Brand Strategy: Increasing Brand Awareness with Referrals in 2020


Branding itself is branded. Although brand management is seen as a “soft” side of marketing, it can provide a sustainable growth for business. Recent studies show that 75% of shoppers are more likely to purchase from a company with a name they recognize. 

Understanding the marketing that stands behind so many success stories helps explain why branded products are so powerful. 

What is brand awareness? 

Brand awareness is the extent of how familiar an individual is with your product, service or brand. Brand awareness can be broken up into two categories: top-of-mind and aided recall. 

Top-of-mind awareness is when your brand is the first company a customer thinks of within your industry. Let’s say David wants to buy a new laptop; what is the first brand he thinks of? For many people, including David, it’s Apple. This isn’t without reason; Apple has done an outstanding job with its brand awareness. The company has a unique lexicon and visual style.  

Aided-recall, on the other hand, requires the customers’ memory to be jogged by using your logo or slogan. Aided-recall would be when you know that you want to purchase a new computer, but you can’t instantly remember the brand name you want. You would have to see the Apple logo or have their slogan think different jog your memory. 

Being the first company remembered in your target audience’s mind will make them more likely to make a purchase from your business rather than a competitor. 

What is a branding strategy?

Building a brand strategy is more than an eye-catching logo and a loud motto. This is sum of marketing methods, deep analysis, budgeting, and balancing between the personal vision and the customers’ real needs.
Overall, there are three main questions every brand must answer:

  • What is the brand’s objective?
  • Who are the customers?
  • How does the brand define long-term success?

The answers to these questions define the positioning on the market.

“Branded” means power?

MailChimp has shown their deepest love to the customers first by answering “Yes!” to their request about adding an email marketing feature though the company was having web-design focus and then again by sending every newly-registered user an adorable knitted cat hat. 

They reported sending 13,440 gifts to their customers. Wired Magazine noted that “the quality of the merch is a direct reflection of MailChimp,” which means they didn’t just give out cheap freebies for the sake of brand awareness. If you want to give out free merch, do it well! 

Milk mustache and the two-word slogan,“Got milk?” have become rooted in the public subconsciousness. The American campaign aimed to increase milk intake by spreading posters showing celebrities with milk mustaches on their faces and filming short videos which showed what life might look like without milk. 

Nielsen rated the Got Milk? slogan twelve times more effective than the Pepsi slogan, and four times better than Coca-Cola’s “Enjoy!” 

These three examples all focused on building an emotional connection with their customers rather than communicating features of their product. Over time, emotional and cultural attachment to a product can win out over other ad strategies .  

Why is brand strategy about building relationships?

What do you look for in a friend? Probably a person who respects you and others as they really are. A reliable person. People look for the same qualities in brands. An Omnicom Media Group study tells us people in Generation Z expect the same qualities from brands as they expect from their friends. 

Making marketing and branding strategies more human is catching on in the sales world. Brands are trying to be funny while speaking about issues people care about. More and more, marketing messages are starting to resemble pep talks. 

Now imagine what will happen if a trusted friend tells our David a brand to check-out? Might he change his opinion if a friend recommends looking at a MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook Air, or suggests checking out HP?

According to Nielsen, 84% of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations as truthful. That means that there’s a very good chance David could change his purchasing choice based on what he hears from his friends. There are at least 84% that David considers changing his tastes and preferences — that’s how many people, find as truthful ones. 

Referral program is part of building brand strategy

Referral marketing is one of the few strategies that allows marketers and brand managers to generate brand awareness and acquire new customers. When customers are motivated to spread the word about your brand with their friends and family, they also prove to those people that yours is a quality, reliable brand. As a result, referral marketing gives your product an identity that makes it stand-out from less-distinguished competitors.  

Refer-a-friend software helps facilitate this sharing by offering your advocates multiple share channels. For example, David’s share page is not limited by email, Facebook, and SMS share options. Different share channels have different strengths. The way to use them depends on your target audience.


Facebook is a good share channel for generating brand awareness. Based on Talkable’s data comparing channels based on different actions referred friends can take, Facebook generates 45.31% of clicks and 37.05% of website visits. However, Facebook is also the weakest share channel for converting those visitors. Shares through Facebook are a good way to make first contact with potential customers. It serves as a great introduction because it shows that your product was endorsed by a friend who is already a customer. 


If you’re looking to convert more friends, offer email as a share channel. While emails bring  fewer visits (18.45%) clicks (11.12%), they convert 41.83% of friends, making email the highest-converting share channel. 


Text messages offer a steady, middle-performing channel channel for sharing offers in terms of  generating brand awareness and converting new customers. SMS gets 12.91% of shares, 3.94% of clicks, and 4.63% of visits. However, SMS helps acquire more new customers than Facebook, and generates 8.17% of friend purchases. 

A symbiosis of success: Brand ambassadors + Referrals

When scrolling through the social media pages of celebrities or influencers, you might see a latently sponsored photo — a box with a company hashtag and a few words about the products in it. This is a typical example of how brands turn their fans into brand ambassadors. And that is one of the most effective types of branding strategies.

And the masters of this tactic are at Glossier. 

The beauty brand startup has achieved unicorn status in 2019 with its latest funding worth $1.2 billion, according to the company. Their “Feeling like Glossier” campaign had a large presence on social media, and the company was especially good at integrating regular people. There are seven people who became faces of the brand, and all of them are Glossier community members. 

Adweek, Weiss told Adweek in an interview that, “[t]he idea of telling individual stories to inspire people to feel a certain way really has been the basis of every single thing we’ve created.” 

Brand ambassadors give a product a feeling that connects people. One person becomes a guide link in the brand-people chain. 

Not only do ambassadors spread the word about a brand, they also spark a competition desire. 


This is a DIFF’s comprehensive campaign with two-tiered awards for ambassadors. While sharing with one friend gives $10 for purchases, sharing links with five turns into $75 to spend on the glasses you’ve been dreaming about. 

Customers can track their rewards earning progress on the site. They can see their number of shares and subsequent possible rewards. The site also shows their number of friends successfully referred and rewards earned. 


These campaigns show how Talkable’s referral campaigns help to leverage brand ambassadors and bloggers through referrals. An Ambassador Campaign targets certain valuable customers by giving them the opportunity to refer their friends in order to earn rewards. 

Eugine Dychko, the Marketing Manager at Talkable, says that nothing promotes your brand better than existing loyal customers. A marketer’s main task here is to turn sharing behavior behaviour into a controlled and measurable channel, which referral marketing helps to achieve. From there, you can start segmenting your audience and concentrating efforts on “brand ambassadors” and influencers — your customers who have their own audience and are willing to be rewarded for promoting your product. You can offer a bigger reward, a limited collection item, or anything else that drives them to share more. 

The value of a brand ambassador reward is higher than the ordinary reward so that your most valuable customers can be recognized. American Fitness Club, for example, decided to run a campaign with a highly engaging gift for their top brand advocates: a free trip!


In conclusion

With a stronger product brand strategy, more prospective customers will consider your brand when they want to make a purchase. If you aren’t thinking of how your brand looks in the eyes of your customers, your competitors are. Some ideas are generic, some are big. Some even become trend-setters. Later, those ideas can be replicated as a best practice for achieving wide brand awareness.

If you want to make sure that your referral marketing improves your brand awareness, book a call with our team!