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Awareness vs. Access: What's Better?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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We are living in very interesting and exciting times. The speed in which AdLand is being forced to adapt to the changing habits of the consumer is absolutely incredible. There are more social networks, news outlets, and channels popping up everywhere. Consumers can choose traditional cable, satellite, or stream. There are different audiences in nearly every segment. People can find referrals from nearly every turn. If there is a negative review, brands have to jump on it as quickly as it can in order to minimize the impact.

One would have to ask: what's the best way for consumers to find us?

Interesting question, for sure. It has been traditionally taught that we need brands to stick in the consumer's mind in order to be the first option they think of. We can call that ToM (top of mind), or sticking in the consideration sets of the consumer's conscious decision-making.

But is that still relevant? 

Let's compare with access. Let's say that the consumer has an idea of what they want. They need a new pair of jeans. What do they do? Do they search which store carries their brand, or do they search for the spot that has the best prices, or better yet- do they look up stores and reviews from their friends and respective circles?

Chances are, it's a combination. So even though the consumer has an idea of what they want, they search for options. If that is the case, what if the brand they are thinking about is nowhere to be found? What happens then- does the consumer rely on their own intuition, or do they follow the crowd?

Studies show that they will follow the crowd. Social proof will win more often that not (at least, when observing an entire population).

Based off the evidence provided, then, it seems that accessibility would be better than awareness, because accessibility is the primary complement to awareness. 

What does this mean for brands? It means that even though you create a good (or hopefully, great and unique) product, you must provide an outlet or channel for consumers to find you. Thankfully digital media has been a great amplifier for word-of-mouth. 

Though people want to clamour and proclaim that brands cannot control the message, we think that logic is misplaced. We can control and influence the dialogue, but we must be vigilant and provide the platform. 


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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