16. 2. 2024
Attention is increasingly seen as vital to building mental availability and helping to drive sales – but to maximise a campaign’s potential, marketers need to get to grips with the types of attention at play and the Category Entry Points they hope to access, says a new WARC exclusive.

Samuel Brealey, a chartered marketer and consultant, and Max Stricker, client director at Triniti Marketing, argue in the WARC exclusive that building ‘associative attention’ can help a brand stand out, be thought about in a buying moment, and ultimately impact sales.

Why attention matters

A brand needs to establish a breadth of relevant associations in the minds of potential customers. The stronger the familiarity and these associations, the more likely your brand comes to mind when shoppers are thinking about buying.

What is Associative Attention?

Associative attention involves building mental availability, an idea advanced by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. A vital way to build that availability is to deploy Distinctive Brand Assets (DBAs), a concept developed by Jenny Romaniuk, a professor at the institute.

DBAs help a brand to be easily and instantly recognisable at a Category Entry Point (CEP), the time when a category buyer starts to think about making a purchase. A clear understanding of this situation is vital to building associative attention, which helps to link assets and consideration.

However, “most brands don’t know much or anything about CEPs”, and oftentimes success is down to luck, rather than good consumer research. As such, smaller brands have an opportunity to “try and find the gaping holes left by larger brands”, say the authors.


  • When a brand knows the category entry points that exist in people’s minds, they need to then decide which ones to associate with the brand. This requires marketers knowing how important each CEP is for the buyer, how strongly associated the CEPs are to the brand, and how strongly associated the CEPs are to the brand’s competitors.

  • The next step is to build associations that make your brand or product easily and instantly recognisable, either in an advert, in-store, via packaging, or on-shelf.

  • In terms of getting people’s attention, surprise can be an effective approach – in a brand’s creative, packaging and in-store.

“Go out there. Get off the laptop, stop reading this article and identify category entry points through the eyes of your customer. Because that’s how you start to understand how attention is related to those associations. Don’t jump the gun, do your homework” – Samuel Brealey and Max Stricke

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