Mental availability: is your brand holding back?

15.11.23 | By Willow & Blake | insights

Mental availability: is your brand holding back?

Maybe it’s them, maybe it’s you–or maybe you’re just not as mentally available as you think you are.

Not unlike the world of online dating, the global marketplace is a jam-packed space. Full of bright-eyed brands with alluring products and services putting themselves out there in the hope of finding a connection. Each rightfully working on their brand awareness to boost their chances. But how many of those brands are thinking about mental availability? Or better yet, what even is it? In the fast-paced world of marketing, it’s those who focus on both that make the most connections – and the most conversions. 

The quick and easy.

Where brand awareness has all to do with the recognition of unique identifiers (logo, colour palette, tone of voice, and all those crucial things), mental availability is what puts you in the mind of a consumer when they are in a buying situation. It’s not what to think about the brand, it’s when to think about the brand. 

Subtle difference, huge implications.

The distinction between brand awareness and mental availability may be subtle but get it wrong at great risk. When it comes to customer recall, brand awareness is only half of the story. It's all too often the case that although a company is well known, it falls short when it comes to getting remembered in the right situations. And in a saturated market, the brand that comes to mind first tends to be the one that gets chosen. So where to from here?

How to be more mentally available.

While familiarity breeds contentment and contentment creates conversions, brands need to dig deeper to make sure they aren’t losing opportunities. If you want to increase your brand’s mental availability, you need to develop a number of memorable links in a buyer’s mind. And while there are many ways to go about that, some more suited to certain brands than others, a straightforward approach is to rethink measurement, message and creative assets

  1. Refocus your insights.

Start with rethinking your data. Instead of measuring whether a consumer has heard of your brand (easy enough, but a rather one-dimensional metric for big names), ask about the situations in which we want to come to mind. Are you being thought of in the right scenarios? 

Let’s take the example of Microsoft Teams from Peter Weinberg, Global Lead at LinkedIn. Ask a room if they’ve heard of Teams and you’ll get a resounding yes. Job well done, right? Well, not so fast. Ask the room instead if they use Teams for not just instant messaging but meetings? Webinars? Or to call their mum? And suddenly you’ve uncovered a gap. Here’s the growth opportunity. 

2. Target your message.

Now that you’ve determined the situations in which your brand is being recalled and the one’s in which it isn’t, you can work on increasing those entry points. A brand needs to focus its message on the specific cues that trigger a customer to enter the market. In the case of Microsoft Teams, this would be creating a campaign using their program to call home. Now they can start measuring the strength of that link over time. There’s your useful data. 

3. Refresh your brand.

Put simply, stand out and you’re more likely to be remembered. Distinctive assets will not only help an ad get noticed (and stay top of mind) but assist in building memory structures for those entry points. You need a message that’s not just sticky enough, it’s visible enough. Make sure the audience can easily differentiate the brand while you’re teeing up future connections. 

You’re there, but are you really there?

Just as brand awareness is only half the story when it comes to customer recall, mental availability is only half the story when it comes to successful conversions. Think: “Easy to mind. Easy to find.” Make sure your brand is physically available in all buying situations. That your website won’t crash on Black Friday. That your product is in stock on the shelves. That you’ve tested the links in your landing page (twice). 

With strong brand awareness, strategic situational associations, and clever, eye-catching assets, a brand can position itself in just the right spot–smack in the mind of its target audience not only where it needs to be, but when it needs to be. And ultimately isn’t that the goal in a competitive market? To make it easier for buyers. There are enough distractions as it is. 

So if you’re putting your brand out there but not getting enough connections, maybe it’s them, maybe it’s you–or maybe you’re just not as mentally available as you think you are. 

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