How to do a brand recall survey

Is you brand well-known enough for consumers to name it without being prompted? That's where most brands want to be, but how do you get there? Brand recall surveys are a crucial step...

Out of sight, out of mind? Hopefully, that isn’t the case for your brand. 

As a business, you shouldn’t only work on being the right choice in the moment, but also to stay top of mind whenever consumers are not actively shopping for products like yours. That way, they remember you when a buying opportunity arises again, so you don’t have to start from scratch and reintroduce yourself. You could see brand recall as the first step to brand loyalty, and we believe this step deserves some more attention.

What is brand recall?

Brand recall is a metric that explains how well consumers can remember a brand. It measures, often through surveys, how likely it is people instantly recall a brand’s name when asked about certain products, services, or markets, prompted or unprompted. It’s an important metric for pre-purchase awareness.

There are two types of brand recall: aided, and unaided (or prompted and unprompted). 

You guessed it: unaided is what you should be aiming for. This is when people can spontaneously recall your brand. In the case of aided recollection, they might be presented with your logo or name in a list of other brands. 

Or, you hum a slogan or jingle, and someone screams out your brand’s name: that’s also aided brand recall. 

We’ll dive deeper into the difference later on, when we’ll help you set up your brand recall survey with some example questions.

Finding out how well consumers recall your brand is a key part of brand tracking

Why you should measure brand recall

Are you focussing on reaching as many new people in your target audience as possible? That’s a great start, but what are you doing to hold the attention of those who have already noticed you the first time? 

If you’ve ever felt love at first sight for a stranger in the metro, you know how frustrating it is that you will never get to see them again. Yet, you can picture a future with this unknown person, based on what they were wearing and maybe reading at the time. We transfer that behaviour to brands as well: within 10 seconds, people form an impression of your brand. 

You might see brand recall as a vanity metric: people who remember you don’t necessarily want to buy from you or even have positive associations with your brand. But working on brand recall (and positive memories) will most likely have a great effect on your sales: when out shopping 59% of people choose to spend their money on familiar brands. Think about it: how often do you go for the off-brand cola that you’ve never heard of when Coca Cola is right there?

Of course, other factors weigh in, such as budget and brand perception. You might be 50 cents short for the real deal, or you’re a Pepsi fan. Nevertheless, brand recall is a good place to start.

And, if you build on brand recall as a metric, your other brand health metrics will get much more context. Plus, brand recall and brand recognition are strong purchase indicators, although brand recall tends to indicate a stronger connection to a brand than brand recognition.

If you combine brand recall with identity and perception, or even compare its growth to your growth in brand loyalty, you can spot which campaigns are working and what results they are having on individual metrics. Then you can work towards the highest form of brand recall: top-of-mind brand awareness.

How to measure brand recall

The best way to measure brand recall, is by conducting a survey. Whether you’re going for aided or unaided recalls, there is a simple calculation you can make. 

Your brand recall in percentages is: 

The number of respondents who correctly recalled your brand / total number of respondents x 100%.

This might sound like an impossible task: how many consumers would you even need to ask to get an accurate idea of your brand recall at a large scale? And where are you even going to find all these people?

You don’t need to worry about that, we’ve taken care of it. In our audiences, you’ll find the quantity and quality you’re looking for

Now, let’s focus on how to create a great brand recall survey, or how you can make brand recall a part of your next brand awareness survey.

How to do a brand recall survey

If you’re trying to watch a video on YouTube, you’ll have to make your way through some ads and other things first. Once you’ve clicked ‘skip trial’ on the YouTube Premium ad, you now sometimes bump into a quick survey. YouTube then asks you if you remember seeing an ad from a list of brands. 

An important part of knowing how to measure brand recall is knowing when to do it. You can include brand recall questions in other brand awareness surveys, or create a standalone survey. It can be especially helpful before and after campaign launches. That way, you can easily track the effect your campaign had. 

If you really want to dig deep, look beyond your own brand recall numbers. If your brand recall goes up by ten percent in the same time your competitor manages to rise with 20 percent, you know it’s time to step up your game. Luckily, with brand recall surveys or specific brand recall questions, it’s rather easy to inquire about your competitors, without damaging the relevance of your own numbers.

With so much choice available to consumers, it’s important to make your brand stand out

Should I use aided or unaided questions?

