blocks on a red background

Brand Recognition Or Brand Awareness: What’s The Difference?

Share This Resource

Brand recognition and brand awareness are terms that often get used interchangeably. 

This is a mistake. 

Recognition and awareness influence different stages of the buyer’s journey, and need to be understood separately in an effective marketing strategy. 

If you don’t differentiate, you risk losing future leads to the competition before they even find out about your brand.

The Buyer’s Journey

No matter how small a purchase is, a customer always undergoes a ‘journey’ when deciding what to buy. Even while buying something as simple as a bottle of water, a customer will rapidly evaluate the competition before deciding on the one they like. 

In a large purchasing decision, like a house, it’s not unusual to see a buyer’s journey that spans months or even years. 

Whether it is buying water or a home, there are two things that always form a part of the journey.

The customer becoming problem aware, i.e them being thirsty or getting sick of renting.

And then… 

The customer becoming solution aware, i.e them realising that they can buy water to quench their thirst, or realising they can purchase a property. 

It’s at this stage of the buyer’s journey that brand recognition and brand awareness can help your bottle of water be the one that the thirsty customer picks up, which is the decision stage that concludes their journey. 

Buyer's Journey

Learn how to nurture leads through the rest of the buyer’s journey. 

Brand Recognition

Brand recognition is – surprise, surprise – the ability for someone to recognise your brand. 

Unlike brand awareness which, as you will read further on, asks much more of potential customers, brand recognition is simply identifying a brand based on the name or imaging. 

Recognition tells a customer what your product is, but doesn’t go as far as telling them why they should buy it. There is no emotion attached to the message, no preconceptions of quality or value. That’s why it’s vital that brand recognition and brand awareness be separated. 

To create brand recognition, try to change how your product appears or functions so that it stands out from the competition. This could include:

  • Radically different colouring compared to your competition
  • Unusual packaging shapes
  • Unique features or capabilities
  • A lower price point than your competition

Ways to separate yourself from the pack are almost endless, but one important one is having an unforgettable logo design. 

Brand Awareness

Unlike brand recognition, brand awareness attaches emotional appeals to the customer’s understanding of your product. 

To achieve this, you need to align your messaging across all of your channels and remain consistent. Over time, your brand’s unified voice will appear credible, and potential customers will begin associating your communicated values with your product. This is a vital long-term marketing strategy that you can’t afford to overlook. 

Gaining Brand Awareness Through Content

Your written content is your best opportunity to outline your values. You need to consider:

  • Maintaining a consistent tone of voice that matches your values (if you are telling your customers you are friendly and funny, don’t write serious and boring content)
  • Identifying key words that encapsulate your brand and using them throughout your content
  • Create memorable slogans and positioning statements
  • Keep your rhetoric consistent (if your website says you are environmentally conscious, don’t write a blog about wishing you could still buy plastic straws)

Learn how to write copy that sells. 

Gaining Brand Awareness Through Design

Your visual content is great for spreading your message quickly, and will have the most traction on social media. You need to consider:

  • Aligning the colours of your logo with your website design style, image and video colour palettes etc
  • Make a decision early about the types images you will use (it is jarring if your website is full of fun cartoons, but your blog header images are all serious photographs)
  • Make sure your designs represent your brand 

Read an example of how a business rebranded themselves to reflect their new values. 

Two Common Brand Awareness Pitfalls You MUST Avoid

The first major brand awareness mistake people make is not aligning both content and design. If you decide that your content will be formal, technical and corporate, it will confuse potential customers if your images and videos are then light, funny and informal. 

Each channel should represent your values to create a stronger overall brand awareness. Trust is the most important element of a buyer-seller relationship. If they can’t trust you to figure out what you stand for, you’re crazy if you think they’ll trust your product.

The second major pitfall is changing your messaging too often. If your business mission radically changes, this may be unavoidable. But if you are constantly changing your messaging, and therefore the tones and styles of your content and designs, your customers will get confused and leave in droves. 

Not to mention, if you can’t settle on an agreed message, it is probably an indicator that you have deeper-running problems than your marketing approach.

How They Work Together

So calling back to that water bottle example, consider how brand recognition and brand awareness could work together to get a sale. The water bottle may be an irregular shape, or it may be brightly coloured whereas the others are all uniform, clear plastic. It catches the customer’s eye and they recognise it as your brand. 

If your customer doesn’t usually buy bottled water and has no preferences or assumptions, simple brand recognition might be enough to get a sale. Realistically though, for this kind of customer the main motivator will probably just be getting the most water for the cheapest price. 

Where you can gain an advantage is if the customer is aware of your brand. This is where your emotional appeals can resonate with the customer and override more logical influencing factors like pricing or convenience.

Imagine the customer has picked up your water, which is sold in a carton, not a bottle, and has a light green colour design. The irregular shape and colour quickly signal that it is your brand. For years, your channels have been aligned in promoting your environmental conservation efforts, including using 100% recycled packaging and donating a portion of sales to charity. 

Despite your water being more expensive than cheap, plastic packaged variants, and the carton being less convenient than the cylindrical bottles of your competitors, your customer connects with your conservation agenda. This persuades them to overlook the more tangible disadvantages of your product, and they make the purchase. 

Brand recognition gets the customer to consider your product, brand awareness gets them to buy it.

Creating Consistent Brand Messaging

Building brand recognition and brand awareness are integral parts of marketing. They should be one of the first things you develop in your marketing plan. Many new businesses make the mistake of rushing into their marketing and assuming that they will have time to finalise their brand messaging later. The trouble is, later has a habit of never arriving.

If you are a new business struggling with your messaging, or an established business that wants to finalise it once and for all, it is worth seeking out a marketing agency.

At Oddball Marketing, helping our clients create core values and messages that represent their business is a part of our process. To get our help with creating your brand identity, get in contact today.

For more information about Oddball Marketing, visit our website. 

Expert marketing tips

delivered to your inbox each month.