The concept of brand awareness has been hijacked by poor measures

When marketers first came up with the very worthy concept of brand awareness they were thinking, obviously, about the number of consumers who know the brand. Intuitively you would measure this by showing it to consumers and asking them if they are familiar with it, but last century this was expensive, phone surveys were cost effective but the brand couldn’t be shown (and printing pictures in mail surveys was expensive).

So rapidly the measures of brand awareness became verbal/written product category prompts, e.g. “what brands of fabric conditioner are you aware of ?” The problem with this type of measure is that it doesn’t really fit the concept. This measure doesn’t so much measure awareness as association of the brand with the product category cue. It also assumes that consumers can remember and say or write the brand name.

Some have argued that it is vital that consumers know that the brand is a member of a particular category. If that’s the case it can be measured directly (e.g. “what do Ben & Jerry sell?”). Yet there is no credible argument that category cue prompted recall is a decent measure of brand awareness.

Another measure is to present the brand name and ask consumers if they recognise it. Again this tests the link only to the brand name. It doesn’t tell us how well other cues, like colour, cause the brand be recognised.

Even presenting the actual pack tells us nothing about noticing, which is different from recognition.

So unfortunately a good concept has been hijacked by cheap and convenient but poor measures.  And a lack of thinking.

Now some people will disagree with me on whether awareness is a good concept, they will say that what matters to the marketer is whether or not the brand is noticed or recalled in potential buying situations. I agree, and this is what I call mental availability (see chapter 12).

3 thoughts on “The concept of brand awareness has been hijacked by poor measures

  1. No, Hall and Partners use the term Salience to only mean standing out, what we’d call distinctiveness. It’s good that they highlight this, distinctiveness is essential for building salience. Unfortunately Hall & partners also very much advocate conventional, and fashionable, notions like attitudinal commitment and persuasion. Notions that salience theory downplays.

    Observing brand mentions online is a really interesting research methodology; observation has considerable advantages over interrogation/questioning. It therefore needs and deserves much R&D; claims of its predictive power are premature hype. Whatever its value turns out to be it is obviously a measure of word-of-mouth activity not salience.

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