Brand recognition vs brand awareness — what’s the difference?

The Curious
7 min readMar 21, 2022


Beautiful designs, an engaging narrative and a show of empathy are the 3 pillars of a strong brand. But, if you’re looking to build a truly powerful brand, then you need to be able to grab your audience’s attention. If people don’t know who you are, then potential customers will pass you by for a competitor.

To push your brand out into the world and draw in customers, you’ll need to design a strategy geared towards attracting attention. To help with that, we first need to understand the differences between the two main types of attention you can get; brand awareness and brand recognition.

Brand recognition vs brand awareness

While these sound similar and are often used interchangeably, they actually appear at different stages of the customer journey. Measuring each of them separately also offers different insights into how your audience is responding to your brand and marketing strategies.

So if you’re wondering about brand recognition vs brand awareness, read on to find out what these different terms mean. Once you understand the key differences between them, you can shape an effective brand awareness strategy that builds your presence and puts you on the right path towards a powerful brand.

What is brand recognition?

Recognition is when people come into contact with different elements of your brand and are able to tell it’s you, even without seeing your brand name. This involves everything from logos and taglines to colour palettes, illustrations and tone of voice.

When we see a swoosh on a t-shirt, we know it’s Nike. If we hear someone say, “Taste the rainbow,” then we know it’s Skittles. As for McDonald’s, they have their instantly recognisable golden arches. These are all examples of brand recognition.

In some cases, recognition is so strong that the brand name has become synonymous with the item itself. Polaroid, Hoover and Biro are all brand names that are now used as generic terms, to the point that we often don’t even realise these are actually brands. This connection can even go so far that it extends to the actions surrounding the product. We no longer look online or use photo editing software, instead we “Google it” or “Photoshop it”.

If people are able to recognise your brand, then it shows that you’re connecting with your audience. They’re engaging with the different elements and your brand is portraying the right image, capturing their attention in a way that’s memorable.

What is brand awareness?

Whereas recognition is pushing your brand in front of people, brand awareness is more about drawing them in on a deeper level. It goes one step further, making people aware of not only your products and services, but also your values, reputation and unique selling propositions.

When customers are aware of your brand, they know that your product is the solution. Your brand will be the first that jumps to mind when they need you, bringing in customers without any need for prompts. If we need a new pair of high-quality trainers, we might turn to Nike, or if we’re looking for a quick drive-through, then we might head to McDonald’s.

As your customers’ brand awareness grows, they become more familiar with who you are, your values and what you offer. As this familiarity grows, you build a personal connection with your audience. This establishes trust in your products or services and gives you an edge over your competitors, making brand awareness a fundamental part of growing your business.

Building brand recognition and brand awareness

One of the reasons why we often get asked about brand recognition vs brand awareness is that they’re both built in similar ways. While they are different, we can see that recognition and awareness are closely intertwined and by building one, you can help build the other. Although there are types of branding strategy unique to each, here are 6 ways you can effectively go about building both.

  • Start with your brand identity

Recognition and awareness both start at the beginning of the branding process. By defining your target audience and what differentiates you from the competition, you can create an appealing brand identity that stands out from the crowd and is easily recognisable.

Once you’ve caught their eye, you can tailor your tone of voice and content in a way that holds your audience’s attention and shapes the way people perceive your brand and messages. By knowing who you’re talking to, you can engage your audience and clearly communicate your brand values.

  • Stand out from the crowd

When it comes to building brand recognition, being unique is top of the list. If your logo, colour palette and tone of voice are all similar to someone else with the same offer, then this will make it difficult for people to remember your brand. By being different, your audience will be able to recognise your brand and instantly pick you out from among the crowd.

This also extends to your values. Stand up for what you believe in, going against the norm if it aligns with your values and what you represent. This will help shape your brand image, making people aware of what you believe in and engaging with them on a deeper level. By being loud and proud about your values, people will get to know the heart and soul of your brand, aligning yourself with people who are on the same page.

  • Build brand consistency

Every element of your brand identity is what people will eventually associate with you and your products or services, so they should be easily recognisable. Part of this comes down to consistency. If you regularly change your colour palette, logo or illustration style, it makes it difficult for people to recognise your brand. On the other hand, exposing them to the same elements over and over reinforces your brand identity so that people know it’s you.

But it’s not just about using the same imagery or tone of voice. It’s also important to have consistency throughout the elements themselves, helping them work together to produce one strong image. This builds trust, helps customers get to know you and lets people know exactly what you stand for, growing familiarity and therefore awareness.

  • Create targeted campaigns

Brand recognition focuses on pushing your products or services in front of potential customers, making your brand visible. Find out where your target audience spends their time and show up on a regular basis using campaigns, social ads and other marketing strategies. The more you appear, the more they’ll start to recognise your brand as one they’ve seen before.

As you build recognition, you’re also building familiarity through constant exposure. With each interaction, your audience gradually gets to know more about you and your values. Then, when they find themselves in need of your products, they’ll be aware of your existence and ready to move to the next step of their customer journey.

  • Deliver valuable content

Share-worthy content is another great way of creating both recognition and awareness. When you provide informative or interesting content and infographics, this engages people and gives them something valuable. It answers their questions, entertains them and addresses their needs while showcasing your expertise and values.

This type of quality content not only builds familiarity among those already aware of your brand, but if they find it valuable, they’ll be more likely to share it with friends and family. This encourages word of mouth advertising, building up exposure and helping you reach new customers.

  • Get yourself in with the right crowd

Partnering with other brands gives you instant access to a readily curated audience, reaching potential customers who are also likely to be interested in your own products. From guest blogging to competitions on social media, this gives you great exposure to all the right people.

But the benefits of these marketing tactics go much deeper, and by working with reputable brands that align with your own values, you’re also giving your audience insight into the heart and soul of your business. When their audience sees you in the same space as a business they already trust, this instantly validates your brand while giving a clear indication of what you stand for.

The bottom line

When it comes down to brand recognition vs brand awareness, it’s clear that while they are both very different, they also work hand in hand. They both help to grab your audience’s attention in different ways, and by building one, you can help build the other.

Recognition is about making your brand recognisable by pushing it out into the world and gaining exposure. When people recognise your brand, they can say, “Hey, we’ve met before!” On the other hand, awareness is about building familiarity and connecting with people on a deeper level. That way, when they find themselves in need of your product or service, they can say, “I know just the brand for the job.”

Building brand awareness is essential to growing a business and when done strategically, it offers multiple benefits. By understanding the difference between brand awareness vs brand recognition, you can measure each one separately and shape an effective brand awareness strategy.

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The Curious

Our views on creating brands and digital experiences people love.