How To Measure Brand Awareness: 5 Approaches for Quantifying the ‘Unquantifiable’

May 19, 2022

his is an important topic that has come up with a few of our clients lately; how do larger brands effectively measure success around their brand awareness investment?

In 2021, marketers have real-time insight into traffic, engagement, conversion, revenue, and so forth. Almost everything is now automatically tracked, precisely quantified and attributed within minutes of the interaction. Yes, we are spoiled.  

Brand awareness, on the other hand, can oftentimes be frustrating because performance and ROI is not as easily defined or measured. The budgets are large, the objectives are very conceptual and success is not always directly attributable. It’s also not something that grows overnight - consistent investment and patience is required to see results.

So when it comes to measuring brand awareness ROI, we can often assume that the ROI is either unquantifiable, or perhaps takes too much resource to consistently measure over time. Yet, throwing brand awareness ROI into a bucket of unquantifiable unknowns is certainly less than ideal.

At Half Past Nine, we know that defining effective KPIs depends largely on the goals of each individual brand. However, there are a number of ways that brands can easily start improving visibility and attribution for quantifying brand awareness.

Let’s have a quick refresher on the key components of brand awareness, look at common issues businesses can run into without adequate brand awareness measurement, then I’ve got five approaches to better quantify brand awareness for your consideration!

These approaches will work for both B2C and B2B businesses.

Main Components of Brand Awareness

Multiple components of brand awareness

It may be helpful if we start off with a refresher of the main brand awareness components involved. 

Brand Awareness is more than just recognizing or recalling your brand. ‘Brand aware’ customers are those who’ve developed a deeper knowledge which has framed your product or service as a leading solution for their needs. It’s when all of your brand elements referenced below come together so that when a consumer’s purchasing need (or desire) arises, they will choose you.

Brand Recognition quite simply assesses how many members of your target audience recognize your brand when they see it. It requires a combination of brand elements — from your business name and logo to visual elements, messaging, products or defining company characteristics.

Brand Recall is a step up from brand recognition and can be aided or unaided. It assesses how many members of your target audience instantly remember the name of your brand when prompted with your product category, or any other kind of relevant brand association. The first brand to be recalled has a strong advantage over others competitors.

Perceived Quality is a relative judgment about the quality or superiority of a product in comparison to competitor’s offerings given the intended purpose. Consumer judgments about quality will vary, and this influences pricing decisions. Superior perceived quality or suitability can be used to position your brand with the target audience based on what they value.

Word of Mouth Referral - which is the goal of word of mouth marketing - can either be achieved in the traditional sense or via sharing online recommendations and reviews. Social media plays a big part in this. Research has shown that customers are over 70% more likely to purchase based on word of mouth referrals, including online reviews from strangers, than just with advertisements.

Combined with other elements such as brand experience and brand loyalty, the components above will support the growth of your brand equity, which is the financial value of your brand.

Brand awareness campaigns are aimed at creating your top of funnel leads, creating familiarity within a larger collective of your target audience to create a bigger customer pipeline. However, it also involves creating a full-funnel experience for your customers that takes you all the way to word of mouth marketing, creating brand ambassadors from your customers.

Problems That Arise Without Clear Brand Awareness KPIs

A confused marketer without brand awareness metrics

Firstly, do you have a clear definition of what brand awareness is for your business, and which aspects of increasing brand awareness are currently a priority?

When brands evolve to certain stages of maturity, so do the priorities. Improving brand awareness inevitably becomes top of mind, especially with the executive team. 

There may be certain components of your brand awareness that need more investment than others depending on where you’re at and what you want to achieve. Performance visibility for each component is important to help you make the best strategic decisions as your brand grows and diversifies its channel mix and investments.

Understanding where you are will help you set the right brand awareness SMART targets. Without that visibility, there are some challenges you’ll likely run into:

