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What is Brand Awareness and Why Should You Care? — Sublimio
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What is Brand Awareness and Why Should You Care?

Brand awareness is the objective of many campaigns, but what is brand awareness, really? The answer is actually more nuanced that most people realize.

Brand awareness is a term loved by marketers, but sometimes misused. What does it really mean that customers know your brand? This might sound like a simple question at first, but take a deeper look and you will realize it’s not so easy.

What is brand awareness and how do you measure it?

Simply defined, brand awareness is the degree to which customers are able to recall or recognize your brand.

You might notice we are using two different verbs here: recall or recognize. Actually, they make a lot of difference. When we talk about brand recall we are referring to the customer being able to name your brand when prompted by a category.

For example, if I asked you to recall a soda brand, you might have 3 or 4 names popping up in your mind. Brand recall is considered the best kind of brand awareness, because it means that the customer automatically associates your brand with the category. The Holy Grail of brand recall is being top of mind, i.e. the first brand that comes to mind when thinking about that category.

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This is what it looks like.

In case the customer didn’t name your brand, you might try and give her a little help. You are now entering the realm of brand recognition. The help could be the name of the brand itself, but even a distinctive brand asset such as the packaging, the colors or the typography. Brand recognition is a somewhat less powerful form of brand awareness, but in a crowded market it might still be a result to be happy about.

Finally, a customer might be entirely unaware of your brand. Even when put in front of the brand name, she will just shrug. Statistically, that will just happen.

These are conventionally the four degrees of brand awareness as represented in Aaker’s Pyramid: unaware, brand recognition, brand recall, top of mind.

So, you can measure different types of brand awareness and you will get different percentages: maybe you are a top of mind brand for 3% of potential customers, have brand recall on 10% of them, be recognized by 40% of them and be totally unknown for the remaining 60%.

soda drinks brand awareness

Photo by James Yarema on Unsplash

Why is brand awareness so important for your business?

Brand awareness might be considered a foundational element to build a business success. After all, if customers don’t know you, they won’t buy you. Your brand won’t come to mind when they need something quickly.

Being a top of mind brand is a formidable signal of brand health and will bring you customers – or website traffic – with very little spending.

Of course, brand awareness is not everything. First of all, the fact that a person knows a brand tells us nothing about what association she has established in her mind around that brand. Maybe you are well known and despised, or just considered unexciting. In other terms, awareness does not equal positioning.

Brand awareness is not everything: it tells you nothing about the associations built around your brand.

In addition, awareness is not mental availability. This metric, brought to fame by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, refers to the likeliness that a customer will think of your brand when she’s about to buy, rather than when she’s answering a survey.

This means you should not just link your brand to a category, but rather to a purchase situation. You don’t just want to be the first soda that comes to mind: you want to be the soda that comes to mind when you are ordering pizza.

sneakers brand comparison brand awareness sport

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

How do you increase brand awareness?

Brand awareness grows slowly. This means that awareness campaigns shouldn’t be designed as a tactical solution. Two months of an awareness-focused campaign will bring you nothing but short term awareness, which is a pretty irrelevant metric for business purposes.

When building brand awareness you will see the effect after quite a long time. In this phase you want to optimize your planning for reach and frequency. A brand awareness campaign will target a lot of people and it will reach them often. In the meanwhile, you want to create the right associations in terms of values, usage situations and you want some of your distinctive assets to take root.

You will need to resist the urge to check results day after day, as this kind of results will not be tracked by online platforms, but you might expect to see an increase in direct traffic to your website if your brand is on everyone’s mind.

Andrea Sublimio Strategist

Andrea Ciulu
Copywriter & Strategist

A creative and analytical thinker, with strong roots in advertising, Andrea crafts concepts, branding and communication strategies that make a difference.


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