Brand Recall: A Guide To All You Need To Know
Updated: May 13
What is brand recall?
Brand recall, which is often referred to as unaided recall or spontaneous recall, signals a strong link with a brand, where an individual can think of a brand in relation to a product category like Coca Cola as a soft drinks brand.
There are in fact two types of brand recall to be aware of:
Unaided brand recall
This is where an individual can name a brand spontaneously top of mind without being prompted whether that person has negative or positive opinion of the brand, they just closely associate the brand with a particular product or category type. Although the more positive outlook, the higher likelihood of brand recall, which will be better for the brand overall.
Aided brand recall
Aided brand recall is a measure of the level of familiarity with a brand that an individual has when prompted or when clues are provided, for example, how familiar are you with the following detergent brands on a 5-point scale or how familiar are you with Coca Cola? This helps to aid people’s memories by using the brand’s name or a prompt. This is often used in advertising research when asking respondents if they remember seeing an advertisement.
Why is brand recall important?
The reason why brand recall is important, is by becoming more associated with a product or service category, it gives a brand a competitive advantage, particularly if they have a higher brand sentiment leading to increase in referrals, sales and market share.
So just to go into more detail, below are the top 5 reasons why increasing brand recall is important:
1. Increase in sales and repeat purchases
This is the most obvious reason, where a brand becomes more top of mind in people’s heads for a particular product or service, the more likely this will lead to a sale as it will be in their initial consideration set. If the brand sentiment is positive, sales are even more likely as well as repeat purchases as customers have had a good experience with a quality product or service.
2. Gaining a competitive advantage
If a brand can establish itself with customers and potential buyers as a quality product that is superior to other products in the same category then you can gain an advantage over the competition. This is a key goal that many brands aspire to. In this way a brand cannot only increase market share but also set a price that customers are willing to pay.
3. It helps build credibility
This is linked to the above point, where by building a brand's credibility through good customer experiences, perceptions and positive recommendations from others, all boost brand recall in a positive way, leading to brand credibility amongst the target audience who not only like the brand but find it trustworthy as well.
4. Building brand loyalty
The more a brand can maintain being top of mind in consumers’ minds, the stronger the likelihood they will become loyal to the brand if it’s relevant to their needs and after the initial purchase of products or services that the brand offers. So eventually becoming repeat customers and possibly advocates of the brand.
5. Smooths the pathway for new products
If you have a loyal customer following, they can generate excitement and extend reach via word of mouth and social media of new product releases. Therefore, smoothing the pathway of a new product to the marketplace without huge expense to the brand. An example of this is the loyal following that Apple has and the buzz they created with initial series of iPhones releases.
Brand recall examples
There are numerous brand recall examples in everyday life from what soft drink to buy like Coca Cola, which is likely to be top of mind for many consumers to toothpaste brands like Colgate or Aquafresh that people will consider buying.
The following are brand recall examples within 4 product categories:
Social media networks
If you were asked, what social media network can you think of? Popular social brands like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube and TikTok are likely to be mentioned.
Brand recall of car manufacturers could be split into categories such as luxury cars or family cars. So, thinking of luxury car brands that people are likely to think of is Bentley, Royals Royce, Ferrari, Porche and Tesla, while brands associated with family cars are likely to be Ford, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen.
The most well-known mobile phone brands that are likely to come up when asking people about smartphones brands, they are familiar with is likely to be Apple (iPhone) and Samsung (Samsung Galaxy) being the biggest two brands, while other mobile brands that may get brought up include Motorola, LG and Huawei.
Online film streaming services
Thinking of online film streaming services, Netflix would be the biggest brand in that category with the largest market share and their huge catalogue of films, documentaries, animations and series. Other similar streaming brands that could get mentioned by consumers is Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu and Paramount+.
The above four category examples give you an idea of the everyday brand recall examples for those sectors, where choices will be made by consumers initially from the brands they remember. The same principal would be applied to other product categories as well.