  • Decisions About Incremental Media Spend - How will you know whether a live brand campaign merits more investment? Or whether future brand campaigns are a worthwhile investment for your available budget? Budget can easily be wasted on ineffective campaigns, or great brand campaigns might be under-invested.
  • Allocation of Media Spend by Channel - How do you know which channels are most effective for increasing brand awareness in your target audience? Where should you focus your efforts and budget for most return, and to attract what type (or value) of customer? You might end up scattering your efforts and budget across multiple channels that are less effective than a focussed channel investment. Or alternatively, you might not be channel-diversified enough.
  • Meeting Revenue Targets - How can you build a bigger pipeline of customers in order to consistently meet growth targets so that your business can scale? Without a clear view of effective brand campaign design for the best performing channels, achieving growth revenue targets set by the executive team may feel like a stab in the dark. That’s a stressful position to be in.
  • Budgeting - Following on from the point above, you won’t know how much budget is required to achieve targets. And if you can’t demonstrate the return, it can also result in tension around budget allocations and even trust issues from the executive team. That’s also a stressful position to be in.
  • Forecasting - Similarly, a lack of clarity around the results of your brand awareness campaigns means you’ll not be able to consistently forecast demand or revenue based on expected ROI of brand campaigns that you plan to implement.

5 Simple Approaches For Measuring Brand Awareness

Marketers gathering brand awareness metrics

When you have your own company-specific definition of brand awareness, this will greatly help clarify which set of KPIs are best suited for your needs. Based on where your KPIs indicate you currently are, you can then create targets and campaigns for achieving clearly defined goals. 

Using just one type of KPI won’t be enough for a complete picture of brand awareness ROI. You’ll need to use a few KPIs for an accurate understanding of the various components attributing to overall performance. And don’t forget the importance of split testing your brand campaigns.

Compare your chosen brand awareness KPIs against proceeding periods, both during and after your brand campaigns. This will help give you a sense of how quickly you can see short-term traffic increases as a result, and at what pace momentum gains over time.

With that said, here are some simple yet insightful brand awareness measurement approaches. Pretty much every growing brand with a reasonable digital marketing investment or resource will be able to use them!

1. Incremental Changes in Website Traffic Volume

It’s a given that the more people visiting your website, the more brand awareness there is. However, that’s not specific enough to accurately measure brand awareness. 

For example, you could have non-customers researching your business or seeking information, low quality traffic based on a related keyword that isn’t completely relevant, or potential customers who have just discovered your business but are unfamiliar and still researching other alternatives. You might even have a high volume of bot traffic - something to be aware of.

Rather than just looking at general traffic volume within a period, narrow in on traffic sources that demonstrate greater customer familiarity and word of mouth referrals. This weeds out less relevant traffic to more accurately demonstrate high-intent traffic resulting from brand awareness within your target audience.

  • Absolute Lift on Direct Traffic - Direct traffic is where people enter your website URL directly into their address bar (rather than googling), or bookmark your website in their browser so that they can quickly return later. Although direct traffic may be a small proportion of overall traffic, any increases will be a strong indicator of growing brand awareness and customer loyalty.

Increases in the number of website visits against unique visitors within a given period is a similar but less precise indicator of growing brand awareness and loyalty, showing that customers are regularly returning to your site.

  • Absolute Lift on Referral Traffic - Referral traffic is where people have clicked on a link to your website from another website or domain. Referral links are also known as backlinks. If other websites are referencing your business (in a positive light hopefully - do check!), we can class that as successful word of mouth marketing based on greater brand awareness within your market or target audience. You could include your earned media as another complimentary metric here.

You can pull in correlating visitor engagement stats to sense check if the quality and engagement of traffic is also improving in conjunction with traffic volume.

(If visitor engagement or conversion KPIs remain low despite increasing traffic volume, it’s time to review your content strategy, marketing mix elements or audience targeting.)

2. Brand Searches

Following on from direct traffic, brand searches are very similar. It’s when someone types your company name or unique product brand name into their internet browser search bar. They are specifically looking for your business or product, demonstrating high levels of brand awareness and intent, whether it’s to learn more about your business or make a purchase.

Identify search terms that customers use when searching specifically for your business or products, i.e., branded keywords. They will include your company name or variations of your product names. You can use the Google suite of tools to research and measure this. (Bear in mind that unlike Google Analytics, these tools won’t include searches from other search engines.)

  • Google Search Console allows you to run reports for branded search keyword visits to your website. You can see which keywords were used when your site appeared in search results, how your website ranked for those keywords, your number of impressions and click-throughs. An increasing number of impressions and clicks each month indicates growing brand awareness.
  • Google Trends reports the total number of internet search queries using specific keywords in a given period. Use this tool to look for branded search increases over time. (Note that this is not specific to your website traffic, and you can’t assume that all branded searches resulted in visits.)
  • Google Ads brand campaigns will show you search listing and click results for adverts using branded keywords. The better your branded keyword ads perform against non-branded keyword ads, the more momentum your brand awareness marketing efforts have gained!

