Marketing and sales are important, but brand awareness has an underrated role to play in driving sales. In fact, 82% of consumers searching online favor brands that they know.

Most marketers will highlight brand awareness as a crucial cornerstone of their digital marketing and lead generation strategy. The concept of brand awareness, however, can seem vague and challenging to measure effectively. That's why we’ve turned to marketing experts to learn what brand awareness is, why it’s important and how you can measure it.

What Is Brand Awareness?

While brand awareness generally means how familiar consumers are with your company and its products or services, it’s essential to get more specific than this. Jake Taylor, marketing analyst at CORT, believes companies need to consider whether brand awareness means customers have heard their name before, or that their customers understand their specific products or services. Brand awareness is defined by the goals of the marketing team.

For companies that don’t sell everyday items, for example, it’s not as important for their brand to be top of mind for consumers. “Instead, I want to know that when our customer needs us, they recognize the brand and understand the services we provide,” said Taylor. That’s why brand awareness can mean something different for every organization.

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Why Brand Awareness Matters

It’s crucial that customers remain familiar with your company, so they consider your product or service when they make purchase decisions. “If consumers are familiar with your product/service, then you have a higher chance they will make a purchase from you,” explained Andrew Ruditser, lead technology coordinator at MAXBURST. Even if your brand isn’t top of mind for consumers, if they’re aware of your brand then they’ll think of your product or service first when they’re shopping.

“Brand awareness is the fuel that keeps new leads coming into your business so that ultimately you can convert them into customers and hopefully brand ambassadors,” added Slisha Kankariya, co-founder of With Clarity. Beyond generating a steady stream of potential leads, brand awareness can create brand ambassadors that spread your brand through word of mouth. In this way, brand awareness can have a snowball effect, and your audience can grow exponentially.

In Taylor’s opinion, brand awareness is the foundation for building customer relationships. “That being said,” he warned, “brand awareness goes hand in hand with brand reputation — it doesn’t help if people know who you are for the wrong reasons.” That’s why companies need to be actively measuring and promoting a positive brand image.

When it comes to building brand awareness, therefore, companies need to consider how they want to be perceived. Kankaraya suggested, “brand awareness is crucial to execute well at all stages of the purchasing cycle (not just the initial stages).” This means having highly targeted branding efforts that are consistent and coordinated throughout the customer journey.

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How to Measure Brand Awareness

When it comes to measuring brand awareness, there are many key metrics you should track, but just like brand awareness itself, the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) vary widely among organizations. 

Kankariya believes the metrics for brand awareness depend on the specific channels your brand uses regularly. With email marketing, for example, she said, “Email signups, likes, email opens, link clicks, calls, chat requests, orders, return rate and earned media are all great measures of understanding how consistently your brand story is ‘selling’ your product or service.” And there are similarly set of KPIs for other channels like content marketing and social media marketing.

More specifically, Taylor believes tools like Google Surveys are crucial for getting a snapshot of your brand awareness. “There are many survey tools,” he stated, “but we find that this is the most convenient way of getting a representative sample of the general population.” Taylor recommends looking for irregularities since the last survey or variations in responses between different demographics. These outliers could prompt more in-depth research to determine whether there are issues with your brand image.

“Keeping track of these metrics will help you understand which strategies you're using [actually attracts and increases your audience],” explained Ruditser. An increase in some of these key indicators, for example, let’s you know your brand is reaching a larger audience and gaining more recognition.

Similarly, through more subjective survey data you could find that your brand image is fragmented or unclear to consumers. These insights let you adjust your course and ensure your building a highly consistent and compelling brand image that grows awareness organically. “If they don’t know you, they can’t engage with you, form an opinion about you, and most importantly, transact with you,” said Taylor. Brand awareness, therefore, is critical to driving sales and increasing your company’s bottom line.