives of their customers but doesn’t feel the need to be overly serious.
Create a Consistent Experience
It’s always important to present a consistent look, feel, and experience across all of the places people might interact with your brand, but it’s particularly crucial in the key first interactions. During this time, potential customers are trying to figure out who a brand is and if they should pay more attention to them.
In order to provide the type of memorable, consistent experience your customers crave, you’ll want to:
Make sure your campaign creative has the same general look, feel, and messaging across marketing channels.
Match your campaigns to your website and vice versa.
Check everything from post-purchase emails to the support process to ensure it all fits with brand values and personality.
Finding ways to create consistency across all of your customer touchpoints will help people get to know your brand faster and decrease confusion, a real mood killer for new customers.
Be Helpful, Not Sales-y
Almost nothing is less compelling and engaging than a brand message that doesn’t provide any value to the audience. Customers already see messages telling them to “buy now!” and “click here!” all day long. Why not stand out from the crowd by being genuine and helpful before a potential customer spends a dime? Content marketing and social media are two key ways to make this happen.
The content you create — whether it’s videos, blog posts, or infographics — is a prime opportunity to prove your expertise to target audiences in the early phases of their product exploration. Take that content and post it on social media, and you have a winning combination.
8 Ways to Increase Brand Awareness Online
Once you've established how you're going to interact with customers, meaning the look, feel, and messaging of your marketing, it's time to dig into the "what." Figure out the channels and tactics to use in order to put the brand awareness best practices (highlighted above) to work. Below are eight of the most reliable ways to build brand awareness and create long-term connections in your customers’ hearts and minds.
While videos work to drive people to immediate conversions, they’re most helpful at the beginning of the journey. There are many ways to use video to engage, educate, and inspire. For example, you can create short videos with quick tips or sound bites, longer how-to videos, funny commercials — the list goes on and on. All you need to get started is an idea and some video resources. Quick tip: Include your logo early and often to make sure even people who don’t watch the full video know it came from you.
One of the most impactful ways someone can find out about a brand is through word of mouth. And where are people having conversations with other people online? Social media. Use your social media presence not only to post your content and offers but to ask for reviews and experiences with your product. Interact with your customers by responding to comments, asking questions, and holding giveaways. Think of this as a way to provide value to your customers and humanize your brand.
Another modern form of word of mouth is influencer marketing. Partnering with influencers to share your brand is impactful, particularly if they’re willing to share a genuine experience that they had with your product as opposed to just a promo code or link to your site. Choosing the right influencers is key to making sure you’re reaching the right audience and communicating the right things. Here are a few questions to answer when you’re exploring influencers:
What brands has this person partnered with previously?
What are the general demographics and interests of this influencer’s audience?
How much interaction does this person generally get per post?
What is the overall look and feel of this influencer’s other content? Does that coordinate with the message my brand is trying to communicate?
Notice that the question “how many followers/pageviews/likes” isn’t included here. That’s mostly because those numbers can be deceptive. What really matters is that this person truly influences the audience and inspires connection, not how many people see a message and choose not to interact with it.
Not only is content marketing an excellent way to make a D2C brand useful to their target audience, but it also provides opportunities for them to rank higher on search engines and share relevant content on social media. The content they create will depend on the tools at their disposal and target audiences. Try different mediums like video, blog posts, infographics, podcasts, and more to see what resonates best with customers. Content shouldn’t merely be focused on pitching your brand — it should also provide value.
For instance, if a brand sells skis, they might want to write blog posts about how to teach kids to ski or reviews on popular ski resorts. They could also produce videos showing how to do tricks or how to make the best apres-ski hot chocolate. While that type of content won’t directly sell skis immediately, it will help them show up in relevant searches, get their site shared on social media, and help cement their brand in the minds of people who're interested in skiing.
Public Relations (PR)
PR is more than just sending out press releases about the most recent product launch. It’s about finding opportunities to voice an opinion on topics that are relevant to a brand, and that helps present a brand as an industry expert. While industry outlets may not necessarily be interested in the technical specifications of a brand's product, they will be interested in a unique take on something they were going to write about anyway. Continuing with the ski brand example, that brand could form relationships with popular ski and travel planning publications and submit opinions and ideas about the best ski trip planning tips, how to care for skis, or how to find the right ski fit.
Partnering up with brands who share your target audience is an innovative way to share the load, decrease customer acquisition costs (CAC), and increase your reach. Take, for example, Glossier and Bark. The makeup and pet product D2C brands teamed up to create dog toys that look like Glossier’s makeup and promote them to their shared target audiences. Bark started partnership talks when they noticed that a lot of Glossier’s customers would bring pets into stores with them.
Now, we're not saying that you have to jump in and create co-branded products. But that being said, there are other opportunities to work with brands, from creating co-branded content to splitting the cost of direct mail pieces to simply sharing each others’ content.
Let us go ahead and state the obvious: the people most qualified to tell people about a brand are the ones using their products. Helping current customers remember to recommend a brand can be as easy as offering a small incentive like a deal on their next order, exclusive product, or whatever you come up with. Think of it as a thank you gift for the people who are saying nice things about you.
When a customer is looking to purchase anything from a new t-shirt to a new mattress, chances are they’ll take some time to search for options on their search engine of choice. The practice of getting your website up to search engine standards is called search engine optimization (SEO), and it’s a critical part of a successful strategy to create more awareness for a D2C brand. Everything from a site's navigation structure to the words used to describe products matters when search engines are choosing which websites reach the top spots on the main results page.
Creating awareness for a D2C brand, while not easy, is definitely worth your time and investment. Take time to figure out who you want to reach and how you want to be perceived and then jump right into the tactics that you choose. The most important thing you need to know is that, like most good things, building a meaningful, long-lasting brand takes time. Driving quick results is great, and often an essential part of any marketing strategy, but don’t be afraid to take a step back and think about how you want your brand to be perceived. Most importantly, think about how you can build a brand that keeps customers coming back.