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Marketer’s Goal — Awareness or Attention?

Posted on | May 18, 2008 | No Comments

by Dr. Mary Lou Roberts

Most marketers have cut their teeth on the concept of branding and how to measure brand development and effectiveness. I was reminded of the tension between traditional brand metrics and the Internet by this graphic from MarketingCharts Note that Purchase Intention, which can be unreliable, is the top metric in this ANA study, used by over 80% of respondents. A little further down we see that almost 7 in 10 marketers surveyed are using changes in brand awareness as an effectiveness metric.

There’s a definition of “brand awareness” on’ that captures the issue marketers must consider:

Definition: A gauge of marketing effectiveness measured by the ability of a customer to recognize and/or recall a name, image or other mark associated with a particular brand.

Do we want prospective customers to recognize our brand and have a positive image of it or do we want them to do something?

An answer of “do something” implies a direct-response approach. A recent article in iMedia Connection caught my attention. It’s an example of great direct marketing advice that concentrates totally on technique. If that is done to the exclusion of branding content, it ignores the tremendous ability of the web to combine branding and direct response in a single marketing effort.

Creating a trusted brand is essential. I think the two main drivers of an online purchase are a reputable brand and successful website experience. Brand development is essential, but it just doesn’t work the same way in the Internet era as it did in the mass media era. In particular, the idea of spending a lot of money creating awareness—and nothing else—is highly questionable.


The first step is still to capture the prospect’s attention with relevant communications—anything from display advertising to a keyword ad to a widget on a social network. Whatever the initial contact, the next step must be to get the prospect to take action, usually to go to the website and find something interesting enough to get her to provide an email address. Then the marketer can engage her in an ongoing dialog. Again, there are many relationship techniques today, from the ubiquitous newsletter to a blog to an online community. But the relevant words are “engage in dialog” not “market to.”

This is brand development. It’s just brand development in which attention comes before awareness and awareness leads to action—even a baby step. This shift in thinking can lead to more cost-effective marketing. Done well, it leads to a brand that engages consumers on their own terms and territories, not those of the marketer. That’s the essence of effectiveness in a Web 2.0 world.


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