Mental availability as a path to market share growth

The more situations in which customers use your product, the more paths to higher revenues and a larger market share open up for your brand. The desired outcome, where customers remember your brand in a specific purchasing situation, is called mental availability. It is no coincidence that the biggest and most successful companies have a very wide portfolio of purchasing situations closely linked to their brand.

Take Coca-Cola, for example. Customers are likely to remember it in situations when they want to refresh themselves on a hot day, when buying non-alcoholic beverages for a family lunch, or when you’re the unlucky one who has to drive home from the bar so that others can drink unrestrained. Coca-Cola is a proponent of well-developed mental availability. Another example is McDonald’s: breakfast, a quick snack on the way home from work, food for a hangover, or a cheat day on Sunday after a healthy week. The more consumption opportunities customers associate with a brand, the greater the potential for brand awareness. Thus, the goal of your marketing department is to build more associations with your brand than with the competition and to regularly maintain these associations. 

But how do you build mental availability?

As with any marketing initiative, we should ideally begin with research. You may know your category well enough to identify individual situations in which your product is used, but… do you really want to base a multimillion-dollar marketing activity stretching across several years and shaping your brand’s image on assumptions? Not to mention that research will provide you with data that you cannot easily estimate. Is your main competitor more associated with a purchasing situation you thought you dominated? Or are you perceived more strongly in connection with a situation you had not considered as the main use of your product? Or is your product used in a situation you had no idea about?

The output of marketing research is thus a list of the most common purchasing situations in the market, with various frequencies of occurrence. By frequency of occurrence, we mean the fact that fast foods are indeed used more by people to satisfy a sudden craving for something unhealthy than for breakfast. At the same time, we find out how we compare with the competition. Do customers in your category associate your brand with most purchasing situations, but are you always the third brand they think of? Or are you clearly the first brand, but only in one purchasing situation?

To ensure the entire process of building mental availability is not just a crafty walk through a rose garden, we now come to the hard part. Ideally, we would try to strengthen our position in all purchasing situations at once, but marketing budgets are not infinite, so prioritization comes into play. That is, which one or two purchasing situations will we try to associate with our brand during this period? Do we want to start fighting with competitors for a prominent purchasing situation? Or do we want to strengthen our position in situations that are not so common? 


Alright, research. What is next?

How do you make customers remember your brand in the situations you’ve chosen? Simply. You will communicate these situations in connection with your brand. Creativity is important and will definitely help overcome ad blindness; however, it is crucial that the situation is clearly readable from the advertising message. An important aspect is then precisely the connection with the brand through brand elements that are typical for your brand – the logo, slogan, brand face, and others. It is praiseworthy to communicate the purchasing situations in your category, but if the customer does not remember your brand when they are actually in that purchasing situation, then the advertisement has not fulfilled its purpose.

Another key factor is reach. You can clearly communicate purchasing situations and have them perfectly linked with your brand, but if the advertisement does not reach enough people, then the communication again has not fulfilled its purpose—it did not build mental availability with enough people. And although the regularity of communication is immensely important in the short term, if you want your brand to grow, then over the years it is important to focus on a wide range of purchasing situations. Do not continually build an already-established association. This brings us full circle back to research, which will reveal that the time has come to take your brand a step further.


The book How Brands Grow: Part 2 was not only the source of this article, but should also be the foundation for any activities related to mental availability and Category Entry Points.

Mental availability. Let’s get to work.

As you can see, even the article itself on how to build mental availability is full of questions. Answer them together with us and build the mental availability that will open the doors to genuine business growth. Grizzlink has already addressed the question of mental availability with clients such as Vapiano, Business Lease, and Cambridge University Press, helping them achieve measurable results.