How to build brand awareness

29 Jul 2020

Whether you’re planning to launch a business or expanding into a new market, the key to your success will be effectively building a brand that people know and trust. So, what’s behind a brand people can buy into? In an age where hundreds of brands are launched every week, how can yours stand out?


We asked Alice Ratcliffe, our Head of Brand, for some insights. Since being a part of the founding team in 2013, Alice has built a brand that’s amassed a community of 250,000 brands and entrepreneurs, and been featured in the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Evening Standard and The Times. Here is her advice for driving brand awareness:

Let’s talk about how you started out. What was your journey as a creative before joining Appear Here?

I attended the School of Communication Arts – this mad advertising school in the back of a church in Vauxhall – which is where I first understood the importance of building a brand. There, I learned that it’s one thing to make a business, but an entirely different thing to build a brand. To stand out, you need to build something that goes beyond a clever product – you need to create something that people can fall in love with. You need to build something that connects with people in an emotional way, solves a real problem and stands for something beyond commerce.

The second thing that was instilled in me was that you make your own luck. The Dean used to remind us of it every morning, but I think that’s something that’s really important to remember when it comes to building brand awareness. People often look at a successful brand and think that they got lucky, but those opportunities don’t just happen. As a brand, you need to make them happen. The more you engage with the world around you, the more you will get back.


How did you come to work at Appear Here?

This ad school is actually where our founder, Ross, and I first met. At the time, he was in the same process of questioning the status quo. He was wondering why it was so difficult to rent a space on the high street when there were so many empty stores. He’d built an online website for a t-shirt brand he made with a friend called Rock & Rule, but it wasn’t until he opened his first pop up store that things really kicked off.

Over a couple of days, his store was featured in the news and hundreds of people came through the doors. Before, he wasn’t getting 100 visits a week to his website. From this, he realised how a high street store is actually a really powerful tool for brands to build awareness and tell their story to the world. That’s when he decided to launch Appear Here – I joined soon after.


Let’s talk about building brand awareness. You’ve said in the past that a compelling brand story is a great tool to use for this. Can you tell us more?

I don’t think you can ever match the power of a great story, so make sure you invest some serious time in getting yours right. It might be how you started out as a founder, or it could be an interesting insight into why your business came to be – make it unique to your brand.

Once you have that story, don’t be afraid to tell it over and over and over again until it sticks. One mistake I see brands making is when they change the narrative too quickly. Think of the founders of Airbnb: they’ve been going for eleven years, but whenever they do interviews, they always tell the same origin story of when they slept on a friend’s floor during a festival. It makes the brand feel so much more intimate. People buy people – that’s another thing we were taught at ad school – so make your story as personal as possible.


Building awareness online is becoming harder in a saturated market – how can a store help a brand stand out?

Brands are now realising that they can’t solely exist online or offline – building really effective brand awareness lies in a combination of the two. In other words, what you do offline can often help your brand awareness online, and vice versa.

A great example of this is Daily Paper: they’re a streetwear brand who use temporary retail space to launch in new markets, but this also boosts their online brand awareness. They launched a pop up store in London to increase brand awareness in the UK, but they also saw online visits go up by 500% in that area.

Your store is also a great way of creating content to share online. People still love to look at physical spaces and take inspiration from them, so use your store to create beautiful imagery. You could even host talks and events which can be promoted further online.


In what other ways can a pop up store build brand awareness?

Physical space is so experience-rich – it enables a brand to engage all the senses at once. Online, you can only really interact with one sense, so real-life retail is a really fertile ground for brands to build out their universe and foster meaningful connections. In this way, a store can also be used as a meeting point for your community. The lived experiences people have with your brand are so important in building lasting relationships and brand awareness effectively.

We sometimes talk about it being a bit like online dating: you might meet someone online but it doesn’t feel real until you meet them in the real world. In that same way, when you’re building brand awareness with your online community, it’s still crucial that you meet them offline as well. We’ve seen that customers who have a physical store experience are often much more loyal to that brand and end up making a bigger purchase.


Finally, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to a brand looking to use stores to build brand awareness?

Use your store to think outside the box: people often forget that their high street space can also function as a billboard or advert. In some cases, our stores have seen the same number of impressions from passing footfall as a primetime TV slot. With that opportunity, you need to make sure your storefront makes an impact.

This is where distilling your brand’s message into something catchy and memorable matters more than ever. This message doesn’t necessarily need to be written across your storefront, it might be communicated through how you display your products, the materials you use, or the objects you place outside. Think about what will make someone stop on the high street, take notice, and wander inside to discover more.

We hope you’re feeling inspired to get your business out there, but if you’re looking for further guidance, get in touch with us via The Hotline. With the experience of helping over 10,000 businesses use stores to drive brand awareness, our team of experts can advise your next steps.