What is the best question format to measure brand awareness?
For many brands, tracking their awareness levels among their target audience is the single most important KPI. This makes sense because if your target audience doesn’t know you, you actually don’t have a brand.
Measuring brand awareness can seem pretty straightforward: you simply ask someone whether they know a brand. But the devil is in the detail and the exact question format can have a huge impact on the answer that you get.
For instance, a common way to ask whether people know a brand is to provide them with a list of brand names and ask them to select all those that they know (the mobile version of this splits the list up into separate scrollable lists):
How long is your list?
The problem with this approach is that the length of the list has an impact on the level of awareness of the individual brands that are in the list. For example, when we show people a list of 10 brands and ask them to select all those that they know, the average reported awareness level for the three smallest brands was 5%. But when we asked about these brands in a much shorter list, the average reported awareness level of these brands doubled to over 10%.
This makes sense: giving people a long list of brands risks creating cognitive overload and people are likely to focus on larger brands that they are more familiar with and there’s a chance they’ll miss brands they know but don’t spot immediately. When people are incentivized to complete a survey, they might also skip brands to be able to complete the survey faster (especially if selecting a brand causes lots of follow-up questions on that brand).
Who is on your list? The composition of lists also matters. When we take a brand with medium awareness and place it in a long list alongside more widely known brands, awareness is at 25%. But if we place this brand in a list with mostly lesser known brands, awareness increases to 36%.
This also makes sense: people are drawn to recognizing familiar things, so the presence of well-known brands makes people pay attention to them and less to other brands that they might also know.
What about larger brands? It’s not just mid-sized and smaller brands that are impacted. When we look at a well known brand and place it in a long list, awareness is at 61%. When we place this brand in a list of mostly well known brands only, awareness increases to 68%. When we place this brand in a list with mostly lesser known brands, their awareness shoots up to 76%.
It’s fair to say, however large your brand is, the composition of your brand list will make a difference to awareness levels.
What’s your logo? A brand’s logo is often an integral part of the brand and people tend to recognize logos more easily than names. So including a logo in the question can have a huge impact on the level of brand awareness:
Including the brand logo on average increases awareness by nearly 10%.
Are you sure? When you ask people whether they know a brand, some people might say that they do know the brand even if in fact they don’t - because they think it is socially desirable to know things. This is known as an agreement, acquiescence or social desirability bias and it can have a large impact on brand awareness levels. For example, when we ask people whether they know a brand or not, giving them the option to select “not sure” can reduce awareness levels by up to 10%.
Assessing brand awareness wrongly is not just bad for the measure of brand awareness, but it also have a wider impact on the integrity of brand tracking data:
In a country like the US, a 10% difference in awareness levels translates into roughly 25 million people who do or don’t know a brand - a massive difference!
In most survey designs, the awareness question is a trigger for a battery of subsequent questions about the brand (so for example users who indicate that they know a brand get lots of additional questions about that brand on how they perceive certain attributes, whether they would consider buying it etc.). So if the awareness question is wrong, all subsequent answers also suffer from bias.
Whenever the list is changed, for example because a brand needs to be added or removed, this has an impact on the awareness levels of the target brand.
How to measure brand awareness properly We conducted lots of research on the best way to measure brand awareness. Here’s the result:
To avoid any form of bias resulting from the lists, we found that asking about brand awareness in a “siloed” form is the only viable option
In most cases, the logo is an integral part of the brand and so should be included in the questions, because this is how consumers typically experience the brand
Including a “not sure” option goes a long way in reducing or even eliminating agreement bias
Asking about awareness in a siloed form requires people to answer more individual questions which you might think ends up being more expensive than asking in a list based format. However, a list format has a far higher cognitive load on respondents and the expense is greater when you take the loss of attention and increased drop-off rates into account. By comparison, answering a siloed design set of questions which on average takes less than a second to answer per question, results in better data quality, data reliability and added flexibility.
If you’re currently running a brand tracker and have experienced data quality issues, check with your provider how they ask about awareness and let them show you the exact survey. If they ask in a list based format, we’d strongly recommend that you request them to change this. This might lead to higher costs from them, but the gains in terms of data quality, data reliability and added flexibility are significant. Or, if you want to find out how to get this enhanced quality for a reasonable price, book a demo of Latana here.