Is Awareness the Most Important Factor in Advertising?

When I’m looking at a marketing problem or a new project I evaluate the following factors to get an idea of what we should focus on.

Here are the factors (in order of Magnitude of Effect):

  • Awareness
  • Uniqueness
  • Interest
  • Value

By far the most important item on this list is Awareness. It’s also the most overlooked. Advertising itself is about Awareness yet almost every business owner I come in contact with wants to go directly to Interest.

Your plan should be to make as many prospects AWARE of you as possible. If they don’t know who you are they can’t possibly do business with you. Am I right?

To maximize your company’s potential you have to get your prospect’s aware of you on a wide scale. That’s principle number one.

I see companies that exist for years and years at a break even level or with spikes and dips and spikes and dips. An improvement in the product might be needed, sure, but most likely it’s that not enough people are AWARE of it in the first place.

Some people argue that if you make the best product you will win. This is a mind-boggling statement. Examples abound where the inferior product prevailed. In fact, it seems that if you were evaluating history just on the basis of quality of product you’d have to conclude that the superior product almost never wins.

Overused but completely valid example: McDonald’s. Can you name one person on Earth who thinks McDonald’s has the best hamburgers?

But, they win because they had a plan to expand and dominate their areas. They pick the best spots in town (Awareness) and they used Franchising to continuously expand their reach (Awareness) so you can’t drive more than a few intersections before seeing another one.

Awareness in the McDonald’s example is so complete that they can fail on nearly every other dimension and still win.

In terms of Magnitude of Effect in Advertising, Awareness is King. 

The majority of your thought should be consumed by how you can get more awareness, at the lowest costs possible and with as much repetition as possible. If people don’t hate hearing about you then you just haven’t made it yet.

Next up in Magnitude is Uniqueness. When you’re not unique it is more difficult to generate Interest. If the product is like every other product the prospect’s mind usually shifts to best price which is the last thing you want to compete on (unless that really is part of your strategy, in which case, your Uniqueness is already likely pretty low).

If you’re Unique they have nothing to compare you to in terms of competitors. This forces them into a real evaluation which means they are also not deeply considering Alternatives or the REAL enemy… doing nothing.

If the product can’t be intrinsically unique it’s still possible to create an air of Uniqueness in factors around it… how it’s delivered, how it’s maintained or serviced, how it’s guaranteed and many other possibilities. The less Unique the product is the more thought needs to be put into making surrounding factors Unique.

Interest. How good are you at generating interest? This is where most advertising seems to focus. They tackle it with “creativity” and seem to be driven by the principle that the stranger it is the better. Monkeys dressed in suits or as ballerinas, clever plays on words and other silliness.

They miss the point that interest actually means SELF-Interest. What’s in it for THEM? The key here is research and understanding the real needs of the market. For that I direct you to “Scientific Advertising”, “Ogilvy on Advertising” and “How to Make Your Advertising Make Money” by John Caples.

You might be surprised to find Value down here at the bottom. This isn’t a pass or acceptance of any kind for putting out shoddy work. A quality product is really the price of admission. But, in terms of impact, these other factors have more magnitude. Will a quality product make them all EASIER?

Yes, definitely.

And, it should always be kept in mind and constantly improved upon. It’ll help with each and every other factor. It will bring them BACK which results in real, long-term profits.

So, don’t think for a second that you get a pass on this. It’s only on the bottom because for most consumers once it hits a certain acceptable level anything above that is gravy and you’ll have more impact on the other dimensions.

Understanding these dimensions and evaluating them with an idea to maximizing and strengthening each one will help you boost your results.


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Jason Bedunah

Jason writes direct response copy for some of the best direct response marketers in the world since 2005. He's also spent several years building entire marketing departments for fast growing companies so he has a 360-degree view of what it takes to successfully execute winning campaigns.