Brand Recognition vs. Brand Awareness: What’s the Difference?

a split screen with a star on one side and a megaphone on the other: brand recognition vs brand awareness

Nothing is more troubling for ecommerce business owners than the dreaded O-word: obscurity.

If potential customers don’t know your brand exists, or if they don’t associate your name and logo with the products and services you offer, they’re unlikely to make a purchase. Which is why brand recognition and brand awareness are important parts of developing a successful brand strategy. 

While brand recognition and brand awareness are related and often used interchangeably, they’re two distinct aspects of the customer journey. Here are the key differences between brand recognition and awareness and how to understand, measure, and build them.

What is brand recognition?

Brand recognition is how consumers identify your brand through visual or auditory cues, such as a logo, color scheme, catchy slogan or jingle, along with other elements of brand identity like your brand name and brand voice. If your business has brand recognition, it means potential customers who see your brand's logo or hear your company name can connect it to your product or service. Brand recognition is often a preliminary step in establishing your brand's presence in the market, as it signifies whether a consumer can confidently say, “I've seen that before. I know what it is.” This can be especially valuable in crowded markets where consumers are inundated with choices.

For example, clothing and lifestyle brand Juicy Couture has achieved a high level of brand recognition due in part to the consistent use of its recognizable brand logo (and the iconic placement of the logo on its products) since its launch in 1997. Consumers have come to associate the brand’s name with its font, which is featured prominently on its products and across multiple channels.

How to measure brand recognition 

A commonly used metric to measure brand recognition is brand recall, the ability to remember a brand, aided or unaided: 

Aided brand recall

Aided brand recall is when a consumer can recall a brand with the help of a prompt or clue. If you’re a shampoo company, you might do an aided brand recall survey by providing potential consumers with a list of shampoo brands and asking them to identify the ones they’ve heard of to see if yours is one of them. 

Unaided brand recall

Unaided brand recall is when a consumer can recall a brand without a prompt or clue. Instead of providing a list, you may instead ask customers to name all the shampoo brands they know, and see if yours is one of them.

What is brand awareness?

Brand awareness involves creating a deeper connection with consumers. It not only encompasses a consumer’s ability to recall a brand but also their comprehensive understanding of the brand's range of products, core values, and unique position in the market. 

This deeper level of familiarity comes when a consumer knows why to choose you over other brands, and makes informed decisions based on their knowledge and perception. Brand awareness answers the question, “Do I know what this brand stands for and what it offers?”

Awareness is crucial because it influences the purchasing process. When consumers are aware of a brand, they’re more likely to consider it when making purchase decisions.

As an example, the environmentally driven company 4ocean has garnered strong brand awareness thanks to its mission: A simple promise to remove a pound of plastic pollution from the ocean for every product it sells. Through its effective and consistent calls to action built around this promise, the company has removed more than 30 million pounds of plastic from oceans since its launch in 2017.

How to measure brand awareness 

Measuring brand awareness involves taking a holistic view of how your brand is perceived in the market using a variety of strategies and metrics. Here are a few examples:

  • Traditional market research tactics such as surveys and questionnaires
  • Social media metrics such as likes, shares, comments and mentions
  • Website traffic
  • Search engine results page rankings
  • Branded searches
  • Social listening tools
  • Media monitoring

Brand recognition vs. brand awareness

Both brand recognition and brand awareness involve consumers developing familiarity with your brand, and both play a key role in a customer’s journey—from their knowing about a brand to their trusting and valuing the brand enough to make a purchase. 

Brand recognition is more immediate and could play into impulse purchases. Building brand awareness, on the other hand, takes more time. Brand awareness means potential customers and existing customers understand what the brand represents and offers, and its unique value proposition. It may even include an emotional connection between the consumer and the brand. 

Brand recognition and awareness are also closely connected to brand identity, which includes the logo and design elements, and other differentiators like brand voice, tone, and imagery, to help consumers recognize your brand.

