Brand Familiarity and Advertising: Effects on the Evoked Set and Brand Preference

William Baker, The University of Akron
J Wesley Hutchinson
Danny Moore
Prakash Nedungadi


It is a well known fact that brand awareness, or familiarity, and brand choice are highly correlated (Axelrod 1968; Haley and Case 1979). This relationship undoubtably reflects the fact that choice increases awareness, if for no reason other than people will be exposed to the brands they choose more often than brands they leave on the shelf. Of greater interest is the proposition that brand awareness plays some causal role in the choice process. This is implied by the classic hierarchy of effects model of advertising effectiveness (Lavidge and Steiner 1961; Palda 1966) as well as the low involvement hierarchy proposed by Ray, Sawyer, Rothschild, Roger, and Reed (1973). In this paper we explore the theoretical and empirical bases of this proposition. The Brand Familiarity Construct In order to facilitate the present discussion, we will adopt a very particular working definition of brand familiarity and examine its viability. DEFINITION. Brand familiarity is a unidimensional construct that is directly related to the amount of time that has been spent processing information about the brand, regardless of the type or content of the processing that was involved. Thus, brand familiarity is the most rudimentary form of consumer knowledge. Moreover, this definition specifically assumes that brand familiarity is context-independent and is affected in more or less the same way by advertising exposures, purchase behavior, and product consumption or usage. This seems to be the simplest definition possible and is therefore a reasonable starting point for our investigation. In the remainder of this paper we examine two principal ways in which brand familiarity might affect brand choice: (1) by increasing the likelihood that the brand is included in the evoked set, and (2) by contributing to brand preference.