The Importance of Promoting Brand Awareness

Promoting a product or service is easy. Promoting your brand is where the real challenge lies.

When it comes to businesses, one thing that I have noticed is that most companies are good at promoting their product and/or service. Usually what I fail to see though are these same companies promote themselves, often relying on their efficient product or service to carry them to victory and/or define their brand. Of course, an excellent product and service can make all the difference to a company, and promoting a product and service is vital to a company’s success, however creating and promoting a branded identity for a company is essentially separating the men and women from the boys and girls in market promotion.

The Struggles of KFC

For me to prove my point it is time to step into the loose, high-class, and sexy world of the fast-food industry. It is no secret that the fried-chicken chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has struggled in recent years. This is because their products and services have remained in a stasis while changing trends were occurring in the world around them. However, this same story can be applied to McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s. Sure, all of these places have changed their ingredients to something slightly healthier, but for the most part it shouldn’t be enough to sway customer perceptions. So, what does the continuously growing McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s do that KFC doesn’t? They have constantly kept their eye on the ball of growing their company’s brand.

What we are taught is that these companies sell one thing: fast food. However, in reality, they are selling two things: fast food and an experience. Experience is simply another word for their brand and it is their mission to promote that experience. McDonald’s and Wendy’s have lately renovated their restaurants to provide a more modern feel. KFC has, unfortunately, largely been left behind on that (even though they are improving in that area, they still have ways to go to catch up to the other restaurants). This has clearly been an issue for them since their replies to tweets have largely been apologizing to customers for bad experiences.

This brings me to promoting their brand outside of the restaurant. When you look at KFC’s Twitter page you will notice a large selection of tweets dedicated to promoting their product. These mainly consist of ads tying themselves to Colonel Sanders and certain aspects of their fried chicken. These tweets are by no means bad, but they fail to promote their experience that they are trying to go for other than telling a few jokes. Many of the other restaurants do have similar tweets to KFC, but most of them have an ace in the hole in selling their experience to customers: engagement.

A look at KFC’s Twitter responses to customer complaints. The similarities of each response are noticeable.

When you look at the engagement level of KFC on Twitter you will notice that many of them are clearly automated responses. This is not the case when you compare it to Wendy’s which is highly personable, even during the times that they are apologizing to certain customers. In fact, Wendy’s engagement is so good that it has officially become part of their brand and has given customers more excuses to engage. This isn’t to say that KFC is going to fall apart tomorrow, but they have been lagging in their sales far more than Wendy’s and this lack of engagement could be a reason. This isn’t to say that other fast-food restaurants have remained unaffected by the changing tied of fast-food, but it has managed to take a stronger hold in the scene when compared to KFC.

Stepping Out of the Box

The lesson to learn from this above example is that more engagement creates more brand awareness and more brand awareness could translate into more sales. However, marketing a brand is a challenge since it isn’t something tangible like a product or service, which is why it often takes a long time to create one. On top of that, creating a brand often means stepping out of the box in order to directly engage with people. For some companies this can be uncomfortable since that box is so comfy. Stepping out of the box is especially challenging when a company is doing well with just promoting their product and/or service. However, from what I’ve witnessed, most companies that do that tend to struggle with creating revenue growth year after year and it can often backfire on them when a crisis befalls a company (think United Airlines for example. Do they really have any brand awareness outside of being known for airplanes? If they had built more of a brand awareness through engaging with customers they may have not been hit as hard).

Essentially, the question is this: do you want to have an excellent product and service but a forgettable company? Or do you want to have an excellent product, service, and company? Because I’ll say this: the latter is far better.

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