Maximizing brand recognition

Quick, What do you recognize?
Look around your desk. What do you see? A coffee cup with a graphic on it? A coaster or perhaps a mouse pad in the shape of a CD? Recognizing these items involves visual cues stored in your memory. You've seen the item before and you're able to identify it based on features including shape, location, color, and size. Even the relationship the item has with another item provides your brain with recognition cues. The cup contains coffee and rests on a CD. How do you know the CD is a coaster and not an active CD? Visual cues. Without them, you could very well have spilled coffee on a critical CD. If this exercise has made you double-check the CD, then there weren't enough cues to distinguish the CD between a coaster and an archive. And therein lies an important branding lesson. Successful branding strategies manage and leverage feature cues to achieve brand recognition.

The process of recognition is a core component of branding. If a brand strategy doesn't employ visual or auditive cues, then establishing brand perceptions and evoking memories is a lot more difficult and complicated. Why? Because without cues, the brain has to rely solely on recall to remember a brand. Studies have shown that the brain's ability for recognition is greater than for recall. It's one of the reasons why a multiple choice quiz is easier than one requiring total recall.

Brand Recognition Cues
Go back to the coffee cup with the graphic. Is it a design you instantly recognize? What aspect of the design helps you to recognize it? The color? The shape? Perhaps you don't recognize the design, but you do recognize the typeface style. A brand strategy which employs the maximum number of recognition cues has an advantage over a competing brand using fewer cues. The more cues the higher the probability that the brand will be recognized by more people.

There are many cues in the brand recognition arsenal. Typically brand building begins with aesthetic cues, the design features in a graphic or logo meant to visually represent the brand. Color, shape, texture, style, typeface, and position are among the design attributes which can offer recognition cues, making a design visually distinctive. It's the reason why, when a new logo is evaluated, recognition factors and design uniqueness are taken into consideration.

Recognition cues aren't limited to visuals. Auditory signals can contribute to recognition by providing sound cues for a brand. How many of us now associate Hummer vehicles with the Happy Jack song sung by The Who? Can you say the AFLAC insurance company name without sounding like a duck?

Take Advantage of Recognition Cues
While it's true that a brand is more than a logo or an ad jingle, maximizing brand recognition by harnessing visual and auditive attributes increases the effectiveness of an entire brand management strategy. If the brand is not recognized then other brand activities have nothing upon which to build. Brand memories are constructed using a complex network of associative links. The strongest brands with high recognition rates are those that have established the largest number and clearest association memory links.

Information professionals establishing their brand would do well to aggressively manage as many visual and auditive cues as possible. Some information services aren't allowed to use a unique graphic or logo to represent themselves. This situation doesn't necessarily spell brand disaster, but instead dictates that other visual cues should be identified and then actively managed. A brand prevented from using a graphic symbol might use a distinctive typeface treatment or unique combination of colors. Color, when consistently defined and aptly applied, can be the primary cue which prompts people to recognize information products and services. If your branding strategy doesn't employ a full range of visual and auditive cues, brand recognition is still attainable; however, you will need patience and diligence before recognition measures reach satisfactory levels. If time is of the essence or the branding strategy is being driven by encroaching competition, then you'll need to deploy every brand recognition cue you can muster.
Attaining brand recognition in the target market is a critical milestone for any branding strategy. Take the time to audit your brand's visual and auditive recognition cues, measure current recognition levels, and implement remedial actions if needed. Remember, if your brand isn't recognized then perception-building brand activities won't be as effective as they could be.

By Chris Olson


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