What Is Brand Recognition?

Melanie Balke
August 15, 2023

You’ve probably heard this word a lot lately.

The infamous rebranding of X — formerly Twitter — has spawned countless op-eds about branding. As the iconic social media platform continues its downward spiral, business gurus across the world are mourning the loss of its iconic branding. They’re also talking about something called brand recognition.

What does that term mean, and how can you harness its power?

Defining Brand Recognition

A flower. “The Basics: What Is Brand Recognition?”

Brand Recognition and Brand Awareness

Brand recognition is commonly brought up with something known as brand awareness. Like win-backs and re-engagements, these concepts are closely related but entirely different.

Brand recognition is the natural evolution of brand awareness.

Let me explain.

When a customer recognizes something as a brand’s hallmark, they experience brand awareness. Similarly, brand awareness happens when a consumer connects a service or offer to a brand. Thus, strong brand awareness leads to true brand recognition.

A customer with brand awareness may not pass unaided recall tests, but they’ll generally excel at aided brand recall.

Wait… What does that mean?

How Do We Measure Brand Recognition?

Part of building brand awareness and recognition is — unsurprisingly — measuring brand awareness. Since we currently lack the technology to directly interface with our brains, the numbers come from testing. More specifically, we use aided recall tests and unaided recall tests. Both methods are also used to measure brand awareness.

In aided recall tests, customers can remember aspects of a brand with some prompting. For example, test-takers may be asked something like “Are you aware of Nike?” before being shown additional questions.

Conversely, an unaided recall test shows successful brand recognition without prompting. A great example of such a concept is to ask someone what their favorite soft drink brand is. Most will say Pepsi or Coca-Cola. In either case, you’ve just witnessed unaided brand recognition!

Or, more topically, the vast majority of the world have unaided brand recognition of Twitter, as the social media definition of “tweet” was added to dictionaries in the early 2010s. The Oxford English Dictionary added the alternate meaning in 2011; Merriam-Webster did the same two years later, in 2013. That social impact is huge, and it translates to a massive amount of brand value.

Why Everyone Wants a Recognizable Brand

A grassy field. “The Perks: Brand Recognition Is Good for You.”

It may seem like a stupid question, but it’s worth asking.

Why do people want to have brand recognition? What does all that social pull mean, and how does it impact brand success? Is high brand recognition and its associated consumer awareness worth the potentially steep cost? Why should you aim to build brand awareness?

That’s a lot of questions, but I’ve got the answers!

Brand Awareness Is Brand Loyalty

One of the biggest perks of being a household name is brand loyalty.

Allow me to demonstrate…

How many people have a go-to…

  • Athletic shoe? From Adidas to Nike, collectors can get intense about their shoes.
  • Electronics brand? Surely, you know of the Apple versus Android debate.
  • Fragrance? From Christine Dior to Bath and Body Works, everyone has a signature scent.
  • Soda brand? Everyone knows about Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

You’re bound to have at least one example for each category. And every answer will be a specific brand name.

That’s brand loyalty! It’s a brand’s ability to manipulate consumer behavior in its favor.

Notably, loyalty is often driven by psychology. People trust what they know, and companies with an established brand identity are more likely to be part of an audience’s spontaneous recall. That recognition is free and natural word-of-mouth marketing.

Loyalty Is Profit

And that increased exposure means more profits for you.

On the most basic level, you have higher conversions. Consumers know your brand’s message, and they’re more likely to become paying customers. Similarly, awareness of the company name promotes increased brand equity and reach.

However, there’s also a deeper level of control in this area.

Today’s Brand-Building Is Tomorrow’s Brand Equity

Well-known brands can afford to charge more.

Don’t believe me? Think of some well-known name-brand products.

Actually, I’ll save you some time and whittle your options down to three examples: Band-Aid, Oreo, and Ziploc. All three of these brands have entered everyday language, becoming synonymous with the actual product. In truth, all three of these common phrases describe something that you can say without a brand name:

  • A Band-Aid is an adhesive bandage. A stop by your local pharmacy should yield plenty of “rip-off” generic brand versions.
  • Oreos are sandwich cookies. They also won the brand recognition battle against their predecessor, Hydrox.
  • Ziplocs are just resealable plastic bags, formally known as “sliding channel storage bags.”

Now, let’s take a quick look at some prices (at least in a non-major city). Using the Walmart website, you’ll find that…

  • A 100-count box of Band-Aids is $9.53.
  • A “party-size” 25.5-ounce box of Oreos is $4.58.
  • A 60-count set of Ziploc gallon-size bags is $8.86.

At this point, you may be asking, “Melanie, where are you going with this? Why should I care about the cost of these goods?” Well, it’s all about to make sense.

Knowing that all of these are name-brand items, you can safely assume that these prices will translate to high-quality goods. Likewise, you also know that you can easily find “rip-off” generic versions of these products. How much do those cost? Well…

  • One of the lowest-priced 100-count adhesive bandage options is $4.97.
  • A pack of Walmart’s “Twist & Shout” sandwich cookies is only $2.88.
  • Likewise, Walmart’s Great Value resealable bags are $4.64.

So, you have differences of $4.56, $1.70, and $4.22, respectively. If those three items were on your shopping list, buying the generic brand would save you $10.48. But people still buy name-brand items.

