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What is Brand Salience?

I’ll tell you what it isn’t; rocket science!

Brand Salience might sound complicated but in essence, it is simply the level at which a customer thinks about or notices your brand, when they are in a buying situation.

Brand Salience is not the same as ‘top of mind’ awareness.

Top of mind awareness is just what brands come-to-mind when buyers or users are asked to evoke brands within a category.

Brand Salience is different.

In the marketplace, the stronger the brand, the higher the Brand Salience, is the explanation for why big brands are big and small brands are small. This self-explanatory nugget of what passes as wisdom, otherwise known as, ‘stating the bleeding obvious’, is if your business or service is not brought to mind at the moment of purchase, your brand will be consigned to the round file under the customer’s desk along with all the other small and disregarded brands, used tissues and apple cores.

Now that I’ve explained it, it sounds really simple, but there is actually some science to back all of this up; it’s the science of how memories are formed, along with the quantity and quality of those remembrances.

Recollections Quantity  

Because Brand Salience is a psychological effect which customers use in their buying decision, it is based on perceptions constructed in the brain over a period of time. Brand Salience therefore is dependent on the quantity and quality of any engagement with the brand.

The more numerous the memory recollections linked to the brand, the more salient the brand becomes which means it is more likely to be thought of in the critical moment of buying.

I’ll keep this simple and use McDonald’s.

What do you think of when you have 99p and you want something to eat?  The McDonald’s Saver Menu.

Who do you think of when you want fast-food: McDonald’s?

Coffee: McDonald’s.

America: McDonald’s.

Toys: McDonald’s.

Happy: McDonald’s.

Burger: McDonald’s.

An Apple pie that will stick to the roof of your mouth giving you immediate and enduring blistering that not even taking off the lid of a milkshake and inhaling it can cool down: McDonald’s, obviously.

And this is only a tiny example of how McDonald’s has created a myriad of ways to ensure that you not only remember their product, you then buy it.

In salient marketing buying contexts, customers are motivated through a series of mental “cues” designed to trigger thoughts around brand consideration, through the strength and relevance of the association.

What customers recollect about brands is not always the same across all purchasing decisions, so the quantity of recollections then becomes critical.

Recollections Quality

It has been argued that the quality of Brand Salience is a function of the strength of the association and the attribute relevance.  Take the McDonald’s example above: because I’ve seen so many toys and burgers together, the link is very strong. In addition, if value is important and relevant to me, say because I’m on a budget, then a 99p burger increases further Brand Salience.

All together

Brand Salience then is a function of:

  • the quantity of memory structures your brand is linked to and
  • the quality of these structures, defined by strength of association and relevance.

By developing both the quantity and quality of memory structures, you optimise the number of customers who will think of your brand in various buying situations.

See, told you, not rocket science.

Is there a conflict between Brand Salience and Brand Equity?

There needn’t be. Marketers should really be combining both approaches to building Brand Salience.

If you know and understand traditional CPG brand management, then you know that a brand should define its equity and meticulously and relentlessly focus on its communicating and disseminating that equity without deviation.

Although to CPG marketers who couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss, Brand Salience seems a bit like a licence for casual communication without a thought for equity. Like the time I approached that girl on the corner of Edge Lane…

If your focus is on circumscribing and communicating different cues alongside a common equity, you need to carry out market research to get to grips with the most relevant and important cues which link to your brand. Once these are defined, brands have to perform creatively against these cues to maximise salience.

Take Subway’s, “fresh and healthy” positioning for example, it can be executed through a diverse but connected range of cues such as “good for the kids,” “healthy diet options,” “terrific for outdoors,” etc. These different cues are what lead customers to consider Subway for a “fresh and healthy” meal, that’s good for the kids and ideal for them when they are on diet, starting say next Monday, or the Monday after.

As a marketer, you not only need to create your own distinctive executional memory structures but to increase the quantity and quality of those structures. For example, the Subway logo, the £5 foot long music, etc. All of these are examples of creating executional memory structures creating a platform that enables customers to more easily remember your brand in buying situations.

So, Brand Salience is an important but strangely ignored challenge for marketers. If you are not convinced here’s the dictionary definition of salient and its antonyms.

Dictionary Definition: Salient

Adjective: prominent, conspicuous, or striking, a salient feature.

And it’s antonyms: inconspicuous, unimportant. Pick One.

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