Mental Availability & Salience


Mental Availability (Brand Salience) is the propensity of the brand to be thought of, or noticed, in buying situations

It is the overall propensity rather than of links to specific individual attributes; which is more of a message effectiveness objective.

It is a reflection of the quality and quantity of buyer’s memory structures devoted to the brand; ‘share of mind’, not top of mind.

Key Findings

  • Mental Availability is a crucial part of brand availability, and as such it is an important part of the explanation of the fundamental patterns we see in both buyer behaviour and brand performance.
  • For both maintenance and growth it is important for marketing to build and reinforce the quantity and quality of the memory associations customers hold about the brand.
  • Traditional recommendations to differentiate the brand or to seek to persuade buyers that the brand is better than competitors are often misdirected. They can distract from and even hamper salience-building activities.
  • Awareness measures are inadequate reflections of brand salience.
  • What buyers remember about brands (and what brands they remember) varies across buying occasions because memories are imperfect and variable; retrieval from memory is probabilistic and ‘fickle’
  • A buyer only considers a tiny subset of the brands they know, they do not evaluate most of the different feature-bundles on the market.
  • Consumers rarely think about (the features of) less familiar brands, let alone buy them.
  • Which brand a buyer buys, from the one or few they happened to consider on the day, depends on a myriad of factors due to the situation and circumstances.
  • Evaluation criteria can, and do, change “on the fly”; any actual evaluation that occurs can vary wildly each time a buyer goes to buy.
  • Evaluation is less important or predictable than our market research techniques assume.
  • Customers don’t have to care about your brand to buy it – they don’t need to think that it is the best, they don’t need to be emotionally bonded/ committed to the brand – they buy without this, and most of a brand’s sales will always come from people who simply don’t care.

Best Practice

  • Marketing attention should focus on maintaining highly distinctive (i.e. clearly branded) communication that cuts through and refreshes memory structures.
  • Marketing’s aim should be to keep getting the brand noticed and thought of by more customers in most buying situations.
  • A mental availability should contain a representative range of attributes used to think of brands in buying situations. Examples are purchase/consumption situations themselves (e.g., at the beach), benefits (e.g., low in fat), and functional qualities (comes in red).
  • Measure mental availability relative to competitors, rather than for a single brand in isolation.
  • Measure association / linking to the brand, not evaluation (not using ratings or rankings)
  • Measure whether buyers think about the brand (at all) rather than seeking to determine how favourably they judge the brand.
  • Measure buyers’ overall propensity to mention the brand as opposed to determining whether specific attributes are associated
  • Maximise reach with all marketing communications, to maximise the number of people who can be influenced. With subsequent spots, aim to reach those missed from the previous spots.
  • Space out advertising, building reach over time with no extended silences
  • Choose relevant messages and attributes to emphasise
  • Emphasise the brand prominently and with consistency in all communications
  • Build and use Distinctive Assets
  • Be creative to cut-through