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The No Fuss Guide to Brand Recall

“I’d like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love…” Sorry, we might’ve given you an earworm with that old Coca-Cola commercial song. But it’s catchy and it sticks. And it works.

Everyone knew it way back when. And kept buying Cokes, cause they recalled the tune and pop. 

That’s pretty much Brand Recall. Where you remember a brand or its product on your own, cause it’s been burned onto your synapses. At the snap of a finger, you can recall it. 

And that’s what any brand wants. An audience so indoctrinated that they’ll seek it out on their own without being prodded. 

Let’s explore what exactly it is, how it differs from brand recognition, and how you can measure it with science! 

What the Heck is Brand Recall Anyway?

Brand recall isn’t when a brand gets pulled from the stores. It’s the ability to remember a particular brand when asked. Well, out of all the other brands out there. Which is pretty important if you want people to buy your stuff. It’s the missing link between seeing a brand and buying its wares.

It’s like all those old school taste test commercials. Hold on… we’re gonna sidestep through time for a second…

The Pepsi Challenge from way back in the day.

Okay. We’re back. No more funky hairdos and wacky clothes. Hopefully you didn’t step on a butterfly during the trip.

For marketers, brand recall is an important data point to know. With a simple survey, you can get the percentage of an audience that recalls your brand. More on that later.

Brand Recall Isnt the Same as Brand Recognition

So now you’re asking, “so what’s the difference between brand recognition and brand recall?” Good question. Let’s break it down.

Soda can tops.

Tops of different soda cans. (Photo Credit: Pexels)

You’re shopping in the grocery store for soda (gosh, we must be thirsty or something) and you can spot a Coke from a Pepsi on the shelves. And the culmination of previous exposure to the brand and memories of it drives you to pick up the soda of your choice. Now that’s brand recognition.

However, it also has the reverse effect. The soda you didn’t choose is up the creek cause maybe you didn’t like the flavor or have some bad memory of it. Like getting food poisoning at a fast food joint and then feeling sick every time you went near it.

Here’s where brand recall differs. Let’s say you’re out of soda at home. A few brands come to mind, like Pepsi or Coke. Maybe even Moxie if you’re a time traveler from the 1930s. In any case, you’re not prompted to recall the brand because of a commercial or seeing it in the stores. Instead, you can pick the brand from a line-up in your memory.

Of course, this recall can’t happen without brand recognition. And both are types of brand awareness that we can measure.

Why Brand Recall Matters?

The razzle dazzle of social media, of TV ads, and product placement are all well and good. But sometimes the old marketing standbys remain solid, like word of mouth or referrals. As humans, we like to recommend products or services that treat us right. That’s where brand recall comes in.

Brand recall lets you:

  • Stay top of mind. Your product or service will remain at the tip of your consumers tongue whenever they need more of what you offer. Or if they have friend’s who might need something similar. Then they’ll be likely to buy more or recommend it to others. 
  • Boost revenue. Sales will boost when a customer remembers your brand. Brand recall encourages repeat purchases. And also word-of-mouth spreads to gain new customers. The more brand recall, the less likely customers will churn.
  • Beat out your competitors. There’s a level of brand loyalty with brand recall, which gives you a bigger piece of the market pie. Also, if your brand is associated with quality and reliability in the customer’s mind, they won’t go running to your competitors.

Brand recall is the foundation of any of your marketing strategies and efforts.


The No Fuss Way of Measuring Brand Recall

Remember we said brand recall is an important data point. Well, now let’s take a look at how we get those numbers. 

We’re going to look at two different types of brand recall surveys — unaided and aided.

Unaided Brand Recall Surveys

Just like the name implies, this is where we don’t give so much as a hint to a person when we ask a question. I say, “what are some soda brands?” Then the audience replies with the usual suspects.

You don’t want to specify your brand in such a survey. Just ask them to name the products or services in your space.

Now this type of survey comes with a bit of math. Don’t worry it won’t be that bad.

All you do is take the number of your audience who correctly ID’d your brand divided them by the total of your audience, then multiply that by 100 to get a percentage.

Fry Meme

Okay, let’s make it easier to visualize as an equation.

  • X=number of survey respondents who correctly answered/suggest your brand
  • Y=total number of respondents

(X÷Y) X 100 = % of Brand Recall 

See easy peasy! 

Final note: this type of survey is pretty useful for bigger, more well-known brands.

Aided Brand Recall Surveys

Here we’re going to actually give folks a hint. This is a great survey for those smaller, less-known brands.

Back to our ongoing soda theme. You’re an upstart soda company. Now what you do in this type of survey you provide your brand and see if it sparks anything with your audience. Something like:

“Do you drink Solaris Cola?” 

Or you could list your soda among others and see how you rank. A low percentage is bad news.

3 Scientifically Sure Fire Ways to Improve Brand Recall

Now that we’ve got numbers. If they’re low, then it’s time to take action to give your brand recall a jolt. Let’s breakdown 3 scientifically proven techniques.

1. Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (Frequency Illusion)

This is the earworm… or mindworm… where once you’ve seen something, you see it everywhere. Like eyes on a creepy portrait, whatever it is keeps following you or so it seems. 

Now that you’ve read this article, you’re gonna start seeing sodas everywhere you go for the rest of the day. Cause we implanted in your mind. Don’t worry it’s not a huge conspiracy. 

There’s a scientific explanation for this, called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Basically, it’s good ol’ confirmation bias plus selective attention. You seek it out subconsciously.

Now we can use this to our advantage with a brand. Once someone visits a site, you can keep popping up wherever else they go on the interwebs, using retargeting.  Or trigger an email when they either sign up for something on the site.

This way you keep the mindworm and the Baader-Meinhof party going.

2. Zeigarnik Effect

This one’s easy to explain. You’re in the middle of doing something, say typing up a scathing Twitter rant and you get interrupted. So you save that to your drafts. But you can’t let it go in your mind. You’re itching to get back.

That’s the Zeigarnik effect in well… effect. We’re more likely to remember things we don’t finish or are prevented from completing.

A prime branding example is Reddit’s 2021 superbowl ad. It fooled audiences into believing they were watching yet another, snoozer of a car ad. Then the ad glitched. But it wasn’t a glitch. The alien Reddit mascot pops up followed by an entire page of text. All in 5 seconds.

Reddit Super Bowl Ad

And people couldn’t stand it. They scrambled to find out what the text said, making the ad the most googled so far this year.

3. Von Restorff Effect

You may never have seen an entire episode of Star Trek, but we beat you know it when you see it. You remember the things that stick out. The brightly-colored outfits. The pointy-eared Spock. Shatner’s acting.

The Von Restorff effect is at work here. Things that jump at us tend to stay with us. We can see this most in the use of color in branding. We associate certain brands with colors. Forgive the soda theme again… but blue for Pepsi. Or red for Coke. Green for 7-Up.

Cola can colors.

Color helps us remember particular brands, like sodas. (Photo Credit: Craig Adderley)

Start Measuring Your Brand Recall

Before you take any steps to improve your brand recall, you’ve got to measure it. Are people able to recall what your brand does? Do they even associate your space with your brand? Or are you just lost among your rivals?

One way to see if your brand is recallable is to ensure your packaging is memorable. Does it stick in the minds of your customers? Check out our Helio template and put your packaging to test. 

Packaging Test

Unwrap your next big success by asking for feedback often and early in the packaging creation process.

Use this template for:

  • Concept Testing
Use Template