Brand Salience: The key to becoming the consumer choice

Sallie Bale • 22nd Jan 2024

Brand Salience means buyers conjure up your brand in the right buying situations. It’s not just about brand recognition; it’s about being the first choice at the crucial decision-making moment.

In this article you’ll find out about:

This metric hinges on creating strong, positive associations, ensuring your brand resonates with consumers precisely at the point of purchase, thereby elevating your brand from mere awareness to being the preferred option in a crowded marketplace.

Imagine you’re in a supermarket, rushing to grab ingredients for dinner. Amidst the myriad of options, certain products immediately catch your eye. These are the ones you’ve bought before, heard about, or seen advertised.

This instinctive recognition and preference, almost like reaching for your favourite coffee mug in the morning without thinking, is brand salience at play. It’s the reason you choose these familiar items over others, almost automatically, in the hustle of daily choices.

We shop on autopilot, ignoring thousands of products at a time. So how do you make sure your brand has maximum pick-up-ability?

How do you define Brand Salience?

According to research done by Jenni Romaniuk and Byron Sharp, brand salience is: 

A brand’s propensity to be noticed or come to mind in buying situations.

Rebecca Riserbato at Hubspot has the following definition:

Brand salience is a similar metric to brand awareness except it’s focused on measuring awareness during the actual purchasing decision instead of overall brand visibility.

Dom Boyd, Managing Director, UK Insights and Marketing Effectiveness Practice, UK, Kantar, described being salient the following way in an article for the IPA:

Coming to mind easily when making a choice between brands.

So what are the key elements of Brand Salience? 

  1. Focus on the Moment of Purchase: All definitions emphasise the importance of the brand coming to mind specifically during the purchasing decision. This contrasts with general brand awareness, which is about recognition at any time.
  2. Mental Availability in Decision Making: Each definition highlights the concept of the brand being mentally available or easily recalled when consumers are making a choice between brands. This mental availability is crucial in influencing consumer behaviour at the point of sale.
  3. Propensity to be Noticed: Romaniuk and Sharp’s definition underscores the brand’s propensity to be noticed in buying situations, aligning with the idea of the brand being top-of-mind, as mentioned by Boyd and Riserbato.
  4. Differentiation from General Awareness: Riserbato’s definition specifically differentiates brand salience from overall brand visibility or awareness, focusing on the context of purchasing decisions. This aspect is implicitly present in the other definitions where the emphasis is on buyers bringing the brand to mind in the context of buying, rather than just being known.

These definitions collectively describe Brand Salience as the measure of a brand’s ability to be foremost in consumers’ minds at the critical moment of making a purchasing decision, differentiating it from broader concepts of brand awareness.

What does it mean to be ‘top of mind’?

Being top of mind for consumers at the very moment of making a purchasing decision is clearly critical to brand growth. But what does that entail? 

Well, it means the consumer has a strong, immediate association with your brand in relation to a specific feeling, need or desire.

For example, if someone thinks of needing to stock up on pain relief and immediately the brand ‘Panadol’ comes to mind, Panadol has high Brand Salience in that situation. This immediate recall is powerful because it significantly increases the likelihood of purchase. The consumer doesn’t need to extensively search or compare options; your brand stands out as the primary choice due to its strong mental presence.

In essence, being foremost in the consumer’s mind at the decision-making moment means your brand has successfully created a strong, positive, and readily accessible mental image, making it the go-to choice in a crowded market.

You’ve built strong neural pathways between ‘must grab a pain reliever’ and ‘Panadol’.

What is your Brand Positioning Strategy?

What about Brand Awareness? Isn’t that the key metric for brand building?

Brand Awareness and Brand Salience, while related, serve distinct roles in marketing. Brand Awareness refers to the extent to which consumers are familiar with a brand’s presence – essentially, do they know it exists? 

It’s the first step in a consumer’s journey with a brand. In contrast, Brand Salience goes deeper, measuring not just recognition, but the likelihood of buyers bringing your brand to mind in the crucial moments of making a purchasing decision.

Marketers might prioritise Brand Salience over Awareness when they want to ensure their brand goes beyond being known, and is the top-of-mind choice at the point of sale. This shift is especially critical in competitive markets where being a remembered and preferred option can directly influence buying behaviour.

If your brand’s overall objective is to become the go-to choice in consumers’ minds at the point of purchase, especially in a highly competitive market, the key metric to track is Brand Salience.

If your brand’s overall objective is to increase its visibility and familiarity among a broader audience, particularly for a new product or entering a new market, the key metric to track is Brand Awareness.

How to build Brand Salience

Brand Salience is the propensity of people to think of the brand in buying situations. This is reflected in the quantity (how many) and the quality (how fresh and relevant) of the network of brand information in memory, or the brand’s ‘share of mind’.

Jenni Romaniuk and Byron Sharp

We want to build a network of cues about the brand, so that it effortlessly comes to mind at the crucial moment of purchase.

