In last week’s article, I explained why it’s important to be specific about your online branding objectives. It’s not enough to say that your goal is “branding,” as if that’s one thing. Different branding objectives, like building awareness, message association, or purchase intent, will dictate different branding strategies and tactics.
Without an appropriate set of objectives, you can end up not only with a misguided strategy, but with an unrealistic set of goals. Increasing brand awareness for a product that already has a baseline awareness of 99 percent, for example, can be virtually impossible. If you set the wrong objectives, you set yourself up for failure.
But how do you set the right ones? Out of all the many factors that go into defining branding objectives, there are few more important than the consideration level of the product you are advertising. Ask yourself, Is the consideration level for your product high or low? The answer will have a big effect on your eventual strategy and results.
High-consideration products, like automobiles and computers, are expensive and information-rich, meaning that consumers usually try to learn a lot about them before they buy one. They are not impulse-purchase products.
Low-consideration products, on the other hand, are typically inexpensive, and product choice is usually made right at the point of purchase. Laundry detergent is a good example. People don’t need to go through a long process before deciding which laundry detergent to use. They usually scan the supermarket shelf and pick out a brand that they have an inclination toward or some loyalty to.
Branding is important for both high- and low-consideration products. People can be as loyal to a brand of car as they are to a brand of soap. And despite the fact that branding campaigns often link products to arbitrary feelings and images (e.g., this brand will bring your family together), most of us think we have more objective reasons for our product purchases (e.g., this product is better), whether the product is a high- or low-consideration one.
But there are some important differences. Here are some ways that online branding strategies might differ depending on the consideration level of the product:
- Because low-consideration products are cheaper, it’s less risky to try a new brand out. For that reason, it’s easier for advertising to increase purchase intent. It also means that campaigns to induce trial purchase have a much greater chance of success.
- Because brand choice is not as premeditated for low-consideration products as it is for high-consideration ones, and purchase is more frequent, low-consideration brands have more of a need to stay constantly top of mind. This might dictate a high-reach, high-frequency strategy. On the other hand, advertising for high-consideration products might be more effective in areas where people are focused on seeking information for a purchase.
- Advertising for low-consideration products can be effective in associating the brand with situations in which the consumer is likely to purchase the product. A company I worked with, for example, had success associating its snack food with football, thus increasing the likelihood that people would choose to buy the brand when shopping for snacks to eat during televised games.
- The purchase decision-making process is much longer for high-consideration products. Thus, for these products, marketers should focus on moving consumers down the “purchase funnel” — from awareness, to consideration, to intent, to purchase.
Online branding can aim to move prospective customers incrementally through these steps. For instance, an initial objective might be to get them to test-drive an automobile. Unlike for low-consideration products, it’s difficult to close the sale in one fell swoop.
- People are more concerned that the decisions they make for high-consideration products are reasoned and objective. People go to the web for information. So providing good information about product attributes makes sense for a car or a computer brand. You should skip the details for low-consideration products. No one cares to read about soap.
These concepts are not new. They have been applied to traditional marketing for years. If you are using the Internet to accomplish the branding objectives important to traditional advertisers, it’s good to keep factors like consideration in mind when plotting success.