What is brand perception, and why does it matter? Representing a critical part of your brand identity, brand perception can influence everything from customer loyalty to demand. Measuring brand perception regularly is how business leaders ensure they’re having the right impact on their audience.
If you evaluate your shopping habits through an objective lens, you’ll discover the majority of the products you buy are based on how you perceive a brand.
Many of the choices you make, from which company to get your new dishwasher from, to which supermarket to visit, are related to your thoughts and feelings around the brand itself.
You’re not the only consumer influenced by brand perception, either. Around 77% of consumers admit to making purchasing decision based solely on brand name.
Brand perception is one of the reasons why it’s so important to get your brand right in today’s competitive world. The thoughts and feelings people associate with your company determine why consumers choose one product with identical features over another – every time.
Let’s explore brand perception, and why it’s so important.
Brand perception definition: What is brand perception?
Brand perception is the culmination of all a customer’s thoughts and feelings about your brand, products, and services. It’s a general judgement of your company based on a customer’s experiences with you as a business.
This concept plays a significant role in the emotional connections you have with your consumers, and your chances of loyalty.
People consider how they feel about a brand whenever they make a purchase or try to choose between competing products. To help enhance perception, most customers will even do research, reading reviews, comparing options with friends, or chatting to sales people.
If your customers think highly of your brand, they’re more likely to become loyal to it. Look at how people act when it comes to Apple and the iPhone. The perception consumers have of the iPhone creates a sense of pride for people who own one.
When customers are loyal to a brand, 66% will speak positively about it online, and 86% will recommend it to family and friends, improving the chances your company will grow.
How to define brand perception: The core elements
When you know how people perceive your company, you can begin to shape reputation, and take steps to ensure consumers know what sets your business apart. Companies can actively invest in brand building and brand awareness campaigns to improve their link to their audience.
Often, this means paying attention to various parts of your brand identity which influence perception. There are a number of components which add up to influence how your customers perceive your company.
These often fall into categories like:
Emotional connections are often built through a combination of customer service and advertising. Excellent customer service can improve how people feel about your company, while immersive advertisements can cultivate certain emotional responses from your target audience.
Although we’re taught not to judge a book by its cover – we often do. The way customers perceive your brand will be immediately influenced by how you look.
Your choice of business colors can influence emotional impact, just like your logo or website design.
The personality of your brand can influence brand perception too. Think about how you feel when you read a hilarious tweet from the Wendy’s Company or see an ad from Old Spice.
The tone of voice and language a company uses influences how we define the brands we interact with.
A company can improve the perception customers have of its brand by interacting with multiple senses. We’ve already discussed visuals, but some brands also use audio (jingles and sound signatures) to build a connection too.
Some companies, like Disney, even use certain smells and tastes to inspire a response.
Why is brand perception important?
Simply put, understanding how customers perceive your brand, and taking steps to improve their perception is how you ensure you’re building the right connections with your target audience. Every brand wants their customers to have a positive perception of them.
The better your customers feel about you, your company, your products, and your services, the more confident they’ll feel choosing you over your competitors. Over time, your investment into brand perception becomes a commitment to brand equity.
This means you’re adding extra value to your products simply by associating them with your brand name and identity.
Customers influenced by brand equity are more likely to purchase your product over and over again, even when other, less expensive products are available.
It also means you’re more likely to attract new customers to your business, because 60% of customers refer family and friends to their favorite brands. Word of mouth marketing is extremely useful now traditional marketing is losing value.
Brand perception is how you attract potential customers, build your chances of creating brand advocates, and even set yourself apart from the competition. In certain circumstances, a positive brand perception can also have an impact on your employee growth.
As staff members throughout the world continue to look for more meaningful roles, brand perception may encourage talented professionals to pursue opportunities with your company.
How to measure brand perception
Measuring brand perception isn’t as complex as it seems. In fact, committing to regular brand perception measurement is generally a good idea, as it helps you to keep your finger on the pulse of your audience’s attitude towards your company.
When you measure brand perception metrics over time, you can set benchmarks, and determine what drives improvements, or changes in your customer’s attitude.
The easiest way to measure brand perception is to speak to your audience. Talking directly to your customer gives you a good idea of what they’re thinking and feeling about your brand.