Do’s of Brand Salience:

  • Be Consistent: Maintain a consistent brand message across all platforms.
  • Stay Relevant: Tailor your content to meet current trends and customer needs.
  • Engage Regularly: Interact with your audience through channels such as social media, events, and promotions.
  • Create Emotional Connections: Use storytelling to build a deeper relationship with your audience.
  • Focus on Right-Brain Elements: Such as compelling stories, human connection, a sense of place, dialogue and melody (Orlando Wood in Look Out)
  • Leverage Multiple Channels: Mix digital and traditional media to maximise reach.

Don’ts of Brand Salience:

  • Avoid Inconsistency: Don’t send mixed messages that can confuse your audience.
  • Don’t Neglect Feedback: Given that ignoring customer opinions can lead to a disconnect, always take the time to listen.
  • Avoid Irrelevance: Don’t create content that doesn’t resonate with your target audience. Tell them about what they’re interested in, not what you want to sell.
  • Don’t Avoid Segmentation: Still people think brand reach and increasing penetration means sacrificing segmentation. Tailor your comms to your audience, but don’t target too narrowly. 

How to measure Brand Salience

Jenni Romaniuk and Byron Sharp developed a framework measuring Brand Salience. If you’re looking to apply it to your brand, consider the following:

  • Consider Various Retrieval Cues: Brand Salience involves how easily a brand is to recall or notice under different conditions and cues, not just the product category. This includes various situational cues that might prompt a consumer to think of the brand.
  • Evaluate Memory Networks: Assess as well as build the network of associations and memories linked to the brand. Understand consumers store how different attributes, e.g. benefits, and experiences in their memories.
  • Focus on Buying Situations: Measure the likelihood of the brand coming to mind in actual buying situations. Understand the brand’s presence in the consumer’s mind when they are making purchase decisions.

Think about measuring Brand Salience as the following equation:

Brand Salience = Brand Awareness + Brand Resonance + Propensity to Buy

In which case you will want to delve into:

  • When customers think of a particular need/problem/buying situation, what are the first brands that come to mind? (Unprompted brand awareness)
  • Which competitor brands in our category have they heard of? (Prompted brand awareness)
  • Think about the last time they had that problem, what solutions did they consider? (Propensity to buy)
  • When they next have that problem, who do they think they’ll choose to solve it? (Propensity to buy)
  • What associations do they make with our brand? (Brand resonance)
  • How does overcoming the problem/filling the need make them feel about their lifestyle? What do they feel their brand choice says about them? (Brand resonance)

10 ways to improve your Brand’s Salience

Review your Brand Wheel

Incorporate elements into your Brand Wheel that enhance salience, such as an emotive Essence, memorable Brand Personality traits or distinctive benefits. Not to mention the game is to be easy recall. What stands out? What’s easy to associate with your brand?

Nail your consistent Brand Messaging

Audit your messaging to ensure all communications across all channels consistently reflect the brand’s core values and message. This consistency also helps in reinforcing the brand in the consumer’s mind. Do you have a distinctive, consistent and engaging Tone of Voice to land the messaging?

Add emotion to your Brand Narrative

Craft narratives that connect emotionally with your audience. As a matter of fact, stories that resonate on a personal level are easier to remember and associate with your brand.

Audit your Distinctive Brand Assets

What unique brand elements e.g. logos, slogans, jingles, or mascots are often and easily associated with your brand?

What are your Distinctive Brand Assets? Are they as meaningful to your audience as you think they are, or that they mean internally? And how can you make better use of these? Perhaps you there are brand assets with potential to be more distinctive or you need to develop new ones?

Check your Media Mix

Use a mix of media channels to reach your audience. This includes digital platforms, social media, traditional advertising, and content marketing. Tailor your approach to where your target audience spends most of their time.

Dabble with influencers

Collaborate with influencers who resonate with your target audience. They can help chiefly in amplifying your brand’s presence and relevance.

Remember (Google) Search is your shop front

Optimise your online content for search engines to increase visibility. Use search engine marketing to appear in relevant search queries. 

Up your Content Marketing game

Create valuable and relevant content that addresses your audience’s needs and interests. This can range from blog posts and videos to podcasts and webinars.

Likewise, if you don’t already have a Content Strategy, we have a tried and tested process to help you better convert online.

Supercharge your Sponsorship

Sponsor events, causes, or programs that align with your brand values and resonate with your target audience, as well as keeping your brand front of mind and relevant.

Book a Brand Salience Workshop with Lane

When you’re in the thick of things with your organisation, and thB board and other key decision makers have varying views about the key tenets of the brand and what it means to its audiences, working with a team like ours who run regular workshops with brands keen to unlock its DNA, define the values, core proposition, personality and distinctive brand assets.

We can work with you and your team, or a cross-section of the organisation to gain universal internal agreement on your brand USPs and support you with developing brand insight from your audiences, and defining your marketing plan to build growth from Brand Salience for your organisation.

Email our Head of Strategy, Sallie Bale, to book a Brand Salience briefing with us today.

Back to News