How do you measure brand awareness?

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Brand awareness describes the extent to which customers, prospects and the general public are able to recognize and recall a brand.

It is the first step in engaging potential customers/clients and is often the most crucial. Measuring brand awareness, noting how readily the brand comes to mind and monitoring how this changes over time can be a very effective way of measuring the overall health of a brand.

During a typical brand tracking study, brand awareness is measured in 3 different ways:

  1. First mention (or “top-of-mind” recall)
  2. Spontaneous recall
  3. Prompted recognition
 

Measures of spontaneous brand recall

The first two are open questions where the respondent is invited to write down the names of brands they are aware of. It is extremely important to make sure that the respondent is clear on exactly what product/service category you want them to answer for. It is usually a good idea to include a brief description of the category first in order to make sure.

Example:

Q1. When thinking about manufacturers of industrial vacuum cleaners (vacuum cleaners designed for use in the workplace, including construction sites, factories and workshops), which is the first brand that comes to mind?

____________________

Q2. Can you name any other manufacturers of industrial vacuum cleaners?

  1. _________
  2. _________
  3. _________
  4. _________
  5. _________
  6. _________
  7. _________
  8. _________
  9. _________
  10. _________
 

You can well imagine that if you just asked about manufacturers of vacuum cleaners you might get a very different list of brands.

Making it onto the list of brands recalled shows that the association between the brand and the product/service category is strong in the respondent’s mind. Being the first brand that comes to mind in a product category is a huge advantage, as it shows that your brand dominates the association with that product/service category.

Even just making it onto the list of brands recalled is an important step. In most studies, respondents will only recall an average of about 3-4 brands (although this can be higher when talking to specialists).

This explains why competition for headspace is often fierce, as winning a spot on someone’s shortlist generally means knocking another brand off.

brand recall

 

Measuring prompted awareness

The third type of awareness is measured differently. The respondent is presented with a list of brands and asked to identify those they are familiar with. Ideally brands should be shown as they are seen in the market, with the logo appropriate to the market you are surveying.

This measure is much less powerful as an indicator of association with the product/service category being tested but is an important part of the larger picture of brand health.

Example:

Q3. And from the list below, which other brands of industrial vacuum cleaner manufacturers you have heard of…

  • Dust Control
  • Faip
  • Ghibli & Wirbel
  • Kärcher
  • Kirby
  • Nielco
  • Nilfisk
  • Numatic
 

Comparing spontaneous recall and prompted awareness

Looking at spontaneous recall (including first mentions) against prompted brand awareness can give us some broader insight into how the brand sits in the market.

Recall / Awareness Matrix

[Click to enlarge]

  • Brands with high levels of spontaneous recall and prompted awareness are generally market leaders.
  • Brands displaying relatively high levels of spontaneous recall but low levels of prompted awareness are typically specialist brands who might be industry leaders for a sub-category of product or service. An example might be the leading manufacturer of ride-on vacuum cleaners.
  • Brands with high prompted awareness but low spontaneous recall typically fall into two categories:
    • Marquee/crossover brands, those who are better known for products/services in other categories
    • Defunct brands who are still recognized despite not being a big player anymore

Brands with low scores for both are generally weak but may be an emerging player. This is one of the reasons it is important to track these measures over time