It highly depends on the objective of your survey, and at what stage of a campaign you are conducting the survey. Here’s a general overview of when to use which:

  • Aided questions provide more information on how recognisable your name, slogan, ads, or jingles are. Can people connect it to the right product or service? 
  • Unaided or unprompted questions show you a more generic picture of how well you’re performing and sticking to the minds of consumers. 

Example Brand Recall Questionnaire

What should you ask in a brand recall survey questionnaire? We’ll give you two examples of questions, prompted and unprompted. Which one you should be using in your survey depends on the goal of your survey and the moment you’re conducting the survey in. 

Unaided

 ‘Thinking about [product category], what’s the first brand that comes to mind?’.

This is a basic example of an unprompted brand question. You could also ask for more brands than just the first. This question is a great way to gauge how well-known you are in a certain market. 

Aided

‘Which brands from the following list sell [product]?’

Can consumers recognise your brand from a list of logos or names, and do they know what it is you are actually selling? 

Get started with Brand Recall survey templates

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Questions you could combine with brand recall questions

Unless you’re conducting a very specific type of survey, you’ll want to combine the questions above with others to get actionable insights. Here are some of our favorite questions to pair with brand recall.  

Did they mention you in an unprompted question? Then this follow-up question goes great with unaided recall:

  • Thinking about [product], which of these brands would you consider purchasing in the next 6 months?

This gives you an idea of purchase intention. You could follow this up with questions that explore what would convince consumers to go for you, not others. 

If you came up in a list in unaided recalls, ask this next:

  • In the past 6 months, which of the following brands have you purchased from?

This will help you see if people are aware of you but not buying from you. If that turns out to be the case, you can start learning how to close that gap. 

Did they recall you? Find out if it’s positive or negative by asking:

  • Which (if any) of the following traits do you associate with [your brand]?

This is a way to measure brand perception. If you want to dive deeper into what people actually think of your brand, read more about brand perception surveys, where we’ve also put loads of example questions. 

Boosting brand recall? Here’s what you should know

Has your first survey shown that there’s a lot of work to do when it comes to your brand recall numbers? Then it’s time to get creative. Here are some general guidelines and tips, and things to keep in mind when working on improving your brand recall. 

Consistency is (you guessed it) key

If you want people to remember you and make the link to the right product or service, it’s crucial that you are consistent. Not only by making sure people get exposed regularly to your brand, but also by making sure the messaging and branding is consistent and recognizable. The average increase in revenue attributed to presenting your brand consistently is 23 percent. It also takes out the guesswork of what your next piece of content should look like.

In other words: don’t get too creative with colours, messaging and design. It takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember a brand, so make sure your content and ads are always in tune. 

Craft a strong message and use emotion

Chances are, people will not remember you by only seeing your logo. Every piece of content or ad you put out should have a clear message, something that resonates with them.

People see dozens of logos on a daily basis, if not hundreds. The brands that stand out are the ones that make us feel something. Focus on emotion if you want to linger in someone’s mind. That can be through humour or a heartfelt message, but try to not focus on your product features too much. 

Experience or exposure

Emotion doesn’t always beat a lot of exposure. In fact, studies have shown that experience plays a bigger role in influencing brand recall for durable goods, while brand recall is better established via exposure for fast-moving consumer goods. This suggests that FMCG products are more heavily influenced by advertising. Do look into what research says for your type of products before launching a campaign.

The vampire effect

A lot of brands partner up with celebrities or famous influencers to boost their brand recall, and in a lot of cases, this totally works. But you should be wary of something called the vampire effect, which is actually less scary than it sounds. 

Celebrities may overshadow a brand and thus impair brand recall, if a campaign is not set up the right way. You can prevent this by making sure there is high endorser–brand congruence and/or a strong cognitive link between the celebrity and the brand.

Comparison advertising versus individual ads: what works better for brand recall?

One tactic that growing brands often use to boost brand recall, is to create an ad in which they compare themselves to a bigger name in the business, and then prove why they are better. This might sound like a smart move: people immediately learn what market you are in and by using the well-known name, you might lift on their success a little. Research has shown that it very much depends on how often people are exposed to a brand, and when brand recall is measured.

Track your brand health for recall to loyalty

Crafting better marketing messages, more efficient campaigns and greater customer retention: the side effects from working on your brand health metrics are quite great. We’ve made it easy for you to track your progress using our brand tracker. Check out our free template today!

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Marcus Evans

Content Marketing Manager 

See all articles by Marcus