How to Measure Awareness

It’s 2019 and still one of the hardest questions in marketing: how do you track the success of your awareness programs? Sure all that direct response stuff is easy. When you spend a dollar, you know how much you’ll get back. But that all goes to hell when it comes to awareness.

Awareness is your brand’s share of mind in a consumer’s brain. Before someone can consider your brand to meet their need, they must first be aware of it. Top of mind awareness represents the gold standard for a brand. Name a beer. What’d you think of? Miller Lite? Bud Lite? Whatever the first beer in your head was – that’s top of mind awareness – and what every brand wants. You likely know more than one beer. Those other beers that come into your head – you thought of those without any help – those brands have unaided awareness in your brain. You probably know some other beers – they’re on the tip of your tongue. With a little help, you could think of them – you also have awareness of those beers, you just needed a little aid – hence aided awareness – to remember them.  

There are a number of strategies to bolster awareness. Media strategies usually generally include storytelling mediums: TV, video (like YouTube), radio, events, experiential and influencers – even display from a prospecting perspective. These are all great options. But how can you measure whether they’re working? What makes that question so hard to answer is the fact that it’s happening in someone’s brain. The association of your brand with a category happens in an instant, and unless you’re a mind reader it’s a challenge to measure.

When you can’t directly measure something – find a proxy. That is, find a metric that should correlate with the thing you’re looking to measure. From an awareness perspective, there are a few proxies that can be helpful to know how your marketing is moving the proverbial needle.

Brand searches.

Google has become the first place many people go for anything and everything internet. Your company should be bidding on your own brand terms (eg. “Tide,” “Tide detergent,” “tide laundry detergent,” etc.). The volume of your brand searches should be a good proxy for how individuals are showing interest in and awareness of your brand.  If your company is investing in a brand campaign you should see a corresponding increase in brand searches. Brand search volume over time is a good way to keep a pulse on how your awareness is trending in the market.

Direct traffic.

Top of mind awareness is that gold standard. When a consumer realizes they have a need, if they’re coming directly to your site, there’s a good chance your brand is occupying that top of mind awareness for a consumer. Monitoring this metric is easy with your web analytics tool and is a great proxy for your brand’s awareness position in the market.

Share of voice.

This is media metric that represents your brand’s proportion impressions in an advertising medium relative to the total impressions available in that medium. By way of example, if a website offers display advertising and has 100 available impressions, your brand could gain a 90% share of voice by purchasing 90 of those 100 available impressions. While this metric is a bit more grey at is relates to measuring awareness, it does provide a leading indicator as to how much mindshare your brand is achieving. Since awareness is a magical metric held in the brain, the more share of voice your brand can command, the downstream impact should bolster awareness.


This is arguably the most direct way to measure your brand’s awareness levels. The drawback to surveys is that they’re a point-in-time measure, so far from real time, like brand searches. In addition, an awareness survey must be done through a panel – i.e. a representative sample of the population. Panels are expensive. For these reasons, this is an annual and biannual type of measure of awareness, but it will provide valuable insights for the top of mind, aided, and unaided awareness of your brand – and it’s position against competitors in your target consumers’ brain.


Net promoter score has become a marketer’s key measure of how likely a customer is to recommend a brand to their friend or colleague. If a consumer feels strongly enough to endorse your brand through a recommendation, it follows that your brand is occupying a great space in that consumer’s brain. Of course in order to recommend your brand, a consumer must be aware of it in the first place, but this is a good proxy for the various levels of awareness.

Awareness remains an elusive but tremendously important marketing metric. Until we can read people’s minds, we’ll have to continue using other means to benchmark our brands’ progress. Has your brand or company used novel means to track awareness? Do share…

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