Brand Expectation/Anticipation

Brand building or brand marketing is such an interesting and exciting field. The psychology that goes into it or meant to go into it, breathes life into every cell of mine. 

There are multiple definitions and articulations of ‘Brand equity’, but for the purpose of this piece, let’s use this definition; Brand Equity: refers to the additional value that a consumer attaches with the brand that is unique from all the other brands available in the market (

One of the key aspects of brand equity is brand awareness. Brands that have high levels of awareness tend to have high levels of equity.

Brand awareness is divided into two aspects, brand recognition and recall. ‘Brand Recall’ also referred to as unaided or spontaneous recall is “…the ability of consumers to correctly elicit a brand name from memory when prompted by a product category”. For example, the prompt may be; “Fast Food Restaurants” and a respondent may shout; “KFC”. ‘Brand recognition’ on the other hand, “is the ability of consumers to correctly differentiate the brand when they come into contact with it”. For example, people being able to articulate the difference between the Nando’s Chicken and KFC Chicken. 

Essentially brand awareness (brand equity) is based on what the brand has done or communicated in the past, with no real expectation of what it should communicate or do in future. This is an important statement as it is the basis of this thought piece. When VW does a TV commercial, we don’t consume the ad with the subconscious expectation or anticipation of them doing any ad. We also don’t go; “Oh that is so VW”. Or should anything happen at a macro level, we don’t expect VW to do or say anything. We just consume the ad, we accept or reject it, and then we move on. 

What’s better than brand recall and recognition?

A brand advertises, and we consume its messaging, but rarely do we think about what that brand should say or what their advertising should be. Is there a brand people have expectations of from an advertising or communications point of view? A brand that people anticipate its advertising or actions? Does it matter if people expect your brand to produce a piece of communication or advertising, without you soliciting that expectation?  

Brand Expectation/Anticipation (BEA)

When people expect a brand to communicate or produce advertising material, but not any type of communication, communication that is unique to the brand in question, it is what I call, ‘Brand Expectation/Anticipation’ (BEA). This is an interesting concept for me. Above, I asked whether this matters or not. The answer is an unflinching and emphatic, YES! It does matter. Why?

It means that people understand your brand ethos, so much so, that they know what you are going to say, and probably should say. They know your brand’s identity and DNA. How is this possible?

In the introduction, I spoke about brand equity, awareness, recall and recognition. I believe that ‘Brand Expectation/Anticipation’ is a level above recall and recognition, because BEA requires people to be in the shoes of the brand and brand custodians, thereby thinking and acting like the brand. That is a powerful “result” than ‘recall’ and ‘recognition’. It is a more active engagement exercise, as it requires one to be the brand.

Which brand has (the highest) BEA?

An interesting metric for me is what I call brand expectation or anticipation. 

Anybody can recognize a Nando’s advert from a mile away, so much so, people no-longer just recognize Nando’s adverts, they now expect or anticipate a Nando’s advert. For example, whenever anything political or social takes place, people expect Nando’s to say something or comment on that particular occurrence. The reason for this is because people now have clarity and understanding of the brand, to a point where, if Nando’s were to stop advertising, people would just create unsolicited ads for the brand.  

Let me say it again; if Nando’s were to stop advertising, people would just create unsolicited ads for the brand. This is critical. This is huge from a brand point of view.

Image result for nando's ads south africa
Image source: The South African –  (an advert done in “bad taste” after the Oscar Pistorius incident that was created by people not working for Nando’s)
Image result for nando's ads south africa fake
Eye Witness New (Twitter) – I wrote about this particular one on LinkedIn.
(an advert created by creatives who were inspired after weed was legalized in South Africa – they saw it fitting for Nando’s – they could only see/expect/anticipate Nando’s as the most appropriate brand to comment on the issue. 

I don’t think that there is any other brand that people would regularly expect advertising or communication from, based on what they know of the brand, and how that brand has carried itself over the years.

How does a brand gain BEA?

Through Brand Clarity and Consistency

Nando’s has consistently fired up conversations that takes place from both a social and political point of view. They’ve always a comment on what’s happening, and they have done over an extended period that it has formed as part of the brand’s assets and memory structures. 

Nando’s is clear about it’s position from a communications point of view, and they have not pushed conflicting or confusing messages about their communication territory, which is social and political commentary. That’s what people know of them. Therefore, that consistency and clarity creates a psychological framework or template for people. 

There’s an old advertising adage that says; “repetition works”. Not only does it work when done with crystal clarity and consistency, it also allows for to not only know what you are saying (recall and recognition), but also what you are going to or should say (BEA).

Perhaps as ROI or measurement of success, brands can start looking into whether their brands have BEA or not. Do people expect or anticipate your communication? This probably should be the goal for brands.

The question is, whatever your brand is, when you advertise or see a commercial, do instinctively go; “Oh that is them”? If not, then people or you don’t have any expectation or anticipation from that brand. 

Maybe the goal is not for consumers or people to remember what our brands say, but instead, it’s for them (people) to predict and anticipate accurately what we might or should say in the future.

If we can measure what people or target audiences remember of our brands, we should also start measuring what people expect or anticipate of our brands. 

Let me know what you think of BEA as a concept, would love to hear your thoughts? Any other brand that has BEA? 

Thank you for reading.

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