Top of Mind Awareness: Definition & Theory

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

If you were asked what brands first pop into your mind, what would you say? Top-of-mind awareness is something all companies aim for. In this lesson, we'll discuss the concept and theory behind it.

Who Comes First?

Let's play a word association game. I'll mention a few categories and you write down the first brand that pops in your head. Ready? Go!

  • Soda
  • Facial Tissues
  • Superstore
  • Smartphone
  • Fast-food restaurant

O.K., grab your list. Do your answers look something like this: Coca-Cola, Kleenex, Walmart, Apple, and McDonald's? No, I'm no mind reader, but I'm guessing your list is pretty similar, with maybe a few variances for things like your favorite smartphone brand (perhaps you're a Samsung person) or soda (prefer Pepsi?).

So, how did I know a majority of your top answers? Because all of those brands have worked hard in their marketing strategies and advertising tactics to make themselves frontrunners in their particular industry, a concept known as top-of-mind awareness.

What is Top of Mind Awareness?

Top-of-mind awareness, what all brands want, is to be the first brand or product consumers think of in a particular category. Imagine if someone were to ask you the first company that comes to mind when you think of greeting cards; your answer would probably be Hallmark.

Top-of-mind awareness is generally measured by asking consumers open-ended questions about the brand that first comes to mind in a particular category, like automobile manufacturers (Ford or Chevrolet), ketchup (Heinz) or cell phone providers (perhaps Verizon or AT&T). Market researchers are then able to take this data and turn it into a percentage to figure out who is leading the way in top-of-mind awareness.

How Does It Work?

When consumers make buying decisions, they tend to purchase based on brands that are most easily recalled or brought to mind. Experts are quick to point out that doesn't mean that brand will always be the one purchased, but that the more remembered and favored a brand is, the better off it is. But, how does a brand get there?

1. Be memorable, even if it means being different or thinking outside the box.

2. Keep your brand in front of people - television, print, online, social media, all of it.

3. Build relationships with your audience by connecting with your buyers and potential buyers.

4. Sell without selling; that is, promote your brand without being annoying.

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