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Brand awareness remains global marketers’ top priority, but mass reach isn’t what it used to be

3 minute read | April 2022

Channel fragmentation and increasing media options provide consumers with an abundance of choice, but they present a hurdle for marketers that rely on traditional mass reach channels to increase brand awareness. And just as we’ve seen in previous years, the marketers surveyed for Nielsen’s 2022 Annual Marketing Report say building brand awareness is their top objective for the year ahead. Similarly, their top business priority is new customer acquisition.

While there is no discounting the importance of reaching the largest audience possible, doing so today requires increasingly more planning and strategy than it did when our media choices were far more finite—and marketers could use a handful of channels to meet their mass reach needs.

To achieve their top objectives, marketers need to reach large prospective customer groups. Amid a readily fragmenting media landscape, however, they need to approach mass reach differently than they did when it was easier to define what it means to “watch TV.” That being said, the need to drive brand awareness has never been greater.

In addition to the prevalence of choice and access, some traditional sources of brand equity are less apparent than before the pandemic simply because of reduced visibility. With many consumers shopping less regularly at physical stores, for example, the frequency of seeing a product on a shelf or a sign in a store window has declined.

In today’s world, it’s a risky proposition to take non-marketing sources of equity for granted. These examples also elevate the importance of staying top-of-mind with consumers when a sale is at stake.

To do this, global marketers continue to lean into social media, with 64% of respondents for this year’s marketing report saying it’s their most effective paid channel. And in light of recent successes on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, it’s easy to see why the sentiment—and related spending—is growing. 

Notably, global marketers plan to increase their social media budgets more than any other channel over the next year.  The projected average increase globally (53%), however, would be higher if it weren’t for marketers in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), as they intend to increase their social media spending less than marketers elsewhere (31%).

While global marketers continue to spend on social media, search and email, these channels aren’t typically ideal mass reach options. There is, however, no discounting the growing reach of online video and connected TV—and marketers are increasing their spend accordingly. Importantly, they want to ensure that their spend is reaching the right audiences—real people making real choices. In December 2021, for example, YouTube reached 135 million people on TV screens alone1. YouTube is also a growing force in the streaming space, as Americans streamed 177.3 billion minutes of video2 on the platform in January 2022. 

Reaching new consumers isn’t what it used to be, and the last 2.5 years have permanently changed consumer behaviors. Traditional mass reach channels like traditional TV and radio are still critical in any marketer’s media mix, but they’re no longer the only options for reaching large audiences en masse. 

For additional insights, download our 2022 Annual Marketing Report.


  1. Nielsen Streaming Platform Ratings
  2. The Gauge, February 2022

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