You can do this in a number of ways:
Brand focus groups and forums
Though a little old-fashioned, getting people together and asking them for their opinions of your brand is still an excellent way to collect valuable information. You can get insights not the positives and negatives of your brand from people who actually use your products or services.
Online forums are useful to track down people who might already be talking about your company and the services you have to offer. If you’re struggling, you can also look into finding groups of people to chat with on social media.
Your social media followers already have an interest in your brand, so they may be willing to chat with you. The same applies to the people in your email marketing lists.
Brand perception surveys
Surveys are another fantastic way to determine who your customers are, and what they’re thinking or feeling about your brand. Brand perception surveys are generally quite simple, and easy to do.
You can improve your chances of getting multiple responses by offering your customers something in return for their time, like entry into a prize draw.
There’s also the option to embed NPS and CSAT surveys into conversations with customers. For instance, when you’re finished supporting a client with your service team, ask if they wouldn’t mind quickly rating your company, or answering some questions about your product, brand, or service.
You could even run a full brand perception study, collecting surveys and information from different segments of your target audience, to determine how perception changes from one group to the next.
Social media monitoring
Social media is a fantastic way to connect with your customers and learn more about their perceptions of you. You can run polls on social media to collect data, or simply access social listening tools, which allow you to rack reactions to your brands, @mentions and other information.
When you know what people are saying about your brand, you can respond quickly, and even protect yourself from an increased risk of negative sentiment, by addressing concerns.
Remember, you’ll need to think carefully about which social media platforms your customers are likely to be active on before you dive into this environment.
How to improve brand perception
Collecting insights into how your audience perceives you is just the first step. Next, you need to look into actually improving those perceptions. If you haven’t been working on brand perception until now, there’s a good chance people aren’t looking at your company exactly how you want them to.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to alter brand perception. The important thing to remember is the process isn’t a one-and-done concept. You’ll need to work consistently on improving your brand image and look at ways of strengthening performance over time.
Here are some steps to get you started…
1. Identify your audience and their perceptions
The first step in actively improving brand perception, is knowing your audience, and how they currently see your brand. You can use the information you collected above to help you here, but make sure you’re fully aware of who your customers are before you start collecting data.
Check your buyer personas, and commit to regularly collecting additional information about gender, age, language, and demographics. One excellent example of a company going above and beyond to understand their customers is Dove.
The company was once a simple personal care brand, similar to many other organizations in the market.
However, in 2004, Dove made a significant change to its brand perception by creating the “Real Beauty” campaign. After getting to know their audience, the organization learned all women wanted to feel represented in the beauty industry, regardless of their shape or size.
The resulting campaign led to a 700% increase in sales.
2. Develop a positive connection with customers
Once you understand your customer and their existing perceptions of your brand, you can work on building and maintaining a stronger connection with your audience.
Remember, customers who have the best experience with a brand spend around 140% more than those who don’t have great interactions.
Developing a positive connection with your customers means communicating with them regularly, listening to their feedback, and delivering excellent service.
Here are some great ways to begin building an effective bond:
Upgrade customer service
Positive customer perception is heavily influenced by customer service in today’s competitive world. Your client wants the best, most efficient support possible, whether they’re making a purchase or getting an answer to a question.
Connect on an emotional level
Find ways to connect with your customers on a more emotional level. Send automated email campaigns to celebrate their birthdays and discuss topics they care about in your brand. Develop advertisements which address the pain points you know your customers have.
You can’t develop a strong relationship with your audience without regular communication. An active presence on social media, a regularly updated blog page, and a strong email marketing campaign are all essential.
Find ways to constantly reach out to your customers and keep your brand top of mind.
3. Listen and respond to feedback
A lot of the work involved in improving brand perception involves listening to your audience and what they’re saying about you. However, listening to feedback is only the beginning. You’ll also need to show you’re actively responding to the information you collect.
Showing you care about your customer’s feedback will automatically improve their perception of you. When the world became increasingly concerned about the use of plastic straws and the impact on the planet, for example, companies like McDonalds immediately jumped to action to rectify the problem.
Nike has taken a number of cultural stands over the years by paying attention to what matters most to its target audience, even cancelling the sale of shoes associated with racism.
Show your customers you value their insights.
4. Leverage user-generated content
People will almost always trust the insights of other consumers more than the claims of big businesses. Ultimately, corporations are known for hyperbole, and many consumers will take anything they say with a grain of salt.
