Brand awareness is a powerful tool that measures how familiar the target audience is with your brand relative to competition. When we measure awareness, we’re looking for our brand’s category affinity or relevance to a given customer need. It is also used to evaluate how well marketing efforts, particularly advertising, have fared.
Methods to appraise brand awareness
There are several quantitative and qualitative methods to help you conduct brand awareness research. I’ve covered them in another article entitled, “Consumer Research – The Impact Of Digital”. The article will give you a few ideas on how to get started including the ability of leverage digital technology in your endeavor.
What is most important though, is that you are clear about what you are evaluating. Your evaluation could stretch from a comprehensive study at one end to a definitive one on the other.
Types of questions to ask
To begin with, you will need to develop a question set that helps you achieve your objective . These questions may be open-ended or close-ended and will essentially fall into aided and unaided buckets.
Aided Vs unaided questions
Simply put, aided brand awareness questions measure the percentage of respondents who express knowledge about the brand after being prompted in some way. Conversely, unaided brand awareness questions measure those that express knowledge of the brand without assistance.
A good practice is to begin with questions pertaining to the category in general before probing deeper into specifics. You want to understand if your brand is top-of-mind, mid-stream, tail-end or not associated at all within a given category. Leading with unaided questions also helps remove any cognitive bias from respondents.
Unaided questions don’t mention specific names. They rely on a respondent’s experience and familiarity with the category to link brand names with the category being studied. Such answers demonstrate brand recall i.e. a strong affinity between brand and category.
Aided questions on the other hand serve the information upfront. Respondents are pointed in a particular direction. Something that may not have occurred naturally to them. Aided answers tend to account for brand recognition.
While it is best to be on the side of brand recall, what you certainly don’t want is to be absent from brand recognition i.e. failure to rank even when presented in a list to respondents. Brands that are neither recalled nor recognized fall into a category known as graveyard brands.
Framing aided and unaided questions
To demonstrate how aided and unaided questions work, let’s assume that you are a mobile phone manufacturer looking to gauge how aware your target market is about your brand. You could ask respondents an unaided question: “Which mobile phone brands are you familiar with?” This allows respondents to use their own faculties to come up with a list.
In the case of an aided question, you provide a list of brand options from which respondents make their selection. The same question can be reframed as:
“Which of the following mobile phone brands are you familiar with?”
- Your brand name
In this case, respondents have been prompted with a set of brands, some that they would have recalled unaided, and some that they wouldn’t have recalled without help. In addition, for better or worse, lists limit the scope of potential answers.
Let’s say that you are in the market for a new sports car with a budget of $200,000. List all the prospective brands + sub brands that fall under your radar. Once you have your list, ask a few friends / colleagues to share their thoughts. There is a good chance that you will find some worthy additions to the list. After that, run an internet search for more options. Chances are, there are still quite a few that didn’t get a mention.
In the case of your original list, the cars that found their way into relevance were ‘recalled’. The cars that were added with the help of others were ‘recognized’ (after the fact). The ones that never made it that far are in the ‘graveyard’, at least in your circumstance.
Always look for patterns among respondent answers. For instance, look for how respondents rank the brands they recall. You may ask probing questions at the end of the exercise to unearth further information like, “what is it about brand X that made an impression on you?”. Learn what makes your competition better or worse.
Question sets should be organized to lead to an end. Spend quality time preparing the list and try to avoid testing fatigue with respondents. After all, you want the most accurate information from them to help you assess your brand’s current position.