2.1.4 Brand awareness

Awareness means having knowledge or perception of a situation or fact (Oxford Dictionary of English). Hence awareness is a relative concept and comprises perception and cognitive reactions to a condition or event. The level of awareness can be categorized in; (1) partially aware, (2) subconsciously aware, and (3) acutely aware. Consequently, awareness does not equal understanding, it is the state of being conscious (www.wikipedia.com, 22 March 2008).

Awareness within brand management refers to the perception of a brand in the mind of the stakeholders. Awareness reflects earlier experiences and affects future perceptions, attitude and behaviour. Accordingly awareness fulfils an important role within brand equity as demonstrated in brand models of Kapferer (figure 20), Aaker (figure 21), and Keller (figure 23). Aaker argues that brand awareness reflects the knowledge and salience of a brand – the capacity to recognize - in the mind of customers. The level of brand awareness is heavily affected by the synergy of the brand name itself and the attached symbols, imagery and a brand slogan within the given condition (Aaker, 1996:330-331).

Aaker defines three levels of brand awareness (Aaker, 1996:10-13):

  1. Brand recognition.
    • Recognition reflects familiarity and linking acquired from past exposure. Remembering as such, one brand among others is a manner of aided recall.
  2. Brand recall.
    • Recall reflects awareness of a brand when it comes in mind as soon as its product class is mentioned. A manner of unaided recall.
  3. Top of mind.
    • The highest awareness level, the brand dominates the mind and pops up as first when ever applicable.

Kapferer distinguishes the same order of brand awareness. On top of that Kapferer argues that each level of awareness has its own purpose and implications (Kapferer, 2007:159-160):

  1. Aided awareness.
    • The purpose of aided awareness is to reassure the brand. Aided awareness helps the brand to get out of the anonymity. In B2B, salespeople can benefit by advert to it. The importance of aided awareness is at the point of purchase.
  2. Unaided awareness.
    • The purpose of unaided awareness is to position the brand on the immediate memory shortlist of brands. This is important in the decision process where the first shortlist is based on immediate memory before the brands are examined in dept.
  3. Top of mind:
    • The purpose of top of mind is to position the brand as the preferred brand in the mind of consumers. This is crucial under the circumstances where buyers have to make a decision without having a selection process and/or have a low involvement.

The specific activities to increase or to transit of each level of awareness, depends on; the purchase cycle, on the decision making process, and on the level of involvement. Awareness comes from customers who feel them self attracted and interested to the brand, is not just a matter of high pressure advertising. It’s all about managing selective perceptions, exposure, attention and memory (Kapferer, 2007:159-160). Brand recognition (aided awareness) and brand recall (unaided awareness) are both very important and need to be in balance to take full advantage of brand awareness. The relative power of recall against recognition is shown in the Graveyard model as developed by Young and Rubicam Europe as quoted in Aaker (Aaker, 1996:11-15). See figure 19.

 The Graveyard model

Figure 19. The Graveyard model, as quoted in Aaker (Aaker, 1996:15).


Brands in a product class tend to follow the curved line as plotted - recognition (aided) versus recall (unaided). There are two exceptions of the rule; both exceptions will demonstrate the importance of recall. The first exception is related to healthy niche brands which are positioned below the curved line. Although the brand is not widely known (low overall recognition) it has a high recall among their loyal customer group. Low recognition under these circumstances is not related to poor performance. The second exception is situated in the left top corner, the graveyard area where brands have a high mass recognition against a low recall. Brands in this position are in deep trouble, the reason behind this has to do with the mindset. As described mind are limited, new additional information will not come through if it doesn’t match the current mindset. In the graveyard zone, minds are set. It is not necessarily the result of a strong brand and/or marketing campaign. The most challenging is to create willingness among customers and prospects in listening to new brand story due to the brand familiarity (Aaker, 1996:11-15).

Keller also distinguishes brand recognition and brand recall performance within brand awareness. Keller argues that most information in memory is substantially more adapt at recognizing a brand then at recalling it. This is also shown by the curved line in figure 19. The benefits of having a high level of brand awareness is three folded, brand awareness delivers:

  1. The learning advantage: the higher the level of awareness the easier people learn about the brand and the better the brand is registered in the mind.
  2. The brand as part of the consideration set.
  3. The choice advantage within low-involvement purchase decisions in case of a lack of purchase motivation and/or ability.

Familiar established brands will benefit most. Hence brand awareness is the first step in Keller’s customer based brand equity model as shown in figure 25 (Keller, 2006:54-56).