How Effective is Outdoor Advertising for Promoting Brand Awareness?

In the endless battle for consumer attention, few tactics are more visible than outdoor advertising. Billboards propped along busy interstates, highways and metropolitan areas are fixtures in our modern landscape. Who doesn’t remember staring out the windows of their parents’ station wagon, eagerly watching for those large, looming signs, hoping to read the whole message before you whizzed past them along the interstate? Indeed, outdoor advertising has become a part of our culture—and its messaging has become both a reflection of, and a commentary on, society.

But is outdoor advertising good for promoting brand awareness? And what is brand awareness and why is it so important?

What is Brand Awareness?

How do consumers decide which product to buy in a proverbial sea of options? Online research? Yes. Word of mouth? Yes. Professional recommendations? Yes.

However, in reality, one of the most common ways consumers make purchasing decisions revolves around brand awareness—a reflection of how familiar an audience is with a brand and how much they trust it.

For instance, most people don’t ask for “locking pliers,” they ask for Vise-Grips. Instead of buying “soda,” many of those headed to the store say they’re going to buy a Coke—regardless of the actual, fizzy, sweet drink they purchase. Those looking for a new pair of “denim pants” are most likely to tell you they’re shopping for Levi’s. And instead of reaching for a “tissue,” most will grab a Kleenex. These are illustrations, albeit extreme, of widespread brand awareness. These brands have become so associated with the products they provide that their names have earned a place as a stand-in for the goods themselves.

Why is Brand Awareness Important?

While these examples are extreme, they’re an apt illustration of the importance of building brand awareness. If you’ve ever met a “Ford person,” or a “Harley person,” you know that they won’t have to think twice before buying their next vehicle. The trust and affiliation these brands have built with consumers is invaluable. Simply put, brand awareness creates “decision-making shortcuts” for consumers.

How Effective is Outdoor Advertising for Promoting Brand Awareness?

Radio stations and TV channels can be changed. Social media advertisements can be scrolled out of view. Browser pop-ups can be quickly axed. But few billboards along the roadway are ignored. And large-print advertisements hanging from buildings or other structures are nothing but striking and eye-catching.

Even other, smaller, out-of-home (OOH) advertising mediums, such as vehicle wraps, wall installations, bus shelters, kiosks and more, are nearly impossible to ignore for those going about their daily lives. Research into what people remember supports the effectiveness of OOH advertising. While only 10% of people remember what they hear, 80% remember what they see and do.

And, if getting your message in front of a lot of people is the goal, it’s hard to beat billboard advertising.   

Americans spend a significant amount of time in their cars. According to a recent survey, the average American spends 18 full days driving per year. That’s an average of eight hours and 22 minutes per week. But it’s not only the time Americans spend in their cars that’s striking—it’s that there are more and more drivers on American roads every year. According to a study by AAA, in 2014, there were 222.2 million drivers. By 2017, that figure grew to 225.8 million. And by 2018 (the last year of available data), it had increased to approximately 227.5 million.

The large, outdoor billboards that adorn the sides of popular interstates and highways reach tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of these drivers each day. And when it comes to promoting brand awareness with outdoor advertising, there’s nothing that can top these immense structures. Simply put, billboards and other OOH advertising methods are an unmistakable way of introducing potential consumers to your offerings—or reminding past customers of what they’re missing.

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