Identifying Brand Awareness Benchmarks with Northeastern University


Brand awareness campaigns are a critical part of enrollment marketing—establishing the environment where all other enrollment marketing activities will take place from lead generation, to consideration, application and enrollment. However, they are notoriously challenging to benchmark and measure.

Our partners at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University have worked with us at 5 Horizons on brand awareness campaigns for years with the goal of continually improving their brand position within the highly competitive Boston business school market.

When approaching benchmarking and measurement for awareness campaigns, we first acknowledge that unlike a lead generation campaign, brand awareness will not provide causal data. That is, we won’t be able to draw a straight line from an ad impression, to an ad click, to a purchase (or lead form completion in this case). 

What we expect from good brand awareness campaigns is that our target audience will engage with ad impressions, then take a next step through another source—usually a search, traffic to the brand’s social media, or direct traffic to a brand’s website. 

This means the data we have is correlative. We want to know, “Did more prospects visit D’Amore-McKim’s website from branded searches and did more of those prospects complete a lead form during the time of our campaign versus the previous year and previous period.


These integrated mass media campaigns include animated ads at key transit stations, printed and digital above ground signs at key business locations in Boston, audio ads on radio stations and podcasts, and animated ads within feeds, reels, and stories on social media.

Over the past three years, we’ve seen a direct increase in branded search website traffic and lead generation from our efforts with D’Amore-McKim brand awareness campaigns. 

The leads we collect from high-level brand campaigns are oftentimes organic leads––individuals who seek out a website through a search engine. While leads we collect from targeted digital ad campaigns bring in direct leads––individuals who go straight to a website via a clickable URL. Direct leads are easier to measure because we know exactly where they came from, while organic leads could be from a radio ad on a local station or a billboard on the side of a highway. Aside from a general timeline, we don’t know when an individual may have been exposed to brand material or when that exposure translated into action to seek out the website.

While it can be hard to identify where organic leads come from, our team has designed a unique way of measuring success over time. It all starts with strong client relationships built on trust. We have long-term rapport with our clients, boasting an average engagement length of five years. We pride ourselves on fostering client relations that prioritize transparent communication and innovative thinking. These relationships then translate into multi-year contracts that allow us to track the gradual growth of brand awareness. We support our clients in approaching their brand through a similar lens, focusing on the fact that customers gravitate toward brands they recognize and trust.

For D’Amore-McKim at Northeastern, we compared each year’s website traffic to the previous season’s numbers. With close tracking and lots of patience, we measured effectiveness over time, confirming our hypothesis that brand awareness builds the foundation for subsequent advertising to grow beyond original projections.


From 2021 to 2023, our consistent brand awareness campaigns with D’Amore-McKim impacted website traffic with an increased number of visitors by over 17%. Organic leads saw an increase of over 120%, which assisted our digital campaigns and grew direct leads by 126%.

When we take the time to build a strong brand awareness campaign strategy, we lay the foundation for other ads to be successful. Unlike limited-run ads that bring short-lived results, brand awareness leads build a consistent voice, style, and familiarity over time.

“You can’t measure brand” is a common phrase we hear in the industry. We disagree: measuring a brand starts with a strong client relationship, establishes said brand as a trustworthy option for customers, and results in incremental, steady success that builds longevity for every new advertising campaign.