Complex Made Simple

Startups: 3 secret ways of building strong brand awareness — PART 1

By Neil Petch, Chairman at Virtugroup (This is the PART 1 of the op-ed piece. For PART 2, click here)

Entrepreneurs often dream of the sort of supercharged brand awareness that eclipses the competitors and becomes so ubiquitous that it enters the everyday language.

But brand awareness doesn’t have to reach the status of Hoover or Google to be successful.

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Local companies here in the UAE that have gone from nothing to household names have done so by identifying their ideal customer, offering them sustained engagement and value without appearing to sell, and then harnessing that loyalty by exceeding customers’ expectations.

So let’s look at three key principles which are not only cost-effective but crucial to the sort of engagement every entrepreneur should be chasing.

#1 Create a customer persona

Put some time and effort into the process of understanding exactly who your ideal customer is.

We only have to look at one local UAE success story to see why it’s so important: Emirates moved very quickly from simply aspiring to be the flag carrier of Dubai when it was established in 1985 to repositioning itself by understanding who its ideal customer was.

In doing so, it engineered a move from air transport into the lifestyle category to appeal directly to its customers’ aspirations.

And in YouGov’s Brand Index 2017 Advocacy Ratings, the airline came second overall, and top of the list in its Brand Index Ratings for 2017.

By understanding its buyer persona, Emirates was then able to create a series of messages focusing on its unique offering and philosophy.

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As its understanding of the ideal customer base developed, so too did its message and brand, as reflected in its many changing taglines: from ‘Be good to yourself. Fly Emirates’ to ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time’ and ‘Hello tomorrow’.

Emirates constantly refines its message to appeal to its lifestyle customer base.

What it means for you

The key takeaway here is that whatever your service or product if you don’t connect with your ideal customers on an emotional level and ‘speak their language’ by understanding their aspirations, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to persuade them to do anything, let alone part with their money.

#2 Promote content marketing

Put simply, to have a presence in the digital world, you need to have content. And the main aim of content marketing is to talk to your existing and potential customers from a position of trust so that you can get across the benefits of your brand without the turn-off of a straight sales approach.

Customers want to be engaged by each interaction, and they expect to take away some value from that engagement – but this is not as easy as it sounds. Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2017 report looked at some of the biggest challenges facing marketers.

One issue it noted was that 27% of respondents found engaging decision-makers to be more challenging compared to 2–3 years ago. This suggests the need to find a more creative approach to engagement.

So how do you achieve this? The answer is: don’t sell but become a recognised expert. If you’re regularly offering fresh and unique content, there’s much more chance that visitors will share that content across the internet, in the process generating increased traffic and leads.

And it seems to pay off: according to the CMI report B2C Content Marketing 2018: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America, 78% of marketers felt their content marketing efforts were moderate to extremely successful, compared to 70% the year before.

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One of the most effective content formats to increase visitors to your website is a blog. It can not only supercharge your SEO, but also greatly increase lead generation.

Visitors who can take away some value from their experience are much more likely to convert into prospects and customers.

Other forms of content, such as infographics, videos, and apps, can also be effective. Look at the UAE’s premier real estate company, Emaar Properties, which went from nothing to sponsoring Lotus’s Formula 1 team in just 16 years.

It used technology in the form of a Newsfeed Smartapp to exhibit and promote the experience of its new Dubai Creek Harbour development directly into a Facebook newsfeed.

This helped home-grown Emaar reach the top of the 2017 UAE Advocacy Rankings produced by YouGov’s Brand Index, making it the most recommended brand among consumers in the UAE.

As an added bonus, when compared to outbound marketing (paid advertising, trade shows, cold calling, etc), content marketing comes in at a fraction of the cost.

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An earlier report from Hubspot, in 2012, found that organisations using inbound marketing tactics saw a 61% lower lead cost than those using mainly outbound tactics.

What it means for you

But whichever content marketing format you choose – and it makes sense to add some variety to stand out from the crowd – the key lesson here is to promote it. Remember, building a brand is a process, not a one-off.

So promote new quality content regularly and often, and it will help you build strong and sustainable brand awareness.


This is the PART 1 of the article. For PART 2, Click here