25 August 2023

How important is brand fame and how do we build it?

Over the last decade or so, fame-building brand advertising has taken second place to the highly measurable tactics of conversion-orientated digital media. Whilst making sure buyers are converted to your brand in the last three feet is important, we should not underestimate the contribution to sales and revenue made by brand fame. Brand fame confers significant economic benefits to brand owners. Our Global Head of Data Science Simon Foster, takes a closer look at how brand fame is defined, how it works and how we build it.

Think of a brand and write its name here…………………………………………Chances are you wrote brand names like: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Mercedes, Disney, Nike, McDonald’s, Tesla, or BMW.

These are some of the world’s most famous brands,  but why? Let’s unpack the meaning of brand fame in more detail.

The word fame is rooted in the Latin ‘fama’ meaning fame, hearsay, kudos, renown, repute, and rumour. You will see ‘fama’ present in modern words like “familiar,” “familiarise” and “famous.” Having fame means being in ‘the state of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements’ [1].  You will see that all the brands above, tick all the boxes in the Latin phrase book above.

Within the marketing context, fame is slightly more nuanced. Brands are famous because they have intrinsic appeal, they communicate with mass audiences, they demonstrate distinctiveness, and they benefit from wide social diffusion. These are, according to account planning’s elder statesman Paul Feldwick, the key components of brand fame [2].

The Marketing Society and ITV [3] described the main elements of brand fame as connection, standout, talkability, familiarity and universal meaning, with universal meaning and familiarity being the most important components of the set. Connected to these elements is consumers’ need to be seen to be making endorsed choices; both during and especially after purchase.

In this POV we will think more about brand fame;  why it’s important and how it is achieved, and how, over the last decade we may have lost sight of the best ways to build brand fame.

Why is fame important?

Fame is important for three reasons. First, high fame means high mental availability and we know from the work of Byron Sharp [4] and others that high mental availability confers strong commercial benefits. Paul Feldwick summarises this as being “thought of more often, by more people, and therefore chosen more often by more people.” Second, fame can disturb consumers’ economic rationality. This is one of the main, and sometimes overlooked, functions of ‘brand’ advertising. If consumers are prepared to pay a ten percent price premium for a brand because of, in Feldwick’s words, reasons of intrinsic appeal, mass audience communication, distinctiveness and social diffusion, then the brand will generate more revenue. And thirdly, if the brand can use its fame to sell more volume through higher purchase frequency at that slight price premium, then the brand’s sales and revenues will be even greater.  When we look at the famous brands we identified at the beginning of this POV, we see that they exhibit many, if not all, of these characteristics.

How do we build brand fame?

Now we know the value of fame, we can explore how it is built. Because the ‘whole’ of brand fame is composed of the following ‘parts’; intrinsic appeal, mass audience usage, distinctiveness, and social diffusion,  it follows that our strategies to build brand fame should be strategies to build those component parts.

Whilst intrinsic appeal is driven by product utility, mass audience appeal and usage, distinctiveness and social diffusion can be assisted by marketing communications like advertising, media, and PR activity.   But here’s where the quest for fame becomes more challenging. If we want brand fame, we need to seek connections that are not logical but which appeal to the right brain. Right brain connections are not driven by rationality, but by emotional appeal. System 1’s Orlando Wood summarises this in his book “Lemon” when he says the right brain is guided by implicit connections, empathy, novelty and metaphor. Contrast this with the left brain, dominated by explicit facts and logic, “cause and effect, literal, factual” [5].

How do we apply this to media strategy?

Rather ironically, we have insight on media from one of the industry’s best known creative practitioners, As recently as March this year, Sir John Hegarty, co-founder of BBH,  made an impassioned plea in the BBC’s ‘CEO Secrets’ series. Hegarty argued for more use of broadcast advertising, “if you are constantly wanting to expand your brand, make it more famous and add value to it – only broadcast does that” [6]. In addition to Hegarty’s comments, we have seen strong clues from more of advertising’s most respected and prolific thinkers. Paul Feldwick talks about mass audiences whilst Byron Sharp encourages us to maximise mental availability. Orlando Wood requires that we stimulate emotions by connecting with the right brain.

In conclusion, all this points towards the media channels that can make that all important connection with the right side of the brain; TV, AV, the different forms of VOD, and online video.

And finally, it’s worth noting that when we run models for incrementality, we find that these ‘moving image’ channels and formats are those that are delivering some of the strongest results.


  1. Oxford Languages  / Dictionary definition of Fame
  2. Why does the pedlar sing? Paul Feldwick, 2021
  3. How much is fame worth to the bottom line? Market Leader, 2005
  4. How Brands Grow Byron Sharp, 2010
  5. Lemon, Orlando Wood, System1, 2019
  6. Has Social Media killed the famous ad?” BBC News 14 March 2023