Home » Long-View Customer Experience Model: Awareness and Perception (Part Two)

Long-View Customer Experience Model: Awareness and Perception (Part Two)

by | Nov 19, 2015

In the first article in this five-part series, we discussed the marketing principles of building consistent, cross-channel marketing efforts and high-quality customer experiences. This article will further our understanding of these concepts by exploring the Long-View Customer Experience. This model outlines the process through which customers interact with brands in four basic parts.

When we talk about the long-view customer experience model, we are referring to a customer “pathway” that has the following steps:

  1. Awareness
  2. Perception
  3. Engagement
  4. Action

First, we will discuss each step, including the critical point where we have the opportunity to move from one to the next. Then, we will discuss how to be realistic about our ability to move audiences through the steps and how each step plays an important role in supporting the other.

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The first stage and foundation of your customer’s experience with your brand, the goal of awareness is not a monetary one. The goal of this stage is to increase name and product recognition in the eyes of your target audiences.

At this point, we are not concerned about sales in the short term but instead with saturation on the channels your audience uses and ultimately name recognition, along with being top of mind with consumers.

Its Evolving Role:

In traditional advertising, “awareness” was many times enough to drive product sales. With less variety and therefore less need for focus on niche marketing and audiences, in the Mad Men era of advertising it was often enough to have good television and radio advertising coverage in order to drive sales.

As we as a society have adopted more marketing channels and quickly adapted to the personalization and niche marketing that continues to grow in adoption, simply achieving awareness of a product or service is not enough to guarantee popularity. As we’ll see later on, with endless options, we need to rely on arbitrary choice criteria or self-created “filters” in order to grow our relationships with brands and make purchase decisions.

Not All Awareness is Good:

There is a potential downside: “awareness” does not always mean good things for your brand. For instance, awareness of AIG grew considerably between late 2008 and 2009 due to the bad press it got concerning its collapse and its relationship to the economic downturn of the time, but a growth in awareness of a problem with the brand did not signal awareness of anything positive.

Awareness is a Building Block:

As it is the first step in our series of four that lead to action, awareness is a building block. While it is important to have high levels of awareness, it is also resource-intensive to get mass awareness of anything (just ask Kleenex what it took to be the ubiquitous choice for tissues). Thus, it is necessary to be realistic about your goals for awareness.

Instead of awareness with everyone, everywhere, think instead of targeting more granular awareness:

  • With an age demographic
  • In a city neighborhood
  • As the solution to a very specific problem
  • With people who share a certain profession

As we progress to the next step, perception, we’ll see how targeting a more specific type of awareness increases our chances of gaining positive feelings about our brand or product, because our goal is to provide a relevant solution to a potential customer’s challenges.

How Do We Track It?

As we go through each of the four stages, we will briefly talk about how to measure each one’s effectiveness. While this is not intended to go in-depth on the subject of measurement and analytics, we’ll give some ideas here on approaches to tracking as we progress through the process:

  • Google Searches, Press Mentions and Social Media Mentions
    It’s a simple way to measure, but simply picking a few keywords and measuring the volume of searches over time can tell you something. The same goes for press and social media mentions.
  • Visits to Owned Properties
    This is the easiest one, but not necessarily the most beneficial one. Tracking website visits, visits to stores and other properties are related to awareness, though it requires a detailed understanding of how to read the numbers and attributes of your visitors.
  • Research
    Both qualitative and quantitative research can be very helpful here. This can be cost-prohibitive to smaller organizations, and it requires very detailed expertise in how to structure and conduct the research in order to compare apples to apples.


Many do not make the important distinction between awareness and perception, but it is important to treat this as a separate step in your process of converting your audiences from awareness to action. Perception means the difference between knowing about a brand and liking or considering a brand when the time comes for a purchase.

Perception also includes an emotional component that awareness does not. We can know of something but not have a strong opinion of it. Shauna Hoffman of Stamats Healthcare Marketing defines it as such:

Perception is more complex; it’s the “what” and the “why” of the brand.  Perception is created through experience with the brand’s product or service and it reflects the values consumers have attached to it. Digging deeper than questions about awareness and familiarity, perception studies score the attitudes that consumers have about a particular brand.

Perception Requires Awareness:

As we move from awareness to perception in our view of the user experience, one thing is clear: in order for a customer to have a perception (whether good or bad) about a company, product or service, they must already be aware of it.

Perception Requires Emotional Involvement:

Since it is true that emotions affect our perception of the world, then, in order to have a strong opinion about something (whether it is positive or negative), there must be an emotional component involved.

We are Looking For a Specific Range of Perceptions:

Just as we discussed in the section on awareness, there can be both positive and negative perceptions of something. Thus, the optimal outcome at this stage of the user experience is the positive perception that we desire. This, however, will not always be the case with all users.

Thus, we are looking for the following:

  • People with the desired perception: these are ideal customers or audience members who we wish to “graduate” to the next step in the Long-View Customer Experience. These people also help us understand what positive attributes are most valued, as well as how those attributes are expressed in conversations between potential and current customers.
  • People with negative perceptions: in order to better understand how to make our products or services better.
  • Key conversations and perception points: what are the points where people have strong feelings one way or another, and what points are divisive amongst different audiences?

By paying attention to these factors, you can make the most of this phase of the user experience.

How Do We Track It?

Before digital tools such as sentiment analysis and communication channels such as social media came along, perception was much more difficult to measure.

For those not familiar already, sentiment analysis can be defined as the following, courtesy of Seth Grimes:

Sentiment analysis is a set of methods, typically (but not always) implemented in computer software, that detect, measure, report, and exploit attitudes, opinions, and emotions in online, social, and enterprise information sources. (As an aside, what makes it “analysis” is that you’re doing it systematically, with some goal in mind.)

Social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter have made it much easier for these tools to extract sentiment from conversations around brands and other topics. While Grimes goes on to explain that some of the more commonly-used tools still have a way to go as far as their methods and accuracy, over time these tools will undoubtedly become more sophisticated.  While not the end-all-be-all solution to understanding perception, they can be a very helpful tool that provides insights as you look for your ideal customers or look to change a negative perception into a positive one.


Long-View Customer Experience model is critical to understanding and improving the way in which customers interact with brands. Awareness and perception are the first two steps on this pathway. The goal of Awareness is to increase the name and product recognition of your brand in the eyes your target audience, while perception is the process of translating knowledge of brands to positive ideas of brands.

The next article in this series will explore engagement and action, the final steps in this model. To learn more about the topics covered in this series or the author, Greg Kihlström, visit Carousel30’s website.

About the Author

Greg Kihlström

Greg is an award-winning digital strategist, creative director, author and speaker. He is currently SVP Digital at Yes& (a Capitol Communicator Sponsor) as of Fall 2017 when Carousel30, the agency he founded, was acquired.He has worked with brands such as AARP, AOL, Booz Allen Hamilton, Choice Hotels, GEICO, Howard University, Marriott, MTV, The Nature Conservancy, Porsche, Toyota, United Nations and others. His work has won awards from the ADDYs, Webbys and others, been featured in books by HarperCollins and Rockport Press, publications such as Advertising Age, Communication Arts, Web Designer and Website magazine.He currently serve as VP of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) District 2, and as a Board Member of the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Marketing Industry Mentoring Board (MIMB). He is Past President of AAF DC, and served on the National Board of AAF, Board of Trustees of the Trust for the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the Board of AIGA DC, and the Trust for the National Mall's National Advisory Board.


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