The benefits of brand awareness and recognition

Understanding the advantages of brand recognition and brand awareness is crucial for successful brand management. Here are some of the key benefits:

Competitive advantage

Brand recognition can help set you apart from competitors. Brands with strong awareness tend to have greater longevity and higher customer retention, helping them weather crises and economic downturns more effectively.

Customer loyalty and trust

When consumers recognize and understand your brand, they’re on the path to trusting your brand. A recent survey found 77% of consumers buy from brands that share the same values as them. Connecting through shared values can be the key to earning loyalty from customers.

Increased sales and profits

Loyalty and trust can then lead to increases in sales and profits. A survey from PWC found 13% of shoppers don’t think about prices when they are loyal to a brand. Additionally, 68% of businesses say brand consistency has contributed to revenue growth of 10% or more. 

Effective word-of-mouth marketing 

Satisfied customers are more likely to recommend your brand to others, contributing to word-of-mouth marketing—especially Gen Z. A recent survey found 62% of Gen Z consumers were likely to recommend a brand, while only 45% of boomers agreed.

Increased web traffic

Effective brand awareness strategies can drive more traffic to your website as people actively seek out information about your brand and products. They often turn to Google, which processes more than eight million searches per day. Being searched for, and turning up in the search results can bring significant traffic to your site. Data from FirstPage indicates ranking on top of a search engine results page can generate a 39.8% click-through rate. 

More productive marketing

While building brand recognition and awareness requires an initial investment, campaigns become more effective over time as more of your target audience comes to know who you are and what you offer. Marketing and advertising campaigns also become more effective as they focus on specific audience types. 

Remember that brand recognition and brand awareness are not one-time achievements but ongoing efforts. Consistency in branding, messaging, and customer experience is key to maintaining and growing brand equity over time. 

How to improve brand awareness and recognition

Here are few brand awareness and brand recognition strategies to help boost your business: 

1. Refine your target audience

A clear understanding of target audiences and customer personas can help make your marketing communication more effective in reaching the right audiences with the right messages. When your messaging really clicks with your audience, it’s more memorable, which can contribute to brand recognition and awareness.

2. Understand what makes you different

Think about what your key differentiators are. Highlighting what makes you unique and communicating this can help you stand out in a crowded marketplace.

3. Show brand consistency

From brand voice to visual identity, product quality to customer service, providing a consistent experience to customers at all touchpoints can help build recognition and awareness. For retailers, this is known as omnichannel commerce, and it can contribute to improved customer loyalty.

4. Connect with your customers online 

Use the brand building tools offered by social media platforms to create connections with your audience. Try influencer marketing, wield user generated content (UGC), and create content regularly. You can also pay for display, podcast, and search engine ads to reach potential customers.

5. Form strategic partnerships and collaborations

Partner with other businesses or influencers that align with your brand values to reach new customers and promote brand recognition. You can also connect with new audiences outside the context of shopping, attracting attention through charity partnerships, event sponsorships, or even activism.

6. Analyze and adapt your campaigns 

Consistency is key in implementing successful brand recognition and brand awareness campaigns. It takes time to build brand awareness and recognition, so monitor your efforts consistently. Measure brand awareness and recognition, analyze data, and make adjustments to ensure your marketing campaigns and promotional strategies are effective in the long term.

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Brand recognition vs. brand awareness FAQ

What comes first brand awareness or brand recognition?

Brand awareness and brand recognition are two important elements of brand strategy, and can be built simultaneously. Brand recognition supports brand awareness and usually comes first.

How does brand recognition become brand awareness?

Brand recognition, which can begin simply as the recognition of your brand’s name or your logo, becomes brand awareness through the consistent communication of your brand’s core values, the products you offer, and the unique position you occupy in the market.

How can I measure brand recognition?

Brand recognition can be measured using market research, focus groups, surveys, brand tracking software, website traffic and search volume data, social media analytics and social listening. Companies often use brand recall as a tool to measure brand recognition. Brand recall is the ability of consumers to remember and associate a brand with its products or services.