Ask most people what comes to mind when they think of DHL and the most common response is "big yellow trucks." Thus, it shouldn't be surprising to learn that those big yellow trucks helped give DHL a brand awareness of 60%, according to BtoBOnline.com, the web-based magazine for marketing strategists.

Of course, it wasn't just the trucks. After 20 years without any advertising, DHL launched a $60 million advertising campaign. The combination of the ads and the trucks vaulted brand awareness from 11% to 60% in two years. Since then, the company's scaled back on traditional advertising, but nevertheless has managed to maintain high levels of awareness.

To put things in perspective, DHL's brand awareness is double the brand awareness of the best known air conditioning manufacturer and four times the awareness levels of the second best known brand. While $60 million may seem like a lot of money, it's a drop in the bucket of the $108 billion radio and television advertising market. It's not enough to move the brand awareness needle that far, that fast. So how did they do it? Go back to the trucks.

The DHL brand benefitted from a strong truck ID program. The trucks aren't white. The logo isn’t small. There's no confused clutter from competing brand messages. Once you notice one, it seems like you see them everywhere.

This is the multiplier effect of truck marketing. If your trucks stand out, people think there are more of them than are actually on the road. This means your impressions are multiplying, your brand awareness is growing.

Put DHL's advertising campaign in perspective. In an effort to rebrand the company after buying Airborne Express, DHL spent 20 cents per consumer. Scaled, the budget is more attainable. In a market with a million people, 20 cents per consumer works out to $200,000. Target an area with a 300,000 population, and the equivalent advertising budget is $60,000.

Many contractors can sustain equivalent advertising budgets. Even if they can't, combine an advertising budget they can sustain with a well-designed truck ID program, and it's easy to see how a contractor can generate brand awareness numbers in his or her market that trump consumer awareness of the equipment brands he or she carries.

Ironically, most contractors doubt this, because few contractors know their brand awareness statistics for their local markets. The lack of information results in brand insecurity. Unsure of the strength of their brand, they hesitate to promote the company brand before others. Undoubtedly, many would be surprised at the strength of their local brands.

Also ironically, local brands trump national ones where the service is personal and the relationship matters. For example, there's a movement among some of the country's fastest growing churches to create separation with denominational brands and instead, emphasize the local church brand. What can be more personal and relationship-centered than faith decisions? However, inviting a service technician into the home for repairs or maintenance comes fairly close.

Industry research has consistently shown that consumers, faced with an HVAC replacement decision, are three times more likely to seek a contractor brand over an equipment brand. In local markets the strongest brands belong to the contractors.

You build your brand every time your trucks hit the road. You build it with your advertising and marketing. You build it by becoming involved in your community. You build it with public relations. You build it on every service call. You build it with every refrigerator magnet, every door hanger, every consumer newsletter, every direct mail piece, every phone call, and every Facebook post, blog addition, and Tweet.

You do more to build your brand than you might imagine. Accordingly, your local brand awareness is stronger than you imagine. Of course, this assumes you focus on building your brand and not someone else's.

Matt Michel has lectured and consulted with companies about branding in North America, Europe, and Asia. He is the CEO of the Service Roundtable (www.Service Roundtable.com). To learn more about the Service Roundtable’s unique branding program for contractors that's paid for with rebates, contact Matt by email at matt.michel@ serviceroundtable.com or toll free at 877.262.3341. You can find more on branding at Matt's blog, www.ComancheMarketing.com.