Awareness is dead. Kaput. Extinct. No longer relevant. Toast. Finished. Let’s not shed a single tear for its passing. For far too long, communicators have touted “raising awareness” as the basic measure of success. The great justifier of our very existence. The holy grail of results. No longer. As you’re finalizing your 2017 communications strategy, make sure awareness isn’t your goal. Replace it with demand.

Raising awareness (or its slightly less vague cousin building awareness) raises little and probably builds even less. Imagine I’m the communications or marketing director at a manufacturing company and the CEO says, “Ward! Get in here! We sold 50 percent less widgets this year. What did you do with your budget?” And I proudly respond, “We used it to raise awareness. We raised a lot of awareness. Isn’t that great?” Rightfully so, he proceeds to throw me out of his office, but not before he adds, “Raised awareness, huh? With the kind of money you spent, try raising the Titanic instead. We could probably sell tickets and generate some revenue around here.” And out I go. Me. You. The whole program.

Here’s what awareness doesn’t do:

  • Promote strategic targeting of key audiences
  • Put the right customers at the center of your strategy
  • Pull customers through the entire buyer’s journey
  • Support and drive business growth

Put demand at the center of your communications strategy

In today’s results-driven business world where competition is fierce and yielding strong profit margins is key, return on investment reigns supreme. Raising awareness is just too amorphous of an objective to justify our reason for being. Of course, the argument has been made that communications objectives and business objectives are not the same thing. That makes about as much sense as arguing against the fact that Chihuahuas and Great Danes are both dogs. Communications and business objectives may not be the same breed, but they are arguably of the same species. The two must be tied extremely tightly together.

Counting reader impressions to prove the value of awareness is a relic of a former communications world. Tangible inquiries, increased website traffic, social media buzz that drives prospective customers to spend are just a few measures of today’s success. Our work must be more strategic, relevant, compelling and action-oriented than ever before to deliver clear value.

Consider the two goals:

1. Our aim is to generate demand for widgets.

vs.

2. Our aim is to raise awareness for widgets.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m the CEO (or the typically more hard metrics-minded CFO … and the one who signs off on many a budget), I’m throwing whoever says #2 out of my office. Which word ties more closely to sales, revenue and profit: “awareness” or “demand”? Take a close look at your 2017 communications strategy and ensure the latter is your number one goal.

For more communications planning insights and tips, read our guide, “How to Create a Communications Plan Your Boss Can’t Refuse.”

With more than a decade at Stern, Ned has had the opportunity to counsel – and learn from – some of the brightest minds in business. A lifelong student, he is always searching for new ways to hone his craft by applying insights and ideas from outside sources. He says inspiration can come from anywhere in the world – from his young children to emerging start-ups to more established brands – which he constantly draws on to infuse creativity into client programming. As vice president, his pragmatic leadership style combines with strategic thinking to effectively connect clients with top-tier media, conferences and industry influencers. If he hadn’t answered the call to become a communications pro, you might have found him as a carpenter crafting wood furnishings and cabinetry.