Mental availability is not awareness, brand salience is not awareness

A brand’s mental availability refers to the probability that a buyer will notice, recognize and/or think of a brand in buying situations.  It depends on the quality and quantity of memory structures related to the brand.  See chapter 12 of “How Brands Grow“.

So this is much more than awareness, whether that is top-of-mind awareness, recognition or recall.  Indeed all of these measures are flawed by the use of a single, a-situational, cue (usually the product category name, i.e. what the marketer calls the product category).

And mental availability is not attitude.  It’s not about what consumers like about the brand, or not.  Though the better a consumer knows a brand the better they tend to feel about it – familiarity breeds contentment.

A brand’s availability varies across situations, so higher mental availability means being easily noticed and/or thought of in many different buying situations.  Some brands do well in some particular situations, some do well in many situations.  Some do well with a few consumers, some do well with many consumers.  The easier the brand is to access in memory, in more buying situations, for more consumers, then the higher the overall mental availability.

And this means that advertising to refresh and build mental availability requires  more than merely reminding consumers that the brand exists, but that’s another story.

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7 thoughts on “Mental availability is not awareness, brand salience is not awareness

  1. Thanks for your book – very refreshing thinking ! I really enjoy your take on brand saliency …but i’m not sure how you action this thinking ? What approach do you suggest to rank the attributes / contexts in which you want to reinforce your brand links in consumers minds ? Is it a combination of understanding the most important buying occasions / drivers of purchase …or is their a more intuitive way of defining this ?


  2. Hi, really enjoy your book and blog. Just trying to get my head around this post. Can you elaborate on the difference between mental availability vs awareness vs saliency ?

    • I thought I did. That’s what the post is about. Mental availability is the probability of the brand to be noticed, recognised and/or recalled in buying situations. Awareness metrics tap various bits of this (eg recall or recognition) but seldom cover the differences of different situations. Saliency usually refers to a specific situation (eg pop corn at the movies) or temporarily heightened mental availability (eg after ad exposure).

      • Hi, thanks for the book and your findings. I find them very useful. Can you please suggest how we can measure “mental availability”. For instance – brand awareness we measure with quantitative sociological research asking people the question: “what brands in the given category you know?”. And then we know the brand awareness % amongst those people that represent the measured sample.
        How do you suggest to measure mental availability?

      • Hello again, Mr Sharp,
        I’ve read the “blue” book, and it seems that I got closer to the answer but not quite there, so I do still need your help.

        Let me describe how I suspect it is good to measure “mental availability” and you, please verify whether I’m right or wrong.

        So, the key element for mental availability is CEP (category entry point). To measure anything we first should define CEPs in the given category. To do this, we have to conduct a qualitative research first. Asking questions like: “please describe your recent purchase experience within the category”; “for what reason did you enter the category?” etc. Having those question answered we’ll come up with a list of CEPs without priorities. Then we have to conduct quantitative research to define the weight of each CEP within the category. Only after that, we can measure brand mental market share asking people which brand relates to which CEP.

        Please, tell me if I’m correct?

        If yes, please suggest if we should consider the weight of each CEP (what % of buyers entered the market because of this CEP) when defining mental market share?

      • It sounds sensible. But sensible things don’t always work (the world is weird and logic/intuition only gets on so far), so the only way to test such metrics is to see if they behave as we might expect.

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