The Definitive Guide to Brand Awareness Studies

August 18, 2016

The goal of most brand awareness studies is to answer this one question:

What percentage of my target market is aware of my brand?

Other brand health studies are crucial to forming a complete marketing strategy, but measuring your brand’s market Recognition and Recall is the best first step.

Why is this metric so important? Easy. It is integral to the topmost section of the customer purchase funnel and dictates how large that section is:


You can only get out of the funnel as much as you put in, so it’s important to know how your brand awareness stacks up with the competition.

Two Types of Brand Awareness: Recognition vs. Recall

Brand awareness measures the extent to which consumers are familiar with your brand and product. As consumers we’re aware of brands in different ways — with some brands we’re reminded of our familiarity with them upon hearing it’s name, or seeing it’s logo in store aisles. Other brands enjoy “top of mind” status, which puts them immediately at the forefront when it comes time to make a purchase.

Brand Recognition (Aided Research)

These studies measure the ability for customers to recognize your brand from a list of brands shown. Brand recognition levels are crucial in scenarios where customers are presented with a selection of products from various brands, such as at the supermarket. Unless the customer has a “top of mind” selection, they will automatically recognize the brands where a level of familiarity already exists.

For example, you may purchase motor oil so infrequently that you’d be hard-pressed to recite the name of one brand off the top of your head. However, one quick scan of the selection at the local auto parts store and you just might find yourself leaning towards the familiar looking one in the bright yellow container. 


Brand recognition levels are especially important for newer companies and brands who do not yet have a solidified presence in the market.

Brand Recall (Unaided Research)

These studies measure the ability of customers to summon the name of your brand without having it appear in a list first. This means that an open-ended question must be used. Brand recall question types provide a higher “hurdle” than aided research. This means you will gather higher quality data from this method. A higher correlation is typically found between consumer preference and the results of an unaided study versus a lower correlation than with an aided one.


Where possible, data collection through unaided question types is much more preferable compared to aided questionnaires.

Four Additional Types of Brand Awareness & Health Studies

Brand awareness measures the percentage of your target market that is aware of your brand, but intelligence that you collect for changes in your marketing strategy cannot be fed by this alone. Your brand has an image, but are your brand’s attributes that you work so hard to market being reflected in the sentiments of those already aware of your brand? Let’s take a look at various brand health studies that in conjunction can be used to form your marketing strategy:

  • Brand Image Study: Gather internal and external feedback to see how closely your customer’s perception matches the Brand Identity that you’re trying to cultivate.
  • Brand Trust Study: In an era of data breaches, keeping tabs on your levels of brand trust is key. If your brand doesn’t appear trustworthy, you will have difficulty retaining customers.
  • Brand Loyalty Study: Loyal customers can become evangelists, but you need to consistently track loyalty levels to determine how often this transformation is happening.
  • Customer Profile Study: Changes in your core customer base may signal the need for a pivot, either in the product or your marketing messages (or both).

Two Ways to Conduct Your Brand Awareness Study: Online and Telephone Surveys

The example questions above are commonly found in online surveys. Increasingly, this has become a popular choice for studies of all kinds, brand studies included. Many people have web-oriented jobs and coupled with smartphones users have access to the internet for hours and hours per day. Respondents rarely plan their day to include survey-taking, but when the convenience level is so high they’re happy to share their opinion.

Advantages of Online Surveys for your Brand Awareness Study

  • They offer the ultimate in convenience: participants can respond almost any time.
  • Lower costs compared to telephone and in-person field studies.
  • Fast field times to gather your representative sample.

Disadvantages of Online Surveys for your Brand Awareness Study

  • Anonymity is more common: many online panel services do not allow for personally identifiable information to be collected.
  • No live person to clarify questions.
  • Technology requirements (access to a fast, web-connected laptop/smartphone) can make certain segments of the population almost impossible to reach.

Advantages of Telephone Surveys for your Brand Awareness Study

  • Great ability to target a specific number of respondents within a narrow demographic or geo location.
  • In certain studies it can allow for more in-depth probing of the respondent.
  • Respondents can more readily decide to share their personal information.

