Look Before You Launch: Brand Awareness Survey Questions

Heidi Haskell on B2B Marketing Strategy

Brand Awareness SurveyMarketers often need to wear many hats, one of which can be ad-hoc market researcher.

If you’ve never conducted “real” research before this can be a hugely daunting project, and that’s exactly the position I found myself in a couple of months ago.

My CEO asked me to run a brand awareness survey to measure the success of our recent social media efforts. As a research novice I was a little unsure about how to proceed, but I’m very lucky to have hard core survey experts working just across the office at SurveyGizmo.

One such expert, Bret Kershner, not only helped me tremendously with my own study, he also agreed to let me interview him so others can benefit from his years of experience conducting brand awareness research.

What follows is a Q&A with Bret that covers the basics of brand awareness surveys, including the specific questions you need to include to get the best results.

(If you’re new to the concept of brand awareness studies, you might want to start by reading our Guide to Running a Brand Awareness Survey)

Q: What is a brand awareness survey anyway?

A: A brand awareness survey is used to tell you if your marketing campaigns are getting adequate exposure for your brand. If you haven’t been doing a lot of marketing yet, a brand awareness survey can be used to to set a baseline to build off of and to see how you compete with others in your market before you start your campaigns.

A true brand awareness survey is measuring brand recall and recognition.

There are a few other types of surveys under the brand studies umbrella, such as brand identity, brand image, brand trust, and brand loyalty, but they actually have different goals than the brand awareness survey.

A brand awareness survey is great with helping you measure the effectiveness of campaigns that are otherwise difficult to measure, like the effectiveness of your social media presence or a billboard campaign, for example.

Since the goal of these efforts is to spread the word about your brand, you’d use a brand awareness survey to make sure that you’ve made a significant difference in consumer top of mind recall and recognition of your brand.

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Q: How often should you conduct a brand awareness study?

A: At least twice a year, though we tend to do them at SurveyGizmo once a quarter. The main reason for this is so that we can compare our efforts each quarter. Based on the survey results, we can then decide to continue what we are doing if it’s working, or go in another direction.

It’s so beneficial because the survey results give you tangible evidence that your marketing efforts are either working or not working.

Q: What are the most common pitfalls you see people run into with creating brand awareness surveys?

A: There are three big ones that nearly everybody struggles with:

  1. Question bias, which basically means leading people toward certain answers with your questions
  2. Responses from people who are outside your target audience
  3. Not separating your respondents properly

Question Bias

Question bias is a big pitfall. When you are creating your survey questions, there’s no way around it, you’re writing them from your own perspective. It’s hard to imagine all of the ways that your question might be perceived by others.

Because you are looking for specific data, it’s important to make sure that your audience perceives your question in the way you intend it.

For example, in running our most recent SurveyGizmo brand awareness survey, we ran into a question bias issue.

One of the questions we were trying to ask our respondents was the open ended question, “Which software tool have you used in the past?” We had our team look at each question before we launched, and we all agreed that the survey looked good to go.

We were using a panel, and we did a soft launch with just a small amount of respondents to begin. We ended up pausing the launch very quickly because of the answers we were receiving on this question. We did not anticipate the fact that our respondents, who are being paid to take surveys, would think of the company that is paying them to take surveys as a “survey tool.”

Since we were not interested in their history of being paid to take surveys, but rather their use of online survey software tools in order to build and launch surveys, we then had the challenge of reworking the question so that we could make absolutely clear what we were asking.

After a couple of tries, we finally saw an increase in responses that were answering the question in the way we were looking for.

This is especially why, if you’re using a panel, you should do a soft launch to see how your respondents are reading and answering your questions.

Getting Unqualified Respondents

Getting responses from the wrong people is another one. Whether you’re using a panel or sending your survey out to an email list, you’ll want to make sure to use questions in your survey that confirms that the person is who you need them to be.

Since we were only interested in the top-of-mind brand recall and perception of marketers in our study, we made sure to include a question asking what their job role was at the beginning.

If a respondent answers something other than what you are looking for, it’s so easy to use disqualify logic to keep them from taking the rest of the survey. It saves so much time and keeps your data clean.

Forgetting To Use Segmenting Questions

It’s important to keep in mind that if you’re using a panel company, the company will generally not give you demographic information about your respondents automatically, such as gender, age, and where they live.

You’ll want to make sure to ask any questions that are important to you making decisions on your data in your survey itself.

If you’re wanting to segment your data by job role, you’ll especially want to add a question about that as well.

For example, say you’re reaching out to marketers and business owners. You may start to notice that marketers are more aware of your brand than business owners, or vice versa. Then you’ll know who to target for your next campaign to encourage brand recognition where it’s lacking.

Q: You touched a bit on questions to ask to avoid pitfalls. Can you talk about the main questions you want to ask for a successful brand awareness survey?

A: Lots of the questions will be dependent on your industry and competition, but there are a few types of questions that every good brand awareness survey includes:

Disqualifying Question

As we just talked about, job role (or whatever your disqualifying factor is), should be your first question so that you can target your market accurately.

If you’re only interested in female respondents, your disqualifying question might be one about the respondent’s gender.

Context Of Awareness

Then ask a question that gives context to their awareness. Things like, “Are you familiar with this type of product? How often do you use this type of product, if at all?”

You’re looking to find out if this person is a high value segment for you.

Brand Recall

You’ll then want to ask the open text question, “Please list the top 5 companies (of your product type).

It’s important to keep this unaided (meaning you aren’t giving them options to pick from) so that you can find out which brands are completely top of mind recall for them.

How They Found Out

After this question, ask them how they heard of each of the companies that they typed in. This can help inform your next marketing campaign approach, especially if they are telling you they heard of your competitors on a channel where you’re not currently focusing your efforts.

How Often & Use Case

Then you can ask them how often they use the brands they listed and what they use them for. They may tend to use you in an area you’re not particularly strong in. In SurveyGizmo’s case, we don’t heavily advertise that we offer polls, though if we found out our market tended to use more polls, we would then focus our energy on developing that aspect of our tool further.


You can also use some ranking questions for yourself and other companies in your field so that you can understand the general perception of your brand in relation to that of your competitors.


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