However, 70% of people will trust a recommendation from another customer – even if they don’t know the person.
A great way to showcase your more trustworthy and authentic side, is to leverage user generated content. Showcasing the insights of your clients, through your social media channel, a segment of your email campaigns, or on your website, makes a huge difference to brand perception.
Everything from reviews and testimonials on your site, to pictures of people using your products or services on Instagram demonstrates the benefits of your business to your audience in a credible way.
5. Be humble
Many people look at brand perception as an extremely complex idea – but it doesn’t have to be. Usually, all you need to do is think about how you’d want your company to be perceived as a human being. If your business was a person, you wouldn’t want them to come across as obnoxious and rude.
According to Gallup studies, many consumers today are detaching themselves from bigger brands and focusing more on smaller companies because they’re more welcoming, human, and humble. These companies don’t constantly tell the world about how they’re “the best”.
Rather, the companies with the best reputation often allow their customers to do their talking for them.
Be careful with the tone of your branding or marketing. Unless you’re trying to make a statement with a “rude” attitude, like Wendy’s, it’s best to stay humble.
6. Pay attention to the market
Ideally, once you’ve chosen a specific identity for your company, you’ll want to stick to this image as much as possible. However, it’s important to be aware of the marketplace, the social environment you’re involved with, and the expectations of customers.
Sticking too aggressively to a specific personality in certain times can make you appear uncaring and tone-deaf to your target audience. Many companies took on a much gentler tone during the pandemic, to make their consumers feel more supported.
As the world continues to change rapidly from one day to the next, make sure you’re using tools like social listening software and website analytics to understand your audience. Leverage the insights you collect to make the right decisions about how to influence perception.
Brand perception examples: Quick inspiration
If you’re still not sure how to leverage brand perception as your business-building strategy, it might help to take a look at some examples. There are countless great examples of companies with a fantastic ability to impress and engage their audience.
Let’s take a look at just a few…
Snickers enhances its brand perception by appealing to the desire of customers to improve how other people see them. We all want to come across as fun and likeable individuals, but we know certain things (like hunger) can influence our mood.
Snickers uses intelligent advertising and bold branding to present itself as the ideal solution when people are feeling “hangry”. This company looks at how you can be the best version of yourself with the right snack choices.
Best-known for its dedication to safety and family-friendly performance, Volvo is one of the world’s leading car brands from Sweden. However, in the past, the “safe” nature of Volvo’s boxy cars has also made it seem somewhat boring to some car lovers.
To help address this problem, Volvo engaged in a rebrand in the 2000s, to present itself as a “Scandi-chic” brand, offering sleek sophistication and safety in one. The Volvo brand became a lot more enticing and “premium” as a result.
One of the few companies which really came to life during the pandemic, Zoom quickly became the cause of a lot of issues with burnout among remote workers.
People loved how Zoom helped them stay connected to teams and family members, but constant videos also led to feelings of “Zoom fatigue”. This led Zoom to change its image.
The brand adjusted its branding to showcase its position as an essential tool to keep people connected during a time when people were feeling exhausted by the concept of video meetings.
Another top pick among brand perception examples, Burberry has long captured the attention of fashion fans for its distinctive pattern and premium approach. Unfortunately, a few decades ago, the Burberry brand started to be seen as old-fashioned and boring.
Investing in a celebrity face with Emma Watson helped the company to position itself as a fun, and young brand, with a focus on modernity and growth.
Patagonia quickly became famous in the athletics and clothing landscape for innovative clothing made with responsible manufacturing. However, changes in customer perception over the years pushed the company to focus even more aggressively on sustainability.
During the 2010s, people began to refer to Patagonia as “Patagucci” – referencing its high prices and adoption among more lucrative households. To pull the attention of customers away from its pricing point, the company started to focus on more eco-friendly initiatives, like “Worn Wear”.
Managing your brand perception
Brand perception is critical to any company. Understanding how people perceive your brand, and how you can manipulate or change this perception is an integral part of developing a strong business.
The more you understand your customer’s view of your company, the more you can shape your brand identity, create powerful advertising campaigns, and make changes when necessary.
Hopefully, the guidance above has given you some useful insights into the importance of brand perception and how you can use this concept to your advantage.
Remember, if you need help building an effective brand, you can always reach out to the team at Fabrik!
Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.