Brands Are Built, Not ‘Growth Hacked’

Simon Yi
Simon Yi
Dec 14, 2017 · 3 min read

In today’s marketing landscape, performance marketers are encouraged to test and learn messaging and creative to determine what their audience responds to. However, often times, companies do not have the time or resources internally to develop high quality creative for the campaign at hand. Given this situation, it becomes easy for growth marketers to view designers as process bottlenecks.

But what does this cost the brand over time? Is there room for brand building matter in ‘growth hacking’ culture? In this blog post I’ll argue that having brand standards and upholding them matter more in today’s world of infinite information & choice.

The Goal is Brand Salience, Not Brand Awareness

It is widely recognized by researchers that a strong brand can help consumers reduce the cognitive effort to search for products and making product evaluations (see ‘Landes & Posner, An Economic Perspective’ for more reading). Brands that have continued to build a relationship over time are more likely to be remembered when consumers are in a buying state of mind. This is what academics call “brand salience”.

According to Byron Share, Professor of Marketing Sciences at the University of South Australia, brands need to accomplish these 5 things to build brand salience:

  1. Create distinctive brand assets
  2. Get noticed
  3. Continuously reach out to all potential buyers (not just loyal customers)
  4. Refresh brand-linked memories, and
  5. Be consistent in brand messaging

By comparison, brand awareness is merely a binary question for consumers. A consumer can become aware of a brand in a product category but neither have affinity for nor remember the brand when consumers are considering a purchase.

Consumers Expect Personalized Ads Online

If one of the pillars to build brand salience is to get noticed, what helps brands get their ads to stand out? According to two independent studies, consumers prefer advertising that was targeted to their interests over online advertising that was irrelevant to them (source). A study conducted in 2015 by Yahoo & IPG Media Lab further concluded that the younger the consumer, the more they are comfortable with personalized ads.

In fact, 55% of consumers surveyed felt that personalized ads saved them time and attention from browsing irrelevant content. Personalization is appreciated even more when consumers are feeling anxious over a purchase, especially expensive categories like cars and travel.

Ad effectiveness not only depends on not only utilizing precise targeting, but deploying messages that drive brand relevance. By explaining the benefits of a product/service to the consumer, marketers can get noticed while continuing to build mindshare for people who are not quite ready to buy.

Design a Website That is Easy to Understand

Building a landing page to convert traffic? Just remember that first impressions of a brand’s website can impact brand perception. According to a study conducted at Harvard University, researchers were able to predict first impressions based only on visual complexity and colorfulness. TL;DR: visually complex websites results in the largest decrease in perceived trustworthiness and usability. The study defined complexity as high color variability, dense & dissimilar information presentation, and clutter.

In summary, brands are built, not ‘growth hacked’. Walter Landor, acclaimed designer and a pioneer of branding and consumer research techniques, famously said,

“Products are produced in the factory, but brands are produced in the minds of the consumer”


There are clear benefits to building a brand over pushing a product. Building a distinguishable brand helps consumers remember the product or service when they are in the mindset to buy. It behooves performance marketers to take a broader view to better understand the role of brand in the art of persuasion.

This blog post was first published on The Hand.

Simon Yi

Written by

Simon Yi

Performance marketer @ The Hand Media Group.

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