Brand Awareness or a hard sell? Which is right for your business?

With the advent of digital marketing, the world of marketing shifted seismically. Gone are the days where marketing is only about pushing a product or service. Today’s smart brand has to balance the art of the soft sell to entice their customers through the door, with smart use of other sales techniques as needed. How do you know where to begin? We asked the experts at Zebra 360 Digital Marketing Agency for their thoughts on this key matter.

What does ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sell mean, anyway?

‘Hard sell’ means unabashed marketing with a strong call to action. Think of the special pamphlets you get from your local supermarket. There’s no attempt to disguise that this is just about selling the offer or product. You present facts, hoping to appeal to the audience, and it’s an aggressive sales tactic. Some businesses are known for their ‘hard sell’ approaches, like payday loan companies, used car dealers, and even political candidates. You might notice that that’s also a list that often generates annoyance in people. So a hard sell campaign also has to be smart and balanced to not be ignored.

‘Soft sell’, on the other hand, doesn’t have the urgency of hard sell and it’s often received much better. You’re cultivating emotions towards your brand, and it’s an indirect (but powerful) sales technique. You’re establishing trust and engagement with your audience, and building rapport with them, not pushing something specific in their face. Coke is well known for selling aspirational, lifestyle-focused advertising that barely mentions their product, and it’s a great example of soft sell and brand awareness.

What is brand awareness?

Brand awareness is a form of soft sell that’s critical to the longevity of a business, but also doesn’t always bring a direct and measurable result. It’s critical to build over time, however. The average person, going about their daily life, is exposed to hundreds of brand messages daily. How do you make it so your company becomes synonymous with your product when people think about it? How do you stand out enough that it becomes your brand which they buy?

Coke doesn’t need to make sure you know what Coke is, yet it invests heavily in brand awareness. Why? Because they know how quickly that brand awareness saturation can slip away if it’s not worked on. Think of all the jingles you have stuck in your head. The colours and fonts which make you think of specific products. The way you call every vacuum cleaner you own a ‘hoover’ and every spring toy a ‘slinky’.

Brand awareness builds trust, drives repeated purchases and brand loyalty, and rates a higher market share.

How do I choose between selling my brand and product?

So, as you can see, brand awareness is the biggest soft sell there is, while hard sell tactics can work well for specific events, services, or products you offer if done right. How do you know when to do what.

It starts with smart data analytics. You also need to know where the buyer’s journey is for the bulk of your clients. Many companies use social media marketing to build trust and brand awareness, while targeting hard sell products through pay-per-click advertising and search results. That’s because they are leveraging both platforms to their advantage. Done well, both should also be part of a bigger, holistic, sales strategy.

In short, there’s no easy answer. Without brand awareness, no matter how good your product is, people will never know you exist. But brand awareness alone will not sell products, especially new products. Being too pushy with hard sales tactics will turn people away, yet are perfectly appropriate (used well) for specific events and campaigns.

So it pays to work on both angles. This will be a careful balancing act through all of your marketing, making sure you use both to enhance your ultimate business goals. It’s a difficult line to work, especially in an era where direct and bold-faced hard sell doesn’t appeal to people. It’s intimidating to find that special balance between product messaging and brand messaging, so don’t be afraid to invest in digital campaign management with a specialist that can help you find the right way forward.

Keen to boost your business with the right ad campaigns? The Zebra 360 Digital Marketing Agency team is always here to help you build your brand to its best potential.