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Brand Awareness vs. Consumer Recommendation: Which is More Important?

If awareness is the #1 driver of brand “power,” and if awareness is driven by shelf placement, what happens to brand power if your brand isn’t on retail shelves?

This was just one of the questions inspired by Wine Intelligence’s presentation this month at Prowein 2018. CEO Lulie Halstead’s research identified and measured the effect of three criteria on brand “power”:

  1. Aided Awareness: % of wine consumers aware of a brand when shown its logo and name combination;
  2. Purchase frequency: number of times the consumer bought the brand in the last 3 months; and
  3. Recommendation rate: % consumers who would recommend it to a friend.

The rise or fall of these three criteria were measured for specific volumetric brands and, over a decade, the rise in aided awareness was dramatically higher than the rise in purchase rate and recommendation rate. Let me say that again: for successful, volumetric brands, awareness grew much faster over time than did purchase frequency and recommendation rate. In the U.S. between 2007 and 2017 Barefoot’s aided awareness rose from 27% to 71%, while its purchase frequency (31% to 37%) and recommendation rate (40% to 43%) rose more slowly.

The findings for power brands held true across thousands of consumers and 15 countries.

So what’s going on here? I’m afraid we have more questions than answers, but bear with us.

It’s not surprising that awareness drives sales. Duh. But conventional wisdom and a lot of research claims that peer-to-peer recommendations are the #1 driver of purchase, or at least intent to purchase (what people say in surveys and what they actually do can differ). Wine Intelligence’s research contradicts this notion: it claims that visibility has a larger positive effect than other factors for power brands like Yellowtail, Barefoot or Woodbridge. The other factors, purchase frequency and recommendation rate, are important but grow less than awareness does for these successful, volumetric brands.

So what drives brand awareness? At Benson, we grapple with this every day. We would posit that wine brand awareness is a function of press coverage, digital presence, advertising, shelf placement and ACV, and packaging, among other factors, and in no particular order.

Now, back to the original question: how are these drivers of awareness changing in a dynamic marketplace?

  • Imagine if 15%-20% of off-premise sales move to the home delivery model. That would decrease the potentially positive effects that shelf placement, ACV and packaging have on brand awareness, even if the delivery platforms offer brand advertising.
  • What about digital? If awareness trumps recommendations, digital spend should maximize reach and frequency at the expense of engagement (think Facebook ads versus clever boosted posts). That conclusion will be sacrilegious to many.
  • What about DTC brands? Of course, this study doesn’t directly address DTC, but it suggests what we all know: DTC brands rely very heavily on creating consumer connections, or “affinity,” as Wine Intelligence calls it.

And a final, humbling note: Even when prompted with a wine logo and name, the average number of wine brands a US consumer could identify was only 17, and for France the number was 8. Time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Taken from the presentation, “Global wine brand power and consumer trends,” Lulie Halstead, CEO, Wine Intelligence. www.wineintelligence.com