Brand Awareness

You are most likely aware of dozens, if not hundreds, of brands. Some brands you might be able to recall more quickly than others. For example, when asked to name a sports brand, you might say, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, or New Balance. These would be "top-of-the-mind brands" as they immediately came to mind when thinking of sports brands. Of course, there are various other sports brands on the market, some of which you might not recognize at all, and some of which you would, with a gentle reminder. The extent to which you recognize a brand is known as brand awareness. But how do marketers create brand awareness beyond logos, brand colors, and slogans? What are the driving forces of brand awareness? And what does brand awareness lead to? Read along to explore the answers to these questions.

Brand Awareness Brand Awareness

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Table of contents

    Brand Awareness Definition

    Brand awareness is a critical concept in marketing. It is related to the customer purchase journey and overall branding strategy. So, to begin today's lesson, let's first look at the definition of brand awareness.

    Brand awareness is the extent to which consumers recognize a brand based on its image, features, and characteristics.

    A primary goal in brand management is to create brand equity. To build brand equity, marketers use various branding techniques like creating brand awareness, crafting a brand image and reputation, strengthening brand values, and building a brand personality.

    Check out our explanation of brand equity to refresh your memory of this concept.

    This explanation will focus specifically on brand awareness. But, before we dive into the types of brand awareness and brand awareness strategy, let's quickly look at a few models that include brand awareness theory.

    Aaker's Brand Equity Model (see Figure 1 below) claims that brand equity comes from recognition. As a result, the key components of Aaker's model include:

    1. Brand awareness,

    2. Perceived quality,

    3. Brand loyalty,

    4. Brand associations,

    5. Other proprietary brand assets (e.g., intellectual property).

    Therefore, brand awareness is one of the fundamental components of building brand equity, and, according to Aaker, it drives recognition, which helps the brand stand out from its competition.

    On the other hand, Keller's Brand Equity Pyramid suggests that brand salience is only the first step in building brand awareness.

    Fig. 2 shows brand salience at the bottom of the pyramid. During this stage, the brand has to define who they are to customers, creating deep, broad brand awareness. The last phase includes defining and building the brand's relationship with customers, known as brand resonance. This final step aims to build intense and active brand loyalty. As a whole, the model leads to brand equity.

    Therefore, we can conclude that brand awareness is foundational in creating brand equity. Although it might only be a foundational step according to certain theorists, it is crucial to building brand equity and, thus, to overall brand strategy and management.

    Brand Awareness Examples

    Now that we have established the importance of awareness for brand strategy let's briefly turn our attention to some brand awareness examples. One of the ways marketers can build brand awareness is through marketing communications.

    Coca-Cola is one of the most well-known soft drink brands in the world. Although many people are aware of the Coca-Cola brand, the company makes a continuous effort to increase brand awareness worldwide through various marketing campaigns.

    The Share a Coke campaign, for example, generated both physical and digital results in the US. The idea behind the campaign was to create customized Coca-Cola bottles labeled with the country's most popular names, prompting people to find a bottle with their friends', families', and own names.

    This customization encourages customers to purchase physical Coke bottles and share virtual Coke bottles online. As a result, the campaign created high engagement on social media and even prompted customers to search for the terms "Coke", "Coca-Cola", "coke names", and "coke with names" on Google more frequently.1

    This data tells us that people who have seen the campaign, but maybe don't know exactly what it is called, are actively seeking to learn more about the "Share A Coke" ads. Their willingness to seek out information about the campaign is a good indicator of their likelihood to interact with the brand in the future." 1

    Thus, Coca-Cola successfully strengthened brand recall through its engaging Share a Coke campaign.

    We can also examine brand awareness through the sports brand Nike.

    Similar to Coca-Cola in the soft drink industry, Nike is one of the most recognizable brands in the sportswear industry. The company has a variety of brand assets that contribute to its success, one of them being brand awareness.

    Beyond its recognizable logo and slogan, Nike builds its brand through various techniques. It creates brand associations by partnering with famous, successful athletes like Serena Williams and Michael Jordan to encourage associations between the brand and maximum performance.2 Nike also creates brand awareness through these athlete partnerships in addition to sponsorships, marketing communications, and endorsements. These techniques drive strong brand loyalty and help shape Nike's brand equity.

    Brand awareness Brand awareness Nike example StudySmarterFig. 3. Brand Awareness Nike Example

    Brand Awareness vs. Brand Loyalty

    Before we take a closer look at the types of brand awareness, let's first examine the differences between brand awareness and brand loyalty.

    Brand awareness is the extent to which consumers recognize a brand. On the other hand, brand loyalty has different characteristics.

    Brand loyalty is the extent to which customers continue purchasing the same brand or product as opposed to a competitor's.

    Brand loyalty is often associated with positive feelings towards a brand and stems from marketers' efforts to build longstanding customer relationships. For a customer to be loyal, they must return to the brand on multiple occasions. Thus, both brand loyalty and awareness play a vital role in the marketing funnel (the marketing funnel represents the process of the customer journey), which leads customers from awareness to interest, conversion, loyalty, and finally, advocacy.

    Brand awareness is often associated with the early stages of the customer purchase journey. To explore these stages in more detail, check our explanation of the marketing funnel.

