Comparing Awareness vs. Conversion Campaigns

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One of the most important questions we ask new clients is, “What are you hoping to achieve by running this media campaign?”

Typically, clients answer this question in one of three ways:

  1. They may have launched a new product or service and are looking to build awareness and boost exposure.
  2. They may be more established and looking to drive leads or increase purchases online or in-store.
  3. Then there’s a combination of the first two answers: Many clients express dual goals of lifting awareness while concurrently driving conversions.

Regardless of whether you call this third type of media campaign a hybrid, a combo, or a mix, the majority of our clients seek to generate a blend of awareness and conversion outcomes. As media planners, we have a range of tactics at the ready to help our clients achieve their desired objectives.

Picture from Content Lab on Awareness Spectrum

Let’s take a step back and identify the main differences between an awareness campaign and a conversion campaign.

Awareness Campaigns

Awareness campaigns are designed to expose target audiences to the unique characteristics (otherwise known as key differentiators) of a brand, product or service. Paid media advertising raises awareness in the marketplace and helps companies differentiate themselves from their competitors. Typically awareness ads answer the query, “Why is this product or service beneficial to my target audience?” Awareness campaigns address the “What’s in it for me?” question that consumers often ask.

Awareness ads take an informative and educational approach. The purpose is to create a buzz, generate excitement and raise interest in order to move target audiences along the knowledge timeline. For that reason, awareness ad creative is typically very brand-specific and the messaging is simple and clear. Awareness ads will pay off the statement, “This is who we are and this is why we think you should learn more about us.”

In this simple infographic from The Content Lab we see how consumers typically move along the awareness spectrum. Starting at the top, most potential customers begin at Unaware and eventually, when exposed to solutions, gradually move towards Most Aware. Marketers know that a customer must progress far enough along this gradient before they will contemplate taking an initial action step – whether that is making a purchase, signing up for an event, enrolling in a class or visiting a store. 

Media campaigns raise awareness by delivering impressions (otherwise known as views or exposures) to target audiences via a wide range of delivery channels. In traditional media, awareness vehicles may take the form of broadcast radio, television, outdoor billboards or print. In the digital space, display banners, mobile banners, paid social ads, and streaming radio or video are a few examples of digital awareness tactics. Clear, consistent messaging across a variety of traditional and digital media platforms gives less informed consumers a chance to gain knowledge and move towards becoming more aware of a product or service. Once the customer is better informed about the solutions being offered, she will be more likely to take an action step. Or, as we say in marketing-speak, “the prospect will enter the sales funnel.”

Conversion Campaigns

Conversion campaigns operate differently than awareness campaigns, primarily because they assume at the outset that a customer has already traveled partway or most of the way across the awareness spectrum. In essence, the prospect already knows that there is a potential solution to her problem, and she may have even heard of the advertiser’s brand before. Because of this knowledge, we anticipate she is more likely to take an action step or express interest in the product or service being promoted.

Google defines a conversion as, “An action that’s counted when someone interacts with your ad (for example, clicks a text ad or views a video ad) and then takes an action that you’ve defined as valuable to your business, such as an online purchase or a call to your business from a mobile phone.”

Media planners use a slightly different mix of paid vehicles for conversion campaigns than we do for campaigns solely designed to raise awareness. Some specific examples of digital conversion vehicles are paid search (Google Ads), Facebook Lead Generation, and Retargeting (or remarketing.) In the traditional media realm, for radio or television ads to be conversion-ready, they must contain a definitive call to action (CTA) such as a phone number or web link embedded in the ad messaging. The point here is that conversion campaigns must generate leads that are trackable and initiate a measurable interaction between the advertiser and the prospective customer.

Gathering Data

Tracking media campaign data also differs between awareness and conversion efforts. Measuring the effectiveness of a campaign depends on a client’s individualized ROI goals. Generally, awareness campaign data will include impression delivery, ad clicks, click-thru-rates and spend to date. In contrast, conversion campaign data will be made up of the same awareness metrics along with total number of leads, cost-per-lead, conversion rates and conversion progress over time.

To demonstrate how media metrics differ between awareness and conversion campaigns, here are two screenshots from our in-house metrics dashboard. The first image represents a display banner campaign from 2019 and represents a typical awareness data report. You’ll notice this report only offers us data related to impression delivery and ad engagement (clicks) and does not contain any conversion information. We’ll use this data to watch impression delivery build over time and to make sure the campaign is pacing evenly while gaining audience frequency of exposure.


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The next screenshot is from a conversion campaign. Here, you can see  lead data allowing us to identify how well the campaign is driving desired conversion actions. We always calculate cost-per-conversion, recognizing the importance of keeping cost-efficiency in mind throughout a campaign.

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Agency Goals: Education and Transparency

Whether we’re tasked with developing an awareness or conversion campaign or one that combines both of these objectives is a decision we make in direct collaboration with our clients. We always start by asking a series of strategic questions, encouraging healthy dialogue and basing our recommendations on our professional experience. It’s important to manage expectations and set the stage for successful outcomes. Educating our clients, presenting clear and concise campaign data and maintaining full transparency help us build trust and promote their growth.

Check out our Work page where you can read about recent projects and hear from clients who have benefited from our expertise. And when you are ready to learn more about our media planning and buying services, please get in touch with us!

Anne Richardson

​Anne Richardson is the owner and media director of Richardson Media Group, an agency specializing in media planning and buying, advertising campaign management and SEO.

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Anne outside the door of the Richardson Media Group office.
In addition to her role as owner and media director here at RMG, Anne authors the majority of our blog posts. Favorite topics include the entrepreneurial journey, media planning and buying, and forming productive agency partnerships.