The 3 Levels of Brand Strength

Date: 2009-09-03 12:16:26 // Categories: Consumer Insights,
By: Zimmerman Advertising
Date: 2009-09-03 12:16:26 // Categories: Consumer Insights,

At most advertising agencies, increased consumer awareness alone is clear evidence of a good campaign or an effective media buy.

When we see the industry’s traditional yardsticks of effective advertising, we see them coming up short. We believe building a brand happens in three stages. Three degrees of consumer penetration. Three ways of evaluating the true connection between brand and prospect. They are: Awareness, Relevance, and Importance.

To illustrate this point, consider three different competitors in the retail sector: Kmart, Target and WalMart.

Kmart – “The Old Dog” You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Kmart or isn’t sure what Kmart sells. You could go anywhere in America and achieve 99% aided awareness when you mention the Kmart name. Kmart has certainly achieved that first level: awareness.

However, this tremendous awareness level does not translate to commensurate sales levels. Kmart filed for bankruptcy in 2002. And even though they emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, their comps against the year before were down 9.4% in June.

Target – “The Cool Dog” Target has successfully positioned their brand as the ultimate destination for cheap chic. If you want an ashtray that looks like an egg, or a toaster that looks like a spaceship, Target is your place. Even their ironic nickname, a French pronunciation of their brand (“Tar-jay”), has found a secure place in the conversational lexicon. Target hits the bullseye perfectly when it comes to the second level: relevance.

Target has achieved profound relevance for those who want a little better design for a lot better price. And their sales results reflect that appeal with the consumer. Year to date, Target’s sales are down a predictable 4.7%, but they still expect to meet or exceed analysts expectations for second quarter profit.

WalMart – “The Big Dog” WalMart has wedded their brand to the “lowest price” concept so powerfully, that the two have become one in the same. In any environment, owning the low price proposition equals increased consideration. But when the economy dips down, that consideration ticks up significantly. WalMart, especially in this economy, truly owns the third level: importance.

Thus, we see WalMart (and low prices) enjoying steady growth, even in the midst of a sharp economic downturn. WalMart’s marketing position has been so focused and so clear for so long, that they’ve achieved the highest degree of importance. And they’re enjoying the results: the world’s largest retailer recently reported a same store sales increase of 5%.

The goal should always be to achieve higher levels of relevance and importance. You’ll never hear us brag about simple awareness – because awareness alone simply doesn’t work. At Zimmerman, we call it Brandtailing™.