A Parisian street. Overlaid text describes the above price differences between branded and generic products.


Because all three of the known brand names have spent countless millions — perhaps even billions — on brand awareness campaigns. Each brand has established itself as a high-quality service. Ask anyone about those brands compared to the no-name generic versions, and you’re bound to hear that those few extra dollars buy “better products.”

Is it true?

You could conduct surveys and perform countless tests to find out, but the bottom line is that brand perception is set in stone. People know those brands; they trust them. And that means they’re more likely to buy them.

Build Trust and Create Brand Evangelists

You’ll notice that all of this boils down to one central tenet: trust.

When you build brand awareness, you build trust. That trust translates to brand recognition, which turns into sales. Furthermore, research suggests that many well-trusted brands connect with consumers on an emotional level. This has a positive effect on every interaction consumers have with the company, as they tend to place human characteristics upon the otherwise blank slate of the business entity.

Again, I can illustrate the idea with an example. Think of a well-known brand, then think of your relationship to that business. Aside from your initial awareness of this brand, do you have any positive feelings toward it? Your answer is probably a resounding “Yes!”

Your small business can be the same way!

Common Brand Recognition Strategies

Central American ruins, as photographed by a 1960s camera. “Strategy: Ways to Increase Brand Recognition.”

You (probably) don’t need to scrap your current vision, either. In fact, if you have an existing audience, you’ve already created some brand recognition. Even the tiniest email list is your gateway to building awareness!

(You’ll obviously want to consult a marketing expert about your overall branding strategy. Otherwise, you could end up pulling a Twitter and flushing $4–$20 billion in brand recognition down the toilet.)

Depending on your marketing goals, you may be able to craft a simple, low-cost marketing strategy that spans multiple channels. Yes, even the smallest of small business brands can reach new audiences on a budget.

Reach More Consumers With Freemium Business

People waiting in a train station. “Freemium: Show everyone what your brand can do for them.”

You’ve probably heard of it before, and you may be using some of this tech right now.

A freemium strategy takes some (or all) of a product’s features and offers them for free. Some brands offer full access for a limited time; others allow everyone to access limited features for free.

It seems contradictory, but it’s actually an ingenious way to gain referral traffic and increase brand recall.

Aside from the ability to increase brand awareness, a free trial gives consumers time to familiarize themselves with a product. They quickly move beyond knowing the brand exists and become ingrained within its system. Soon, that brand stands as a user’s primary point of reference for whatever service they need.

Can’t think of a successful brand with a freemium model? I’ve got you covered! All of the following companies have used this tactic to reach new consumers and claim a slice of the market:

  • Grammarly offers free access to its add-on and allows users to pay for professional software.
  • Hootsuite expanded its social media management grip by giving users a sweet taste of its power.
  • Services like Google Drive and Dropbox offer valuable off-site storage space, which can be upgraded for a small fee.
  • You’re probably using Spotify, and you may even be paying for its ad-free premium service.

Note, too, that this brand recognition strategy can be enhanced with built-in watermarks or signatures. Many email marketing software providers automatically add the brand’s name and logo to the signature of freemium users. Similarly, you’re usually given a recipe card and shopping list when you snag some delicious samples from your local grocer.

Boost Your Brand Identity With Sponsorships

A pile of pennies. “Sponsorships: Raise brand awareness and build trust in your community.”

Now, this option isn’t for everyone. Few small businesses can afford to sponsor any “big” or “worthwhile” event. However, anyone who can afford this luxury should jump on that chance! It’s your time to shine and raise brand awareness, after all.

The good news here is that you don’t need to sponsor a Football team or fork millions into a multinational event. With a smaller (albeit still substantial) budget, you can easily raise brand awareness on a local level. Aside from reaching a more immediately accessible target audience, local sponsorships support your brand voice. They raise local awareness of a brand’s existence and support good causes.

Some examples of well-known sponsored events include…

  • Bank of America’s longstanding support for the Boston Marathon.
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It raises brand personality and balloons.
  • The international PPA Tour, sponsored by Carvana.

And don’t forget those local events, such as…

  • El Paso, Texas, has an annual zoo-based musical event known as Rock‘n Roar, usually sponsored by iHeartRADIO.
  • The annual Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, California, is sponsored by KJazz, a local radio station.
  • Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue 10K Run retains its Ukrop’s moniker despite the namesake sponsor ceasing retail operations in 2009.

Email Marketing

A person playing chess. Overlaid text reads, “Email Marketing: The low-cost marketing strategy that’s perfect for everyone.”

Finally, you can build brand recognition with one of the cheapest channels: email marketing.

You don’t need social media mentions or sponsorships or guest posting. All you need is an idea and some clever copy. With a solid email marketing strategy, you can establish your brand as a go-to name, a sort of thought leadership presence in your industry. You may even be able to shift the public brand perception of your business!

Building Brand Awareness Can Be Easy

Are you ready to take that leap of faith?

Give me a call and schedule a free strategy session. We’ll discuss how your brand can grow. I’ll even show you how a clear target audience can increase your brand’s value.

Together, we’ll build a brand awareness and recognition strategy that works for you — not some other, similar company. And if you need any more proof of the possibilities, drop by the rest of the blog and read more marketing tips and tricks.