Brand recall vs Brand recognition
Brand recall and brand recognition often get confused as being the same thing but they are quite different.
Brand recall is when a brand is top of mind in individual’s memories, so they can think or name that brand for a specific product category if the need or necessity arises, while brand recognition is the ability of people to be able to identify the brand with only cues like the colours, logos, jingles or slogans rather than just the name itself such as the golden arches for McDonald’s. These visual and audio cues help the brand stand out from the rest of the market even if consumers are not prompted with the brand name.
Therefore, both brand recall and brand recognition are related and are two key components of brand awareness. Brand recall is the stronger of the two when it comes to the actual purchase decision as mentioned earlier, the brand will be recalled in the initial consideration set especially if the brand sentiment is high.
How to measure brand recall?
Brand recall is calculated by taking the number of participants who chose or gave the brand name and divide it by the total number of participants who completed the survey. This is then multiplied by a 100 to give a percentage score.
This brand recall calculation is illustrated below and should be applied to the brands that came up at these questions in the survey, so you can compare your brand with others in the market. If the score is not so favourable then marketing efforts such as advertising campaigns or promotions may need to applied to raise awareness of your brand.
The above calculation will stem from any of these 3 questions used below.
Top of mind awareness question
A brand being top of mind amongst consumers is what many brands aspire to and is a very good measure to see how well your brand is associated first compared to other brands within a product category without people needing to be prompted.
Ideally this would be the first of two unaided recall questions (second one explained below) but sometimes they are grouped together as one question and take the first mention as top of mind. The latter option is not recommended.
Top of mind awareness question example
Q. Thinking of detergent brands, which detergent brand first comes to mind?
Unaided recall (total spontaneous awareness) question
Unaided recall in terms of spontaneous awareness is a follow-up to top of mind awareness to see what other brands within the product category can consumers think of without being prompted.
Total spontaneous awareness is a slight variation of the above calculation by taking all spontaneous mentions of the brand including top of mind awareness and dividing this by the total sample collected and multiply it by a 100 to give a percentage score.
Unaided recall question example
Q. What other detergent brands can you think of?
Aided recall question
Unlike the above two unaided recall questions, respondents will be prompted with a cue or a brand name in the question text. You can establish the level of familiarity of a brand using the question below.
Plus, you can tweak the above brand recall calculation if you want to and see the percentage score for all those familiar with the brand, so taking the top 2 box mentions and combining this together and divide it by the total base and multiplying by a 100.
Aided recall question example
Q. How familiar are you with the following detergent brands using the scale below?
Very familiar and have used it
Familiar but not used it
Only know of the name
Not familiar with the brand at all
If you want more ideas on what other brand related questions to use, check out this post 9 key brand research questions to ask
Strategies to improve brand recall
There are many ways in which to improve brand recall, the following are some common strategies that are used:
Building a brand purpose
By establishing a brand purpose, your audience will have a clear understanding of your brand, so going beyond the obvious reasons of making a profit but what is the idea behind the brand, what it does and how do the products or services of the brand help meet the needs of its target audience. All these questions and more help map out the purpose of your brand.
Establishing a brand personality
This is a follow on from the point above, by building and communicating the human like characteristics of the brand like fun, sophisticated, friendly, innovative, honest and charming. Therefore, the brand will be associated by their target audience with many of the personality traits that have been applied. For example, Red Bull is known for being energetic and extreme, particularly with its alignment with extreme sports.
Create a favourable brand identity
By building an impressive brand identity your brand will become more memorable amongst your audience, one that is distinctive and strong in a positive way. You will need to ensure all brand touchpoints from your website to advertising portrays your brand’s identity.
Communicate the story of your brand
Find something that connects your brand to the audience and use that as a starting point for your brand’s story. This is because it adds credibility to your brand and makes it more genuine with a relevant story to tell. This is for any sector or brand personality type e.g., modern or traditional.
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