The only way we can be interested, consider, or take action on anything we want, need, or desire is by becoming aware of it. If we are not aware of something, then we simply do not know that it exists.
For this reason, brand awareness is the first step in the marketing funnel. Once consumers become aware of a product or service, they can manifest their need, want, or desire by taking strides through the purchase decision process.
The Evolution of WOM
Prior to the digital world, thoughts and ideas were communicated solely by word of mouth, otherwise known as WOM, a form of direct communication. WOM is the root of all awareness, and from a marketing standpoint, it is the root of brand awareness.
How we become aware of things has changed over time as technology progressed our primary means of communication. Communication began with word of mouth, which evolved to print to radio to television, and plateaued with the internet.
In 1440 the revolution began when print was born with the invention of the printing press, which enabled ideas to be communicated to the masses via printed content, such as the newspaper. Printed content was read and then talked about as a means of sharing the information and making others aware. Then, communication was streamlined with the invention of the telephone in 1876, which enabled people to communicate at a much faster rate.
The invention of the radio took indirect mass communication to the next level in 1895. With the help of radio, word of mouth could now be communicated indirectly through radio waves broadcasted live from coast to coast. Hearing and reading things in mass was not enough for people who wanted to stimulate all of their visual and auditory senses. So, television was invented in 1927, and it slowly worked its way into our everyday lives as a means of news and entertainment that the masses could indirectly see and hear.
Radio, print, and TV now filled the shoes of traditional WOM communication by replacing direct communication with indirect mass communication. Instead of reading a thermometer and using instincts to predict the weather, people could easily access the insight of experts who gave their opinion on the news, radio, and in the newspaper.
The evolution of communication is due to the advances in technology, which have progressed our society over time as we adapt. Modern communication evolved to streamline mass awareness of news and other important issues, such as politics. Now, communication has entered an era of revolution with the rise of social media.
The Revolution of WOM
The internet completely revolutionized the way that humans communicate with one another. As society adapted to the idea of online communication, word of mouth began to take place online with digital interactions, in addition to direct and authentic interactions. In the busy world we live in, we now look to social media to gain insight and news from our friends, which is almost always funneled down from news broadcasted on the TV, radio, or printed in the newspaper. While WOM is still prominent in marketing today, it takes place in the silence of digital media and social media on the internet.
Although our means of communication were revolutionized, our human psyche remains the same. The way we make decisions has become more complex given the plethora of information available to us online. However, we still travel down the same road when making a purchase decision. Being said, the marketing funnel that was inspired by traditional marketing via traditional communication still applies to digital marketing via digital communication – with a twist.
Look out for our next blog on evolutionary marketing by Shannon Doyle, which will discuss the importance of generating brand awareness on social media as a facilitator of search campaigns designed for conversion.