Disadvantages of Telephone Surveys for your Brand Awareness Study

  • Typically much more costly than online surveys.
  • Fields times to capture your entire sample audience can be considerably longer.

Online Surveys: Best Practices for Brand Awareness Studies

Online surveys provide are an affordable option to provide high quality data for your brand health study. Unbiased results can be captured with quick field times, but only if you protect yourself from some common pitfalls and follow some best practices. Online survey creation platforms abound online, such as Alchemer, SurveyMonkey, and Qualtrics, to name a few. Whether you are using an online panel provider (recommended) or you have purchased an email list (not recommended), these best practices apply all the same.

Reach Your Target Audience, Use Disqualifying Questions

Even if the online panel company you’ve chosen to run your car brand study through claims that it can target those who are in the market to purchase a car with the next 12 months, given the margin of error that exists within panel companies you’ll still want to asked a question early in the survey confirming that this is the case. Online survey software typically provides “logic” features that automatically perform the disqualifications.


Use Audience Quotas

Basic demographics, such as age, gender, location and ethnicity should be asked as questions in your survey. If you plan to segment your some or all of these demographics it’s highly recommended that quotas are created for each of these. The only way to ensure that your quotas are accurate are to qualify the respondent through these questions on demographics. Online panel provides offer census data with regards to age, gender, location and ethnicity, which you can use to create your quotas. 


Use Unaided Question Types

As discussed previously, unaided questions provide data of a higher purity, since respondents must make top of mind recollections. Aided questions creates the opportunity for a margin of guesswork from your respondents.

Protect Yourself Against Bad Data

Most high quality online survey creation platforms feature tools that automatically quarantine low quality responses. Here are the main culprits that these data cleaning tools typically target:

  • Speeders: Those whose survey completion times come in much lower than the average of all respondents of your survey.
  • Straight-liners/Patterned Responses: Applies to check box questions — those who select all options within a single column, or follow a particular pattern (i.e. a zigzag pattern is known as “christmas treeing”):


  • Gibberish and One-word Open Text Responses: Necessary for unaided questions is for respondents to share information in their own words. Entries that do not form words (gibberish) or consist of only ONE word can “cleaned” out of your data-set.


  • Utilize Trap/Red Herring Questions: to protect against bots, as well as those who are answering your survey without actually reading your questions, can be weeded-out uses questions that have obvious answers:


Most online panel providers will provide replacement completes for these types of problematic answers, but it’s best to arrange for this ahead of time with the panel company before your study launches.

Run Your Brand Awareness Study Before a New Marketing Campaign

The results of brand awareness studies can serve as fantastic benchmarks. Placed as bookends around a major marketing effort, these studies can provide fantastic indicators on the performance of your initiative. At a minimum brand awareness surveys should be run once a year, but other opportunities arise as you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your product. SWOT analysis is perfect for this. SWOT is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing business ventures.

  • Strengths: What are the attributes of your brand that it an advantage over others?
  • Weaknesses: What attributes put it at a disadvantage relative to others
  • Opportunities: what does the organizations stand to gain from this venture
  • Threats: what could cause trouble for the organization as a result of this venture.

With SWOT many of the opportunities and threats are defined based on the strengths and weaknesses of your brand. But what if your strengths and weaknesses haven’t been affirmed by an external audience? A brand awareness study is a perfect tool to ensure that your perceived strengths and perceived weaknesses are reflected by the opinions in the market.

As Brand Awareness Increases, so Does Brand Preference

As increased awareness is unarguably a good for your brand, it stands to reason that there is a direct correlation here with brand preference. In fact, there have been multiple studies performed that document this correlation. A study conducted by Cahners Research involved 23,341 businesses and found the following results. With almost a direct ratio, brand preference rose along with brand awareness:


Image courtesy of

Want to Learn More About Brand Awareness Surveys?

Check out this blog entry: Why Brand Awareness Surveys Are Critical For An Effective Marketing Plan

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