Brand Awareness, Perception, or Recall: Which Metric Matters?

August 26, 2016

One of the keystones of a successful marketing strategy is information.

Quality information about your business and its customers can be the difference between a marketing flop and an overwhelming success.

But where do you get this all-important information? How do you know what questions to ask and when?

There are studies on brand awareness, brand usage, brand perceptions, purchase intent, and more. The sheer variety of information sources can seem overwhelming.

Three often used (and often confused) sources of crucial product data are brand awareness, brand recall, and brand perception studies.

All three give you valuable insight into the position of your brand among your competitors. All three give you very different insights.

Knowing the difference can help you gather the right information at the right time so you can take your marketing strategy to the next level.

Brand Awareness

You may think you have a good idea about how your target market feels about your product, but until you ask them directly you’re leaving a lot to chance. At least once a year, and preferably once per quarter, you should be running a brand awareness study.

These brand awareness surveys are an excellent way to track the overall recognition of your brand within your most desirable markets.

Most brand awareness studies focus on aided awareness, which measures how likely a customer is to recognize your brand or product when presented with options from which to choose. Aided awareness is important because a brand that is familiar and easily recognizable is much more likely be used, talked about, and in general succeed.

For example, if a customer is in the beauty aisle looking for a new shampoo, a brand with high levels of brand awareness and familiarity will have a huge edge over the competitors when it comes time to choose from the shelves.

Brand Recall

When a marketer is conducting a brand awareness study, more often than not they also measure brand recall.

Don’t be fooled by their similar names. These are two separate types of information.

Brand recall, or “top of mind awareness,” is a measure of how likely a customer is to remember your brand when asked an unaided question. In other words, without any leading information.

This represents how strongly this person correlates your brand with the given category.

This type of free association is incredibly important to any marketing campaign. The more likely a person is to remember your brand absent prompting, the more likely they are to be talking about, recommending, and preferring your brand during a purchase.

Brand Perception

Unlike brand awareness and recall, brand perception encompasses how your customers feel about your brand.

A comprehensive brand perception study will tell you how your customers feel about your brand in relation to others, what attributes of your brand or product are most and least important to your customers, and overall how interactions with your brand leave the customer feeling.

Your brand perception will take into account customer service, quality, value, features, and the sales process. If your customers perceive you positively, they are much more likely to continue engaging with your brand. And the more positively the perceive you, the more likely they are to be evangelists for your brand.

Conversely, if your customers have a negative perception of your product or brand, they are more liable to choose your competitors or even warn other potential customers away.

A quality brand perception study can tell you why your customers are, or are not, choosing you. It can also tell you what your customers are likely saying about you on social media and in face-to-face conversations.

Which Study Will Give You the Info You Need?

Maintaining strong brand awareness and top-of-mind recall is obviously a top priority for marketers. These are measurements that will be most important to you when it’s time for designing campaigns.

A lagging brand awareness score is a good indication that it’s time to put your advertising and marketing campaigns into overdrive.

For a newer, younger company, an awareness and recall survey can help you to see which of your existing competitors are strongest so you can plan your strategies accordingly.

Choosing Between Brand Awareness and Recall

One great time to run a brand awareness study is before the launch of a new product. A high brand awareness is key to ramping up anticipation for next new thing.

Another important thing to consider is what the decision-making process looks like for your customers.

If they are likely to be presented with a high number of choices, for example at a physical store, your brand recognition is going to play a key role.

If, however, your product is more of a destination, recall is a much more important metric.

Say they are choosing which physical store to shop in. Unless the stores are side by side and right in front of them, all that matters is if when tasked with remembering a store to go to, your brand is the first to come to mind.

Support Business Decisions with Brand Perception Data

Brand perception can be used to to support all manner of business decisions, but it’s particularly useful when you are trying to allocate resources to implement your strategy.

For example, if you’re attempting to determine which features to develop or market a strong understanding of your brand perception is essential.

By giving you data on which features are most valued, you have empirical support to decide on what’s important to market.

This information can also provide you with key insights into weaknesses in your product. For example, a brand perception study might show that while your product itself is thought of in a positive light, your service is considered lacking. Thus, you should dedicate more resources to improving your service.

Impacting Your Brand Perception

Brand perception tends to change over time and is something you actually have substantial control over.

By having a good sense of your brand perception and how it changes in reaction to your initiatives, you can also gain a better insight into how your marketing is working.

Is your latest campaign positively changing what customers think of you?  How about negatively? Is it having no effect at all?

A solid grasp of your brand perception can keep you from throwing resources at a losing endeavor and guide you to a more valuable path. In other words, brand perception can be indispensable when trying to keep your marketing agile.

Brand Awareness + Perception + Recall = A Complete Picture

Ideally, you will have a good sense of your brand awareness, recall, and perception scores at all times. They all affect one another, your customer’s relationship with your brand, and the long term position of your organization.

A brand with low brand awareness is less likely to be picked in the first place, which means they are less liable to be recalled at later dates, both of which negatively impact your overall brand perception.

In a perfect world, the high brand awareness of your brand leads to significant association with your brand category (brand recall), which leads to a great perception of your brand, which ultimately leads to raving customers and long-term loyalty.

If you’re not there yet, one or all of these measurements can help you identify the roadblocks and guide you toward the best path to accomplish your goal.

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