Why Awareness Doesn't Matter Much Anymore

Google it.

It’s almost an involuntary action these days. Whatever we need or want to know, our first reaction is to just Google it. This now ubiquitous behavior has forever diminished the importance of awareness building. The search engine has made finding information so easy that we no longer have to rely on our memory or experiences as a starting point for our investigation. Search has also replaced the time and energy we once used to find resources with the time-consuming task of evaluating all the sources that are out there.

This fundamental shift in brand evaluation behavior should change the way we view awareness and the value we place on it. A recent study conducted by the Enterprise Council on Small Business proves the point:

69% of small-business owners doing research are open to discovering additional brands that were not previously in their awareness set, and 72% start their research on a search engine. (Subscription required)

This is great news for the upstarts and small brands hungry to connect to an audience looking for what they have to offer. But it’s really bad news for the entrenched brands that have invested big dollars in building brand awareness over time.

So if your target audiences are quickly moving beyond the brands they are aware of in order to consider a larger pool of brands, what should be your response? In a word, relevance, or building relevance for your brand in the context of an active query. Making it apparent and easy for prospects to relate your brand and offering to meet their needs and interests are the keys to building the kind of immediate relevance required to rise to the top of their evaluation list. Relating to the prospect’s expectations starts with the initial search text block and continues through the links and click paths we construct on the sites that we direct the prospect to visit. In other words, help prospects complete the task of narrowing down their investigation to you and your brand. Perhaps most important is just how fast this all happens. In Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth” report, the company demonstrates just how quickly initial investigation sets the stage for actions the prospect takes as he or she moves forward in the consideration process.

Awareness, the byproduct of time and touchpoints, once held real value in the marketing process, but that value has been eroded. Awareness is just a click away, and relevance is built in a single connected session. To be successful, you need to move beyond awareness and be ready to market in this zero-moment world. You need to move to real-time relevance.

by Mike Hensley
Executive Vice President, Global Client Service

Cross posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network

Follow Mike on Twitter @DigitalHensley