3. Impression Share Against Available Inventory

Impression Share (IS) is the percentage of impressions that your organic website listings (or ads) receive compared to the total number of impressions that they could potentially get. 

Available impressions are determined by how many relevant user searches were conducted (or social media sessions) and the corresponding ad spaces (inventory) available.

Assessing your Impression Share for non-branded but product or service-specific keywords is an effective way to assess your overall share of voice within your desired market niche. Take a calculated approach to defining a market or audience segment where you want to grow brand awareness according to the keywords that users search with, then measure total traffic inventory against your share of website listings and visits. 

Google Trends will allow you to determine the volume of organic searches, and Google Ads Manager will report on impression share for your paid campaigns.

Set targets about how often you will appear for relevant searches in order to achieve your desired brand awareness goals.

You could also compare the results for your branded keywords against searches for competitor branded keywords as another insightful IS benchmark.

4. Social Media Engagement

Social media is an easy one to pull brand awareness KPIs from, assuming your business puts in the content generation and account management investment required.

The most insightful social metrics for quantifying brand awareness over time are:

  • Reach
  • Follower count
  • Post shares
  • Mentions or branded hashtags 

Google Analytics can provide data on how many of your visitors are coming from social media, providing further proof of brand awareness following engagement with content from your social media accounts.

Social listening and brand tools such as BrandWatch provide deeper social insights if your budget allows. It will scan social media platforms and the internet for mentions of your brand or use of your logo, and help you assess sentiment towards your brand.

In addition, social listening is another means of determining share of voice, depending on the corresponding number of mentions and sentiment that your competitors generate.

5. Surveys

Website traffic volume is a good indicator but not an exact science, as we’ve already covered. The best way to determine how brand aware your customers are is to ask them directly. A quick and easy online survey is an invaluable tool for gaining deeper insights about your website traffic and customers. 

Brand awareness information will include how visitors found you, if they have heard of you before, how long they have been aware of you, and the reason for their visit to your website.

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) Style surveys are perfect for general website visitors given how quick and easy they are to complete. The most basic format consists of one rating question, and one free response follow-up for more detail. You can add this as a pop-up when website visitors have been active for a certain period of time, when they’re closing the webpage, or also by opening a feedback tab when visitors arrive. You could select to show them only to returning visitors.
  • Post-Purchase surveys can also be collected from your website, or as an email follow-up once you’ve collected customer data. This type of questionnaire should include questions about satisfaction, and how likely the customer is to recommend you to others. Consider including a link for submitting a public review on your chosen review platform for that period.
  • Chatbot surveys are useful aids for customer service and support and are unobtrusive on your website, assuming you offer chat functionality for human or AI support. Recent research has shown that chatbots are more engaging for customers under the age of 45. You can follow up any chat queries with question and answer options delivered in a consecutive, conversational style.

If budget allows, you could run a social media campaign to survey random members of your target audience. This would be ideal for assessing overall brand recognition and awareness beyond your existing customers.

There are numerous survey tools available at an affordable cost, and the exported results can be part of your monthly, quarterly or annual review process. The less open-ended questions used, the easier your results will be to quickly understand at a glance, and crucially, compare over time periods. Think about your questions carefully beforehand, and keep them as consistent as possible across your evolving brand campaigns.

Metrics We Avoid When Measuring Brand Awareness

Sign post pointing in different directions

I’ll conclude by pointing out a few KPIs we avoid when specifically assessing brand awareness ROI. They are:

  • CPMs
  • CTRs
  • Impressions
  • Reach

Many brands lean on these KPIs as the main indicators of brand awareness for their organization. However, I’d argue that the suggestions above are far better for measuring brand awareness with much greater accuracy and clarity, avoiding potentially misleading data.

That isn't to say those four metrics aren't important, but they are a proxy of general engagement and overall reach of unassured quality. They don’t explicitly show that your brand is growing high-intent awareness within the specific (and human) audience demographic that you want to reach.

Hopefully this overview has provided clarity on how to easily start improving your brand awareness measurement. Half Past Nine specializes in supporting ambitious growth companies who need cost-effective marketing strategies that drive growth quickly, with the back up of strong data and infrastructure capabilities. If your team would benefit from support and you’re curious about how we could help, do get in touch!

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