    Brand Loyalty In Action

    Makeup retailer Sephora encourages brand loyalty primarily through its loyalty program - customized events, rewards, and experiences for its members.

    The loyalty program is structured similarly to those of airline frequent flier programs. The more you spend at Sephora, the more rewards you unlock. For example, a Sephora VIB Rouge member (someone who spends over $1,000 in a calendar year at Sephora) can choose birthday gifts and tier celebration gifts, access Sephora events and seasonal sales, and receive 1.5 points per $1 spent.

    As a result, Sephora encourages customers to spend more and to stay loyal to the company by providing access to these rewards.3 However, for customers to be loyal to a brand like Sephora, they need to be aware of it and its exclusive loyalty programs in the first place. Without brand awareness, it is virtually impossible to create brand loyalty.

    Types of Brand Awareness

    Brand awareness is the general term we use to describe customers' ability to recognize a brand. But did you know that there are different types of brand awareness? Before you head off, let's look at the three main brand awareness types.

    Brand Awareness: Brand Recall

    The first type of brand awareness is brand recall.

    Brand recall is when a customer is able to remember a brand without being prompted to recall it.

    There are two types of recall:

    1. Unaided brand recall - This is what we typically refer to when discussing brand recall. Can the customer recall a brand on their own? Can customers recall a brand when they are not at the point of sale?

    2. Aided brand recall - This is also termed brand recognition. When prompted to think of a product category, can the customer recall a brand?

    As a result, unaided brand recall is a strong indicator of brand awareness.

    Brand Awareness vs. Brand Recognition

    Another type of brand awareness is brand recognition.

    Brand recognition is when a customer can recognize a brand when prompted to think of a product or product category. In other words, can the customer think of a brand when presented with a product category? Or can the customer think of a product or product category when presented with a brand name?

    Brand recognition, or aided brand recall, presents a weaker measure of brand awareness and connection to the brand compared to unaided brand recall. However, it is essential to note that brand recall and recognition may be influenced by how familiar a customer is with a product category.

    A sports car fanatic will likely be able to list multiple car brands when asked to name brands in the sports car category. On the other hand, they may not be able to recall or recognize as many makeup brands as a beauty blogger. Similarly, someone who goes grocery shopping for their family twice a week might be more likely to recognize cereal brands than someone who eats breakfast at a cafe daily. As a result, customer interests, habits, and familiarity with a product category impact their brand recognition.

    Brand Awareness: Top-of-the-Mind Brand Awareness

    The third type of brand awareness is known as top-of-the-mind awareness.

    A top-of-the-mind brand is the first brand that comes to mind when asked an unprompted question about a product category.

    During market research, a top-of-the-mind brand is the one that comes to mind first the most in a group of surveyed customers. Being a top-of-the-mind brand is a clear indicator of brand awareness as it represents which brands are most popular within a product category or industry.

    It is important to note that sometimes a brand achieves a top-of-the-mind position due to scandals or negative experiences and associations. However, overall, it is an effective indicator of brand awareness.

    Figure 4 above summarizes the three main types of brand awareness.

    Brand Awareness - Key takeaways

    • Brand awareness is the extent to which consumers recognize a brand based on its image, features, and characteristics.
    • The critical components of Aaker's brand equity model are brand awareness, perceived quality, brand loyalty, brand association, and other proprietary brand assets.
    • Brand loyalty is the extent to which customers continue purchasing the same brand or product as opposed to a competitor's.
    • The three types of brand awareness are brand recall, brand recognition, and top-of-the-mind brands.
    • A top-of-the-mind brand is the first brand that comes to mind when asked an unprompted question about a product category.


    1. WebFX Team. Case Study: 3 Famous Coca-Cola Marketing Campaigns. Web Fx.
    2. Xiaolu Lin. The Brand Equity of Nike, what makes it the best sports brand ever?. 2017.
    3. Kevan Chew. 3 Companies That Built Brand Loyalty (and How They Did It). 2021.,retaining%20its%20loyal%20customer%20base.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Brand Awareness

    What is brand awareness strategy?

    Brand awareness is the extent to which consumers recognize a brand based on its image, features, and characteristics. Marketers use a variety of communication and behavioural strategies to increase brand awareness.

    What is the purpose of brand awareness?

    The purpose of brand awareness is to present a brand to customers in a memorable way. The goal of brand awareness is to prompt customers to be able to recognize a brand based on its image, features, and characteristics and to create positive associations between the brand and the customer.

    Why is brand awareness important for brand equity?

    According to Aaker's brand equity model, brand equity comes from recognition. As a result, brand awareness, along with perceived quality, brand loyalty, brand association, and other proprietary brand assets, lead to brand equity. 

    What is the difference between brand image and brand awareness?

    Brand image is how a company presents itself to customers through its branding, e.g., its logo, communications, etc. Brand image can lead to brand awareness as customers might be able to recognize a brand more easily if it has a signature brand image. 

    How to measure brand awareness?

    One of the ways in which marketers can measure brand awareness is through market research. The types of brand awareness, like brand recall, recognition, and top-of-the-mind awareness, can be measured through surveys or focus groups.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    A primary goal in brand management is to create brand value.

    Aaker's Brand Equity Model (see Figure 1 below) claims that brand equity comes from ________.

    Brand awareness is crucial to brand strategy.


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