It's a standard practice in most image and awareness surveys or brand equity studies. The survey starts with a blinded introduction with no mention of a sponsor. This usually leads to a question similar to "When thinking about SUVs what is the first brand that comes to mind?" Or "When thinking about toothpaste, which brand comes to mind first?" Similarly, the next series of questions typically involves a few more "what else comes to mind" or a series of yes and no questions asking "Are you aware of Jeep?" "Are you aware of the Honda Pilot?" This is a benchmark approach to obtaining both unaided recall and aided recall of brand, products, or services.
As a company or brand, we always want to be top-of-mind with customers right? This concept has come into question recently with the emergence of digital, particularly search. It's an age-old marketing concept that commonly discussed. Is top-of-mind really as important in 2015 as it was in 1995?
Argument for Yes.
Having strong unaided and top-of-mind recall with customers ensures when it is time to consider a purchase, your company is thought of first, giving you a major leg up on the competition. This can be both good and bad. If your brand name is strong it will carry significant weight in the buying process. However if it is weak it can eliminate your company from consideration fairly quickly. A poor reputation changes a buyer's through process from "Jeeps last forever so I think I'll stop at the dealership for a test drive" to "I'll buy any kind of SUV except a Jeep." Having strong top-of-mind awareness allows the online shopper to find your content and your website immediately which allows your company to shape the buying process and their user experience. If top-of-mind awareness doesn't exist, the customer may never come across this information unless aided through a third-party source.
Argument for No.
In today's digital world of Googling and online purchases, one could argue our consideration set of 3 or 4 potential companies to choose from is determined by search engines. A simple search for SUV which display a battle of SEO between the GMC Yukon, Honda Pilot, and a list of best ranking SUVs according to U.S. News. Therefore if you have no strong allegiances to a brand or model, Google will largely shape the set of SUVs you may consider and even guide you to a purchase. Even a simple post on social media to your friends and family through Facebook or Twitter will yield a stream of positive and negative comments about which SUVs to look at and which to stay away from. This digital age argues top-of-mind is not as meaningful anymore. It's just as easy to type SUV into Google and have your purchase set defined rather than having to think of a brand top of mind and be forced to evaluate each brand separately.