Cereal, Goals and Top of Mind Awareness

I took a number of advertising and marketing classes at the University of Iowa. One of the concepts that has stuck with me through the years has been the “evoked set.” The evoked set, in the mind of a consumer, is a group of relevant brands that a prospective buyer is familiar with when thinking about making a purchase. The evoked set is the list of products that a consumer will think of first at the time of purchase— the brands are top of mind.

Quickly think of three cereal brands. . . . those three that you thought of first are top of the list in your evoked set (mine were Honey Nut Cheerios, Rice Krispies and Crispix, and yes, those are my daughter’s favorites). The goal of any branding campaign is to get a product, brand or service into the evoked set of a target customer; top of mind awareness is about making sure your product is on a customer’s mind when he or she is ready to make a purchase.

The evoked set works in two ways; first, it keeps a brand at the top of the list when it is time for a purchase. Second, it makes you more aware of that brand on a daily basis; you notice it more. Think about the car-buying experience. Let’s say you are considering a Nissan Rogue. You read some reviews, look at specs, and go to the dealership for a test drive, then go home to chew on it. On the way home, and in subsequent car rides, you notice Nissan Rogues EVERYWHERE. Apparently, everyone is driving a Rogue these days. Are there more Rogues on the road than there were yesterday? Not likely, but you notice them more. They are top of mind, and firmly planted in your evoked set.

We see what we are looking for. The concept certainly works for marketing, but also applies to goal-setting. The more relevant your goals are, the more visible you keep them, the more time you spend focusing on them, the more likely it will be that you achieve them. This is why writing down and posting your goals is so important. Not because there is some great power in putting things down on paper (although the very action of writing does work as a first step on the process), but because writing them down, keeping them visible and reviewing them keeps your goals top of mind. You focus on them, simply because they are there.

So write down your goals, but then keep them where you can see them. Keep them top of mind, and make sure the goals and actions that will lead to your success are first in your evoked set. In his book Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, Brian Tracy says “You become what you think about most of the time.” This is the evoked set in action. If you constantly think about growing your business by 35%, increasing net profit by 40% and doubling your staff to provide more opportunities for people, that is where you will focus your actions, and you will increase your likelihood of achieving those goals. If you spend most of your day thinking about cereal, reaching your goals will be a challenge. But you will get along great with my daughter.


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