Does awareness or affinity drive brand growth?

Awareness vs affinity. Reach vs resonance. Even customer acquisition vs loyalty.  

The debate has many names, and it’s clearly not going anywhere. But what if everyone’s right?


Brand awareness vs affinity       

Each week, we break down another marketing concept so you can skip the hype and get directly to what works. 

Brand awareness refers to how familiar your audience is with your brand. Brand affinity, on the other hand, measures how much your customers care about your brand. And recently, a long-standing marketing debate has resurfaced, asking whether brands should focus more on awareness or affinity. 

However, the two are far from mutually exclusive. Both awareness and affinity have crucial roles in brand growth.  

Awareness sets the stage, attracting initial attention from potential customers. Without awareness, there is no affinity. Because a consumer can't establish a positive connection with a brand until they’ve heard of it first. Research backs up the value of awareness—showing brand loyalty is on the decline and most revenue growth comes from acquiring new customers

But affinity strengthens the connection awareness creates. And creating a brand that resonates with your audience on an emotional level, fostering trust and loyalty, may provide more long-term value than simply being known, especially if you’re known for the wrong reasons. 

Because not all awareness is beneficial. If your brand is associated with negative attributes, high awareness may do more harm than good.  

So, to drive brand growth, strike a balance between both affinity and awareness. Here’s how.

  1. Invest in reach. This is your starting point. Get the word out about your brand so people know about you in the first place!
  2. Promote positive awareness. Not all press is good press. Awareness can backfire if your brand is known for the wrong reasons. Use brand audits to ensure your messaging and overall brand image stay positively aligned. Watch for negative feedback and address it proactively. 
  3. Remember, brand-building is complicated. There are many factors at play when driving brand growth, beyond even awareness and affinity. Your brand also needs to stay relevant to your audience's lifestyle and budget—only 17% of consumers say they’ll continue to shop with brands they trust, regardless of price. Always keep the customer at the forefront of your brand strategy. 
  4. Know that every brand is different. Your brand may be new to the market and need to focus on awareness. A more established brand may spend greater time cultivating customer relationships. A soda brand may need to focus on awareness to stand out from competitors. But a high-ticket B2B software company may prioritize building trust. It all depends on your growth stage, category, and target audience.

As is often the case in marketing debates, both sides of the awareness vs affinity battle make strong points. But investing in both is an even stronger solution.

Key Takeaway: In the world of marketing, an 'either-or' scenario may be best solved with a “both-and” answer. Find the right balance between awareness and affinity that suits your brand's unique goals and audience. 


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