From hotels to healthcare, brands are facing an unprecedented era of disruption. For brands to compete, consumers need to know and love your brand for what it really stands for. Critical questions for brands include: have folks even heard of you (Awareness), how well do they think they know you (Familiarity), and how well do they really know you (True Awareness)?
Folks probably won’t buy from you if they’ve never heard of you or don’t know much about you. To pinpoint areas to improve and track success, you need to include both Familiarity and True Awareness in your competitive brand tracking.
Familiarity can be a vague metric for stakeholders to interpret, especially alongside Awareness. A common question we hear is “What’s the difference between Awareness and Familiarity? Yes, I’m aware. Yes, I’m familiar. Isn’t it the same thing?”
Awareness is “yes” or “no”—have you heard of the brand name or not? Familiarity gauges how well you think you know the brand. Sure, you’ve heard of the brand, but how much would you say you know about it?
It’s summertime, so let’s use a baseball example–Comerica Park is home of the Detroit Tigers, and Target Field is the home of the Minnesota Twins:
- I watch baseball a lot, so if you asked me if I was aware of Comerica and Target, I’d say yes to both.
- If you asked me how familiar I was with Comerica, I would tell you that I have absolutely no idea what its products are. I just know its name because of where the Twins go when they visit Detroit to play the Tigers.
- Target, on the other hand, I know very well: it’s headquartered in my home state of Minnesota, and I’ve been inside their stores hundreds of times.
In research-talk: I am not at all familiar with Comerica. I am very familiar with Target.
If you’re deciding whether or not to include Familiarity in your competitive brand tracking, you first need to determine whether you want your brand to be widely known and known well or just widely known. Do you want to be the popular guy at school who most people know by name but don’t know very well? Or do you want to be the prom king—the guy everyone knows the name of and knows well enough to vote for?
Take a look at a real example below, showing Top 10 Brands Aware vs. the Top 10 Brands Highly Familiar in a recent competitive brand tracking study (brand names changed for confidentiality):
You’ll notice a pattern: a brand that many people have heard the name of (high Awareness) can be trumped by a brand that not-as-many people have heard the name of (low Awareness) when it comes to how well the brand is known (Familiarity) among those who have heard the name (among Aware). It is possible to be more successful in the market with a lower level of awareness if those folks know you well.
This isn’t surprising, since Familiarity is only asked for brands that people are aware of.
However, Big Papi’s Burgers proves that you can be both widely known and known well. Again, though the brand name is a pseudonym, the data is real. So, if you think it’s worth measuring your brand relative to the Big Papi’s Burgers of your industry you need Familiarity to gauge your brand’s standing vs. the competition.
Just because folks say they know you doesn’t mean they actually do. Also, if you find yourself with a lower level of Familiarity, how do you fix that?
While Familiarity gauges how well you think you know a brand, True Awareness asks you to prove it. Familiarity serves as the comparison point vs. other brands, but True Awareness serves as the comparison point of your brand vs. itself: how well do people know you for selling X, and how well do people know you for selling Y and Z?
True Awareness is a question that asks people aware of your brand which specific products or services they think your brand offers. You show them a list of offerings that includes all the things your brand does offer and a few things your brand does not offer.
If people choose any of your brand’s offerings correctly (e.g., they select one of the four correct offerings listed) and don’t erroneously select any things your brand does not offer, then they are truly aware—they do, in fact, know you well. This also helps you identify sources of errors in perception. Folks failing to credit you for things you do, or falsely crediting you for things you don’t, helps you identify areas for improvement in your marketing communications.
So what’s the point of asking True Awareness? It provides you with more good information to use when making decisions about your brand:
- When you combine True Awareness with usage data (e.g., how much people use and/or would like to use X, Y and Z products/services in general) you are able to inject vibrant colors into what was previously a black and white outline—your brand understanding transforms from a rough sketch into a portrait.
- As a result, not only do you understand what people want, you also understand what people know your brand for.
- Therefore, you know whether or not people think your brand can give them what they want. If people like using Y and Z but aren’t aware that your brand offers Y and Z, then your brand is suffering.
So, True Awareness allows you to discern exactly what needs to be done (e.g., what needs to be amplified in messaging) to improve your brand’s metrics and conversion funnel.
Use both Familiarity and True Awareness in your competitive brand tracking to push your brand to be the prom king of your industry and to make sure people know and love your brand for what it really stands for.
Jonah is a Project Manager at CMB. He enjoys traveling with his family and friends, and he hopes the Red Sox can hang in there to reach the postseason this year.