From The Editor | January 17, 2018

Has Brand Affinity Become The New Brand Awareness?


By Travis Kennedy

Has Brand Affinity Become The New Brand Awareness?

I’ve had many conversations over the past 15 years about the value of “awareness.”  The water and wastewater market specifically has focused on awareness as a top marketing goal since as far back as I can remember. Think about the competing colors of pump manufacturers in the market. Godwin orange. Vaughan green. Gorman Rupp blue. Grundfos black. Flygt grey.  All awareness and distinction based.

The media vehicle of choice for awareness was historically the display ad. In the pre-Internet days, publishers owned the audience (or shared it alongside member associations like AWWA and WEF). There was no other way to deliver your marketing message to the water and wastewater audience. Then the Internet arrived and became mainstream in the early 2000s. Suddenly there was a plethora of ways to reach the audience including email, social media, and website traffic to name a few.

Let’s be clear, brand awareness is a necessity in any sales and marketing plan.  The question is, to what extent? 

Awareness has historically been regarded as the first step in the sales funnel, or in today’s terminology the sales journey.  Achieve awareness, move to consideration, then to comparison and finally a sale.  The funnel (or path) was a clear one in the 1990s.  But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the path has changed alot over the past 20 years.  There are more twists and turns and perhaps most importantly, awareness control has been wrestled away from the advertiser and now more often than not rests in the hands of your prospects and customers.

To say that the journey is entirely different may be a bit of a stretch as the core fundamentals still exist.  However, the most impactful change is the addition of another step in the process.  Rarely today do prospects go from simply being “aware” to moving your solution into “consideration.”  There’s a trigger, a transformation from observing to having an opinion, a point in time when they stop just being aware of your brand and start following your brand.  The step I believe many are missing in the above roadmap is the step of affinity.

Awareness of your brand and affinity for your brand isn’t the same thing.  They are two completely separate levels of  Find Documentengagement. Prospects and customers today will not buy from, or even consider, a manufacturer they don’t feel a connection to.  An operator at a treatment plant may be aware of your flow meter but why on earth would he consider giving your brand a “place at the table” if that’s where the connection ends.

Information is free flowing today and will be for many, many, many tomorrows.  Prospects and customers want to connect, they want to feel that there is a genuine understanding of their needs.  That is VERY difficult to achieve by simply making them aware of your brand.  You need to strive to get them to a point of affinity around your message, your brand, and your products. 

So how can you do that?  Well, nothing connects humans more efficiently than content.  Your marketing goals shouldn’t be making everyone aware of your product, logo, team colors etc.  Your goal should be connection.  Connection drives affinity and affinity WILL drive your top line.

Image credit: "Soulmates," Jhong Dizon 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: