How to Become a Top-of-Mind Brand

The underlying goal of all advertising can be boiled down to one aim: to make one’s brand top-of-mind to consumers in its respective market. Unless you are one of the lucky handful of brands who only have to focus on maintaining their top-of-mind status amongst consumers, the more likely scenario is that you are trying to secure your own foothold in the presence-of-mind battle, or even trying to make your way to the top. If you fall into these latter categories, then this article is for you.

If you hear the words “sports drink,” what is the first brand that comes to your mind? Chances are, it is Gatorade. Ever since Gatorade was founded in 1965, they have held a tight grip on the sports beverage market. Anytime you watch a sporting event you are likely to see players drinking out of Gatorade bottles. Their top-of-mind marketing is so top notch that you wouldn’t think any other sports beverage brand could compete with them. For many years this seemed to hold true, until a little company called Body Armor came along and unsettled the sports-drink industry.

It’s true: practically every professional athlete can be seen drinking out of Gatorade bottles on television, but, in reality, they often are not drinking Gatorade at all. Why? Because, although Gatorade may have unparalleled presence-of-mind marketing, their product is not perfect—no product is. Many sports drink companies out to displace Gatorade’s position at the top have come and gone over the years. Each and every one of them made the mistake of trying to beat Gatorade at their own game. Body Armor, however, recognized an opportunity and seized it.

So, you hear “sports drink” and probably think “Gatorade,” but when you hear “healthy sports drink,” what comes to mind then? For many people, it is the words “Body Armor.” Gatorade has been at the top of the sports-drink industry for so long that most people simply assumed there was no way to one-up them, but there is, and Body Armor is doing it. There is a reason Gatorade tastes so good—it’s not exactly the healthiest way to hydrate. Gatorade tried to address this issue by releasing lower calorie, lower sugar alternatives, but they never gained traction because to most people they were just Gatorades that didn’t taste as good.

Body Armor took advantage of this opportunity by creating a healthier sports drink that is just as (if not more) effective for hydrating—and it doesn’t taste bad. Body Armor didn’t start off trying to become “the” sports drink—they framed themselves as “the” healthy alternative to Gatorade. They found the chink in Gatorade’s armor and went after it. If they are successful enough, they may even have a chance at one day taking Gatorade’s spot at the top.

Body Armor’s story is a useful lesson for any brand trying to rise through the presence-of-mind ranks. You can try to topple a top-of-mind brand and take their place, but it will be a long and arduous journey. And depending on the size and reputation of the brand, reaching top-of-mind status may ultimately be out of your control—as good of a product that Body Armor may have, people love their Gatorade. The more effective approach is to go after a less stable top-of-mind market—like “healthy sport drink”—and carve out your own niche. As long as there is a chink in your competitor’s armor—and there always is—you have the potential to create a top-of-mind brand.