Brand consistency

Mastering brand salience begins with brand consistency

What is brand salience?

Brand salience is the multifaceted way in which your brand is thought of or noticed when a customer makes a purchase or a decision. It is a foundational component of achieving brand equity – the culmination of consumer perceptions, loyalty, and the inherent value attributed to your brand, forged through sustained interactions and experiences.

Brand salience then refers to the degree of which you are maintaining your brand’s position with key moments of interaction. When done successfully, your brand has firmly established itself in the minds of consumers, standing out prominently in the ever-crowded marketplace.

Mastering brand salience

At the highest levels of brand salience, the ideal is to have your brand name be synonymous with the solution that customers are seeking. For example, we don’t “search the internet for information using Google”. Instead we “Google” things. We talk less and less about watching TV, and more and more about binging Netflix. 

These brands are so easily recogniseable that we’ll even refer to them when in actual fact we are using their competitors. We’ll “Google” a problem using Bing, or we might refer to “watching Netflix” when we may generally mean another streaming service. Similarly, we might order Coca-Cola or “a Coke” in a restaurant, be sold a Pepsi, and continue to refer to it as a Coke.

In these examples, a particularly strong brand has entered culture to the extent that it has become a household object. These are also the brands that will be referred to in films, music and TV shows. Their presence helps artists to quickly set a scene that audiences are familiar and intimate with.

When it comes to your industry and niche, whether your brand becomes a verb or not, the opportunity for your brand or product name to be at the forefront of your target audience’s mind when considering their pain point is always up for grabs – wherever they are in their buying journey.

What creates brand salience?

There are different ways to think about brand salience. One famous model, put forward by Kevin Lane Keller in his book Strategic Brand Management, frames brand salience as ‘how aware your potential customers are of your brand’. Importantly, this should be the right type of awareness – positive emotions and associations, not scandals and bad press. 

In Keller’s model, brand salience can be summed up with the question “Who are you?”. To consider how salient your brand currently is, you should consider questions like: 

  • Is our brand easily recogniseable? 
  • How well are our branding efforts communicating a clear and consistent brand identity? 
  • Is our brand clearly differentiated from its competitors? 

The important thing is being at the top of your customers’ minds, with the emphasis on timing crucial for successful branding. In a digital economy where time is short and attention spans are limited, your window of opportunity is small – every moment, every thought, and every association counts, at every point of contact. 

Achieving brand salience

The key is to have an easily recognisable and well differentiated brand, which customers recall the moment they need to make a purchase. This means brand consistency across memorable high-quality interactions throughout your marketing channels go a long way to help.

But how do you build this understanding into your branding efforts? There are two key points to consider here: memory, and attention. 

A matter of memory

Quickly, think of a brand you use or buy from regularly. The chances are that several different memories of consistently positive interactions will come up.

Everything potential customers know about your brand, everything they have in the back of their minds, and everything they associate with it comes from a string of memorable moments. 

Similarly, think of someone you trust in your personal life. In the same way you will likely recall several consistent, positive moments that confirmed this was someone you could trust – selflessly making you or someone feel good and therefore forging a positive connection.

While the people who make us feel good in our lives are close to hand, your brand may be far away from customer’s minds. Having a clear and consistent marketing strategy that builds trust with your target audience over time is essential. You want to associate your brand with strong, positive emotions which will be recalled when a potential customer goes to make a purchase.

Not only will customers be reminded of your product, they will also think of the types of experience associated with your marketing campaigns – as well as values, commitments and partnerships that they know you stand by.

Building up your brand with consistent messages and visual elements that reinforce positive and aspirational states of mind, you’re much more likely to be recalled positively at the time of purchase.

Are you paying attention?

However impressive the associations you’ve built up with your brand, they count for little if they don’t come to mind when it’s time to buy.

Whether it’s in a brick and mortar store, or via a digital platform, you need to make sure your brand jumps out at your customers. Successful branding stands out, no matter what the competition is doing, how you’re feeling, or what the weather is like.

This is where the work you’ve put in to build up positive emotions and associations with your brand pays off – and is paid forward by loyal customers, with 94% of consumers claiming they would recommend a brand to others with which they are emotionally engaged.

Trust and empathy plays an important part here too. We rate brands far more on feelings and associations than on information alone. Rather than talking just about what we do, gaining people’s attention by consistently placing them – or people that could be them – at the centre of the message is key. Often speaking directly to their needs.

For example, if we were told “We help you to just do it” next to a Swoosh, the brand (which we don’t even have to name or clarify the true slogan for – great brand salience right there) may not be as motivating and inspiring to millions of people worldwide.

Past experiences of a customer’s attention being ‘grabbed’ by a brand will shape the likelihood that a customer will pick up your product over one of your competitors. As a result, you need to make sure that every customer experience is consistent with your branding intentions – building momentum and trust with each experience.

Putting brand salience into action

Achieving brand salience is a complex and ongoing process that involves various factors beyond consistent branding efforts. The important thing is to remember that the aim of your marketing is not simply to persuade customers to buy your product. It is also to build up and refresh positive memory structures, so that your brand grabs their attention when the time comes to make a decision.

Being ready for those decisive moments means adapting to the needs of your customers, wherever they are in the world – by location and digital channels. Maintaining brand consistency, while being agile in your marketing operations, can empower teams anywhere in the world to activate your brand.

The best way to maintain brand consistency is to establish clear brand guidelines that are available and enforced across your business, as well as centralising all digital assets in one place so teams know where to find those images that are crafted into amazing assets that create positive memories and grab their attention.

Empowering your people to build brand salience in a way that is intuitive and effective ultimately creates the foundation of your brand equity success.