Brand awareness: often the first marketing communications goal
Brand awareness is fundamental to success in the marketplace; if consumers are unaware of the brand they are unlikely to become customers. This is why the first goal in a marketing communications plan for a new brand is to build awareness of the brand.
What is brand awareness?
As suggested by the term, brand awareness is simply the percentage of the target market that is aware of the brand.
Please note that these consumers may/may not know anything about the brand or its benefits – all that is being measured is the extent of brand name awareness.
Metrics for measuring brand awareness
The main marketing metrics associated with brand awareness are:
- Top-of-mind brand awareness
- Unprompted brand awareness
- Total unprotected brand awareness
- Prompted brand awareness
- Total brand awareness
These metrics are interrelated and build on each other to some extent. Metrics 1 and 2 above are added together to determine metric 3 and then metrics 3 and 4 are added together to calculate metric 5 (as will be discussed below).
Note: Unprompted and prompted awareness is also referred to as unaided and aided awareness. These terms are interchangeable and refer to the same metric.
Overview of the brand awareness metrics
Probably the best way to understand these different brand awareness metrics is to use a short brand awareness questionnaire, as follows:
Questionnaire: Awareness measures
- When thinking about fast food chains, what is the FIRST brand that comes to mind?
- What other fast food chains can you recall? (Interviewer does NOT prompt)
- Have you heard of these fast food chains? (Interviewer reads list of all other brands)
The first question measures top-of-mind brand awareness. This is the first brand that the respondent can recall – off the top of their head – which is why it is called top-of-mind awareness. Usually the market leader with strong brand equity would have a strong top-of-mind score. Often there is a correlation between a brand’s market share and their top-of-mind score.
With the second question, the respondent is still not prompted and lists (from their memory) any other brands in that product category that they can recall without assistance. Because there is no prompting (help) by the interviewer, this metric is referred to as unprompted awareness. For question one the consumer only lists ONE brand, but for question two they can list as many brands as they can recall.
As mentioned above, the results from top-of-mind brand awareness (from question 1) and unprompted brand awareness (from question 2) are added together to generate total unprompted awareness, as shown below:Click to enlarge
In this hypothetical example of the brand awareness metrics for fast food restaurants, you can see that McDonald’s had the highest level of top-of-mind awareness at 30%, followed by Subway at 25%. You should also note that there are 5% of respondents that could not recall any fast food brand off the top of their head (which is under the heading of ‘none’).
Prompted brand awareness
The third question is where the interviewer will list all the brands that the respondent has not been able to recall without assistance (that is, unprompted) – and the interviewer will go through each one and ask “are you aware of Pizza Hut?” for example. The respondent simply answers yes or no to this series of questions.
This is referred to as prompted brand awareness. Prompted brand awareness is then added to total unprompted awareness from above to determine total brand awareness, as shown below:
What to look for with brand awareness metrics?
The most important brand awareness metric is top-of-mind awareness. Being the first brand that can be recalled by a consumer means that brand is strongly associated as being the market leader in the product category. This would be correlated to market share and sales success as well, as consumers are more likely to recall brands that they purchase on a regular basis.
The second most important brand awareness metric is unprompted awareness. Brands want to be in the memory and recall of consumers – this is a key component of building strong brand equity and delivering sales results. Especially for low-involvement purchases, consumers will gravitate to brands that they know.
The other factor to consider when measuring brand awareness is how these measures are changing over time. Therefore, many major brands will track brand awareness, against their key competitors, on a regular basis (every 3 to 12 months). This tracking research acts as an early warning system to identify whether their brand strength is being eroded or challenged by competitors and also to determine how well their marketing communication activities are supporting their brand awareness goals.
Note on brand awareness metrics: Prompted awareness
You should note from the above table, that the smaller brands will have a higher level of prompted awareness as compared to the major brands. Take McDonald’s for example, where in the table above they have a 90% unprompted awareness – this means that there are only 10% of respondents who are asked “are you aware of McDonald’s?”.
Compare this to KFC with only a 60% unprompted awareness. In this case 40% of respondents will be asked the corresponding awareness question for KFC, resulting in a higher prompted awareness score for KFC.
In most cases the marketing goal is to try and maximize total brand awareness, but preferably with the majority of this awareness being generated from top-of-mind and unprompted awareness.