Hey there…have you heard of me?

In consumer and B2B market research circles we are often asked to assess market awareness and/or familiarity with brands, products and spokespeople or causes. These two related, but separate constructs, represent the first steps on the pathway from prospect to customer.

Awareness should be measured in two ways – unaided and aided. Unaided awareness is captured via an open-ended question. For example:

Please name three brands of dishwashing detergent?

Unaided awareness questions capture those brands in the consumer’s mindset. Aided awareness, the next step in the process, provides a pick list from which respondents can choose the brands they are aware of. This list must be randomized and be in a multiple response format where they can select any or all brands they have awareness of. Expect to see a lift in the percentage any brand receives between unaided and aided.

A word of caution the constructs of awareness and familiarity are not interchangeable. We can be aware of a product, service or political candidate, but that does not mean we are familiar with them. Familiarity implies a deeper level of knowledge. Consumers are more apt to select the brands they have the highest level of familiarity with. There are exceptions, such as when one receives a significant promotional offer that can shift a consumer’s choice toward a brand they are less familiar with.

Here is an example of a familiarity question:

How familiar are you with Acme, Inc.?

  • Not at all familiar
  • Slightly familiar
  • Moderately familiar
  • Very familiar
  • Extremely familiar

As the survey designer you can use advanced logic to populate the categories with those brands the respondent stated they were aware of from the aided awareness question. This ensures a higher level of validity in that participants are not asked to rate brands they are unfamiliar with.

Another option is to employ a validation measure using open-ended questions. In the current age of information overload it is quite possible an audience member may have heard of a brand or company simply in passing. Follow-up questions, such as “What aspects can you tell me regarding Brand X?” allow the researcher to probe deeper. Respondent comments can be matched against known facts about a brand or spokesperson providing a validated measure of awareness or familiarity.

The measures should be profiled against your common segmentation bases including demographics, product usage and geographic data to provide a big picture. These insights can be then used to inform marketing campaigns or the selection process for corporate spokespeople.

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