Is it time to retire aided brand awareness as a KPI?

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The question is simple: “Which of the following brands have you heard of?” from a preset list. Most brands see this question, aided brand awareness, as an important KPI. It’s often the very first metric reported in a presentation. But is aided brand awareness worth the attention?

Too often aided awareness represents a cacophony of noise. While the question captures people who know your brand well, it also includes people who recognize a similar-sounding name, people who recognize the same name out-of-category, and people who know nothing else about your brand except its name.

As a result, the measure becomes an exercise in name recognition, not a representation of true brand awareness. At best the metric is not insightful; at worst it’s actually misleading.

Hypothesis leverages a Brand Health Framework to guide the creation of our custom brand tracking systems. A key pillar of this framework is our Salience Spectrum, which acknowledges and disentangles the complexity of brand awareness. On one end of the spectrum are those with “name only” recognition. As you move through the spectrum, consumers gain more and more specific knowledge of your brand’s offerings and can start to differentiate your brand from others.

The end result, verified awareness, are those customers who truly know your brand and are much more likely to have a real connection with it. By growing this informed group, you will have a clear and direct impact on your sales.

Shifting your marketing’s focus to verified awareness will have implications on brand strategy, creative development, media planning and more. For example, if your goal is to grow verified awareness, you may want to shift spending away from mass media like network TV and towards high-engagement options such as social media.

By adding the Salience Spectrum to your tracking studies, you can make it more sensitive and actionable. If you want to learn more, let us know how we can help. Drop us a line at, or send me a note directly at