Learn how to measure and increase brand awareness. Brand awareness is one aspect of branding and marketing planning and strategy.
Brand awareness is a measure of how many people are aware of a brand.
They may not know the term “brand” so generally in brand awareness research people are asked “What companies are you aware of that make dog food?” (or whatever the category is).
Know this: Wording in brand awareness is important. You don’t want to say are you “familiar with” because that means something else than “aware of.” You can be aware of lots of things that you aren’t familiar with.
How is brand awareness measured?
Brand awareness is measured using a Quantitative Market Research survey with enough people to be statistically valid.
It’s generally done through an online survey but can also be done on the phone or through mall intercepts.
It’s always blind. Blind means that the market research survey does not reveal what brand is doing the research. The research is presented by saying something like, “This is a research study on awareness of car companies.”
To get the most accurate data, brand research is usually conducted by a third-party research company who finds and screens the research respondents. The research respondents’ names and contact information is generally shared in aggregate so the respondent can’t be identified individually. This anonymity helps people to be more truthful. This is especially important if the research is conducted among purchase decision makers for brands.
What is measured in brand awareness research?
- Unaided brand awareness. You just ask people “What companies or brands are you aware of that make cars?” (Or whatever category you are in.) You don’t give them any suggestions. And you record their answers. Who they list first, second, third is very important. Some people for some categories of products/services will not be able to list any. That’s insightful.
- Aided brand awareness. The respondent sees a list of companies and checks which ones they have heard of (are aware of). These answers aren’t as insightful as unaided awareness.
Know this: Brand awareness may not always correlate to positive perceptions about a brand. The oil company BP had very high awareness after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and it wasn’t positive, was it?
Know this: People will also “guess” at who they think may make a particular type of product. For instance, IBM will be listed by many people as making all types of computer-related products/services because of the “halo effect” of their brand.
Who should be asked in research about their brand awareness?
- Existing customers
- Industry influencers
- Purchase decision makers
- Target audience(s)
TIP: It’s insightful to compare/contrast brand awareness among these different groups of people. That is actionable to help you determine what to do with your marketing.
When to ask brand awareness?
- Before any major investment in marketing and advertising to get a baseline.
- After any major investment in marketing and advertising to see if it was noticed. If that advertising is about a major new product announcement don’t assume all that lift in awareness came from the advertising.
- Before and after any major product announcements.
- At least once a year. It doesn’t generally change very much once a baseline is established. The big companies who invest a lot in brand tracking research are often frustrated by “flat lines” (no change in brand awareness).
What else is helpful to ask in brand awareness research?
Brand preference; brand purchase consideration and brand purchase preference. These are much more difficult measures to rate highly on. Most people are aware of a lot of brands, consider a smaller set of brands and have preference for only a few brands. And many times they may prefer a brand but not actually consider purchasing it (Jaguar cars is an example of that).
After the brand awareness unaided and aided questions are asked (order is VERY important), then it may be helpful to gather more information about brand affinity (on some sort of rating scale to understand how positive a person is about a brand), brand popularity (going up? down? or no change?), recent purchase decisions (what did they buy) and, what are they considering buying (brand consideration short list).
It’s also helpful to ask unaided where/how they heard of the brand and whether that was positive/neutral/negative. And then to ask if they remember seeing any advertising for (list of brands). And to ask if they have recommended or referred the brand to anyone online and/or in person.
How long should these brand awareness surveys be?
If they’re longer than 15 minutes, they will have a very high incomplete rate meaning that most respondents drop off.
Marketers think up a lot of questions they want to ask without thinking first: How will this information be used? And what will the customer experience be for the poor respondent who has to answer all the questions? By the end of a brand awareness/preference survey most respondents can figure out who it’s for. What will their satisfaction be with the company or brand after enduring so many questions?
Treat others the way you want to be treated. Remember that great Seinfeld episode when Jerry got a call from a telemarketer at dinner and asked the person when they’d be getting off work and what their number was so he could call them then? Have someone call you or send you the draft of the research to complete so you go through what you’re asking other people to.
How to build brand awareness
- Advertising is an effective way to build brand awareness
- PR/Public Relations works if there is a newsworthy event or product/service introduction
- You might start with creating your Marketing Plan and clarifying your objectives
From our experience: You can spend a lot of money creating brand awareness when what you really want are customers and revenue! If you give an ad agency an assignment to create brand awareness, you’ll get lots of ideas with high stopping power, meaning the ideas will stop someone to take notice. But will that awareness translate into any interest in learning more about your brand? Probably not.
It’s easy to create awareness. It’s much harder to create consideration and brand preference. Push for marketing that will ring the cash register! It should answer “why buy?” Think of someone looking for a job. If their objective is to create awareness, they could send someone a milk carton with their picture on it (like the “missing children” ads of the past) or buy a billboard with their photo saying they’re looking for a job, or show up to an interview naked. All those things don’t create consideration and preference.
The very best marketing creates or reinforces a brand and drives harder to increase brand preference.