What is Brand Salience?
In marketing measures, brand salience is a KPI that gauges how well respondents notice a brand. In cognitive psychology, “salience” defines the domain of the most prominent or noticeable. A Salient brand is a brand that consumers see and – more importantly – remember. This measure is particularly effective in assessing a brand’s likelihood to be part of a consumer repertoire. As a matter of fact, according to Hubspot, “Brand salience is a marketing KPI that tells you how well people recognize, notice, or think about your brand when they’re making purchasing decisions.”
Brand Salience vs. Recall and Top of Mind Awareness
In this sense, salience is more closely related to purchase intent than similar measures included in brand equity, like brand awareness and recall. Brand Salience incorporates “top of mind” awareness but predicts the ability to impact future consumption, which is not the case for the equity measure.
Whereas brand recall explains how well consumers remember a brand – a crucial step towards equity building: no memory, no equity, high recall, high equity potential (but of course, if consumers recall your brand for the wrong reasons, like a scandal, they have a negative perception and that’s not building equity either.) But salience is more action-driven.
Brand Salience: a common misconception
A common misconception is that communication with a clear call-to-action does not improve brand salience, whereas attribute-based communication does. It is not the type of communication that determines saliency. But, indeed, temporary-price promotions do not contribute positively to attribute reinforcing, whereas attributes-based campaigns are more likely to drive saliency.
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Building Brand Salience: five levers
There are several elements pushing brand salience. Some of them are more tactical, others more strategic. The measure has two vital components: a memory one, which is the ability to create memories with the brand; the second is attention-based, which is the ability for a brand to grasp the consumer’s attention at the moment of purchase. Hence we list five levers in building salience:
1) Consistency of assets: consistency is key to forming the brand memories that drive action. In a world where our brains receive 10-15,000 adverts per day, consistency is vital to ensure consumers link the adverts of one brand to the brand.
2) Distinctiveness of the message: a paradox of saliency is that copycatting is likely to strengthen the “copied” instead of the “copying” brand. So whenever an emerging brand borrows from a more significant player, the lack of uniqueness of the message will drive saliency for the more important player.
3) Distinctiveness of assets: a similar paradox applies to communication assets. But communication assets are more likely to create the memory and polarize it. While I was working at Campari in Belgium, a few years ago, I met someone from Nespresso, who shared with me the concern that George Cluny’s endorsement of their coffee system in the kingdom of Chocolate and Fries was doing work more for Campari, than Nespresso. To that extend, they had consumer tracking proving that Cluney’s image was as associated with Nespresso as it was with Campari and Martini. More interestingly, George Cluey was promoting Martini and not Campari: yet from a perception point of view, a rather large group of consumers could not see the difference. Lack of distinctiveness did not help Nespresso nor Martini. It somehow helped Campari.
4) Emotional Connection: Emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes in humans. Emotions modulate the selectivity of attention and motivate actions and behavior. Building an emotional connection between brands and consumers is one of the most important drivers of brand saliency. Because it allows to forming memories, and it motivates consumers to action, and therefore to purchase. Brand Purpose is also a platform to create emotional connections, which run deeply with consumers’ preferences. But Purpose alone is neither necessary nor sufficient to a salient brand.
5) Authenticity: Uniqueness is important, but authenticity is a crucial enabler. Consumers’ ability to trust a brand plays a role in how well they remember it and whether they are moved to action or not. Specifically, both high degrees of trust and mistrust drive memories, but only one ensures purchase intention.
Examples of Brand Salience
With no consumer research on hand, it isn’t easy to guess the saliency of a brand. However, some brands became a proxy for their category, and we know that saliency is exceptionally high for those. Here are some examples:
Google: internet search.
Netflix: video streaming
Tesla: electric cars
Jacuzzi: hot tubs
Kleenex: paper tissues
Scotch Tape: adhesive film
Tupperware: plastic containers
Measuring Brand Saliency and optimizing its development could drive growth both in the short and long term. However, because saliency is based on consumers’ ability to form memories with the brand, we like to think of the KPI as a more long-term play than a short-term tactical effort.