The first dimension distinguishing brand knowledge is brand awareness. It is related to the strength of the brand node or trace in memory, as reflected by consumers’ ability to identify the brand under different conditions (Rossiter and Percy 1987). In other words, how well do the brand identities serve their function? In particular, brand name awareness relates to the likelihood that a brand name will come to mind and the ease with which it does so. Brand awareness consists of brand recognition and brand recall performance. Brand recognition relates to consumers’ ability to confirm prior exposure to the brand when given the brand as a cue. In other words, brand recognition requires that consumers correctly discriminate the brand as having been seen or heard previously. Brand recall relates to consumers’ ability to retrieve the brand when given the product category, the needs fulfilled by the category, or some other type of probe as a cue. In other words, brand recall requires that consumers correctly generate the brand from memory. The relative importance of brand recall and recognition depends on the extent to which consumers make decisions in the store (where they potentially may be exposed to the brand) versus outside the store, among other factors (Bettman 1979; Rossiter and Percy 1987). Brand recognition may be more important to the extent that product decisions are made in the store.
Brand awareness plays an important role in consumer decision making for three major reasons. First, it is important that consumers think of the brand when they think about the product category. Raising brand awareness increases the likelihood that the brand will be a member of the consideration set (Baker et al. 1986; Nedungadi 1990), the handful of brands that receive serious consideration for purchase. Second, brand awareness can affect decisions about brands in the consideration set, even if there are essentially no other brand associations. For example, consumers have been shown to adopt a decision rule to buy only familiar, well-established brands (Jacoby, Syzabillo, and Busato-Schach 1977; Roselius 1971). In low involvement decision settings, a minimum level of brand awareness may be sufficient for product choice, even in the absence of a well-formed attitude (Bettman and Park 1980; Hoyer and Brown 1990; Park and Lessig 1981). The elaboration likelihood model (Petty and Cacioppo 1986) suggests that consumers may base choices on brand awareness considerations when they have low involvement, which could result from either a lack of consumer motivation (i.e., consumers do not care about the product or service) or a lack of consumer ability (i.e., consumers do not know anything else about the brands). Finally, brand awareness affects consumer decision making by influencing the formation and strength of brand associations in the brand image. A necessary condition for the creation of a brand image is that a brand node has been established in memory, and the nature of that brand node should affect how easily different kinds of information can become attached to the brand in memory.