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Brand awareness research: what, how and why?

In this article we explain everything you need to know about conducting brand awareness studies. 

What is brand awareness?

Brand awareness is the degree of recognition and familiarity of a name, brand, or company among the public. It includes both the spontaneous recall of the name and the aided recognition, where consumers recognize the name when it is shown or mentioned in a specific context. Brand awareness is critical to the success of marketing and branding, as it is the foundation for consumer trust, brand loyalty, and competitive advantage.

What are the benefits of good brand awareness? 

Good brand awareness offers several benefits for companies and brands. Here are three key benefits: 

  • Trust and credibility. Companies with good brand awareness are generally more trusted and labelled as credible. Scientific research shows that consumers are often inclined to choose brands with which they are familiar and which they associate with quality and reliability. Read more about that in this article

  • Competitive advantage. In a competitive market, good brand awareness is likely to pay off. For example, competitors are more likely to choose products or services whose name they know and trust, even if there are alternatives in the market. It allows a brand to stand out from the competition and maintain or increase market share. 

  • Customer retention and loyalty. Consumers tend to be more loyal to brands they are familiar with. Strong brand awareness helps build a connection between the brand and the consumer. Repeated exposure to the brand increases recognition and trust in the brand. As a result, there is a good chance that they will return for a follow-up purchase, meaning that brand awareness has a positive effect on loyalty. 

What is a brand awareness study? 

A brand awareness study is a form of market research that aims to measure the awareness of a particular name, brand, product, or company among a target audience. By conducting brand awareness research, companies gain insight into the extent to which the target group is familiar with the name and what associations they have with it. Brand awareness studies are often combined with brand perception research.

Why do companies measure brand awareness? 

Measuring brand awareness is an essential part of any marketing and branding strategy. The three main reasons for measuring brand awareness are listed below: 

  • Measuring the effectiveness of marketing activities. Measuring brand awareness will make it clear how well-known the brand is before any new marketing efforts are made. By (continuing to) measure brand awareness during and after marketing efforts, it is possible to keep track of the extent to which they contribute to increasing brand awareness. 

  • Competitive insights. When conducting brand awareness research, competitors are also considered. In this way, it becomes clear which competitors score highest on brand awareness. 

  • Audience insights. By conducting brand awareness research in combination with brand perception research, it becomes clear how well-known the brand is and how people view it. This can be capitalized on to further increase brand awareness. 

Different forms and measurements of brand awareness 

There are several ways to indicate the brand awareness of a brand: 

  • Spontaneous brand awareness. This involves asking the respondent to name names that they associate with a particular industry, product category, or service, without any help. 

  • Aided brand awareness. Aided brand awareness shows the extent to which respondents recognize the name when it is shown in a list of similar brands. 

  • Top-of-mind awareness. This measures the first name that comes to mind when respondents think of a specific industry, product category, or service. 

  • Brand associations and perceptions. If a brand awareness survey is extended with a brand perception survey, it can also gauge what associations people have with the name and how they perceive the brand or company. 

Evidently, brand awareness can be measured and studied in different ways. Most companies however, aim to score as high as possible in the spontaneous brand awareness and top-of-mind awareness categories.

Methods for measuring brand awareness 

When measuring brand awareness, it is important to conduct the survey among a large group of respondents. Due to the large number of respondents required to make meaningful statements, companies often choose to conduct quantitative research in the form of surveys. 

  • Surveys. For brand awareness research, online surveys are the most suitable. With this method, spontaneous brand awareness, aided brand awareness, and top-of-mind awareness can be properly measured. 

  • Combine with brand perception research. It is customary to combine a brand awareness survey with brand perception research, in which brand associations and perceptions are also questioned separately. In that case, it is also common to conduct interviews or focus groups for additional insights.

Recruit respondents for brand awareness research 

In brand awareness surveys, it is advisable to use an external panel to recruit the respondents. For example, it is difficult for companies to draw a representative sample from their own customer base, because they will all already be familiar with the company and therefore distort the results of the survey. In general, around 385 respondents are invited to participate in the survey. 

Step-by-step plan for conducting brand awareness research

Do you want to get started with conducting brand awareness research yourself? Then follow these steps: 

Step 1: Formulate objectives and research questions 

  • Define the objectives. Clearly determine why you are conducting the brand awareness survey. Do you want to increase awareness, evaluate marketing effectiveness, or enter new markets? 

  • Formulate research questions. Develop specific questions that you want to answer. For example: "What is the current spontaneous brand awareness?", "What associations do people have with our brand?". 

Step 2: Choose the research methodology 

  • Choose the right method. Keep in mind that it is customary to use surveys for brand awareness research. For additional insights, consider also gathering qualitative insights through in-depth interviews or focus groups. 

  • Choose time frame and sample size. Determine the duration of the study and the sample size needed to obtain representative results. 

Step 3: Develop research tools 

  • Create surveys or questionnaires. Design structured questions that are relevant to your goals. Provide a mix of spontaneous and aided recognition. 

  • Preliminary focus groups or interview guides. If you (also) use qualitative methods, develop guides with open-ended questions to gain in-depth insights. 

Step 4: Data collection and analysis 

  • Conduct research. Get started with conducting surveys, focus groups, interviews, or a combination of these according to your chosen methodology. 

  • Analyse results. Use appropriate statistical analysis tools for quantitative data. For qualitative data, identify patterns and themes. 

Step 5: Interpretation and reporting 

  • Interpret results. Give meaning to the findings in relation to your objectives. Identify strengths and weaknesses in brand awareness. 

  • Make recommendations. Provide recommendations based on the results. This may relate to marketing strategies, brand positioning, or further research needs. 

  • Prepare a report. Present the findings and recommendations in a clear and structured report. Use visual aids such as charts to clarify the results. 

Sample questionnaires and templates

Looking for an example of brand awareness research? Download our sample questions, questionnaires, and templates for free.