There are no two ways about it. Brand awareness, or brand perception determines the success (or failure) of your business. Cultivate a strong brand identity that inspires loyalty in your customers and you’re onto a winner; lose sight of your brand in the choppy seas of competitors and poor engagement, and you’re unlikely to last the course.
That might seem pretty daunting, but there are plenty of ways you can boost brand perception. In this guide, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know about building a positive perception of your brand – from why brand perception is so important, to the strategies that’ll help you to improve it.
What is brand perception?
Brand perception is simply the way people see your brand in the market. It might sound like a fluffy term, but brand perception is actually incredibly important to your long-term success. Think about it: when you head to the shops, why do you choose the products you do? Is it all down to cost, or is something more at play?
Many of the choices we make as consumers are heavily influenced by brand perception, whether consciously or not. In fact, a whopping 77% of consumers admit to making a buying decision based on brand name alone. But why?
It all comes down to experience.
Our perception of a brand is the sum of our experiences, good or bad – which means that brand perception is what your customers believe your brand represents, not what you tell them it does. So while you might think that brand perception is controlled by the brand itself, you’d be mistaken – it’s entirely in the hands of your customers. Scary, right?
Brand perception is a big old melting pot of face-to-face interactions, online experiences, outward reputation, word of mouth recommendations, and customer use. If you’re looking to boost brand perception then, you’re going to have to tackle the lot.
Why is brand perception important?
You want people to engage with your brand – whether that’s buying your products, or using your services. And you certainly want them to be saying great things about you to their family and friends, as well as talking you up online. But let’s face it, that’s only going to happen if you build a positive perception of your brand in the market.
When people know and trust a brand, they’re far more likely to choose it over a competitor – irrespective of cost. From cars to coffee, home insurance to smartphones, our willingness to stick with a brand we feel a sense of loyalty to is quite staggering. In fact, 77% of consumers have been loyal to at least one brand for 10 years or longer.
If people value your brand, they stick with you – but with two-thirds of consumers willing to switch brands if a competitor offers a better experience, it’s clear that building a positive perception of your brand amongst customers, employees, stakeholders, and anyone else who comes into contact with your products or services, is essential to your success and longevity.
Because once people have formed an opinion of what your brand represents, it’s really hard to change it.
How to measure brand perception
While 96% of companies believe brand reputation can positively or negatively impact revenue, only 44% actively monitor the impact of their brand.
Understanding how people perceive your brand makes it far easier to create a reputation that sets you apart. Measuring brand perception – as well as tracking customer feeling over time – will give you essential insight into what you’re doing well, and what might need to change.
The data you gather should come from everything that people use to form an opinion of your brand. This includes customer use, reviews, functionality, social media engagement, advertising, reputation, and personal experience. This gives you the human experience – a deeper, more complete understanding of what people think of your brand.
So, how do you measure brand perception?
Brand perception surveys
Brand perception surveys are a great way to measure yourself against your competitors, and build positive brand equity (the commercial value derived from brand perception, rather than the product or service itself). They’re flexible and cost-effective, and you can ask any question you’d like.
It’s best to combine a mixture of open-ended questions (What first comes to mind when you think of [brand]); questions centered on emotion (What emotions does [brand] make you feel); language-based questions (What three words come to mind when you think of [brand]), and questions related to personal experience with your brand (What was good/bad about your last experience with [brand]).
Track online mentions
Whether you use social listening tools or set Google alerts, you need to track what people are saying about your brand online. Monitoring comments on social media allows you to understand the current state of your brand perception, quickly respond to any negative feedback, and build a rapport with potential customers.
Carry out a brand audit
How do you compare to your competitors? Why are people choosing, or not choosing your product or service over theirs? If you don’t know, you need a brand audit.
Brand audits should focus on your internal branding (such as company culture and brand values), external branding (from your logo and marketing materials to PR and social media presence), and customer experience (including your sales process and approach to customer services). Understanding your strengths and weaknesses in these areas will help you to evaluate your brand’s position in the market – and improve on it.
Collect customer data
At every point of your customer’s journey, you should be collecting data – because your customer is the most important part of your business, and you need to know how they operate. Collecting data throughout the buying journey gives you an insight into how customers research information about your brand, evaluate your products or services against your competitors, interact with your employees, make buying decisions, and engage with your brand after a purchase.
But what do you do with all the data? Once you’ve got enough of it to really get to the heart of how your brand is viewed, and to truly understand your level of brand equity, you can either take steps to improve perception of your brand in the market, or stick with what you’re doing (if you’re doing it well).
Benefits of measuring brand perception
Putting your customer at the centre of your brand sets you on a sure-fire path to business growth and solid brand equity; to do that, you need tangible insight into their needs, wants, preferences and opinions. This depth of understanding is an absolute must if you want to measure up against your competitors and make a good first impression – because first impressions count, particularly where your brand is concerned.
The ultimate goal of your brand is to turn your customers into marketers. When people are loyal to a brand, they tell their friends and family about it; they recommend you to people they meet; they choose you over your competitors, in spite of any price discrepancies, and they keep on coming back. But strengthening your brand perception can only happen if you measure it.
Every interaction that a potential customer, stakeholder or employee has with your brand shapes that impression, and once formed, it can be very hard to change it. Measuring brand perception gives you a golden opportunity to find out what people’s first impressions of you are – and why.
Seeking feedback – whether that’s through brand perception surveys, monitoring online mentions, conducting brand audits, collecting customer data, or any other measurement method you plump for – helps you to see what you’re doing well, and where you’re going wrong. Because brand perception is affected by everything:
- How easy your website is to navigate
- How helpful your customer service teams are
- How you market yourself
- The communications you circulate
- The colours of your logo
- How much you interact with your customer base online
- How you deal with complaints and negative comments
- The quality of any after-care
- Even how you treat your employees
It’s essential that you understand how all of those interactions are affecting your brand equity.
It can take a long time, and multiple touchpoints, to have any influence as a brand, but one bad experience is enough to tarnish your name in the eyes of a disgruntled customer. Measuring brand perception allows you to pinpoint where in the customer journey any negative interactions might be taking place – giving you the chance to make those all-important changes.
It also means you’ll have the data you need to profile your target audience, tailor your marketing efforts, understand where your product is positioned in the market, pinpoint potential barriers, get a grip on pricing perceptions, and identify any white space in your market. Ta da!
Strategies to improve brand perception
Every touchpoint in a customer’s journey is an opportunity for you to shape their perception of your brand. Creating a clear brand personality that connects with your customer is an incredibly effective way to control your messaging – helping you to influence brand perception.
When creating a brand personality, pay particular attention to the senses – from sight and sound, to touch, taste, and even smell. Everything is a branding opportunity and a chance to create an emotional response in your customers.
Let’s take a look at how.
- Define your positioning: Why is your brand different from your competitors? Why does that matter to your customers? This message will influence all of your marketing, because it sets out what you want your customers to understand about your brand.
- Leverage brand personality: The strongest brand personas are based on the needs, wants, preferences and personalities of their target audience. You need to establish a connection through a sense of familiarity, because that’s when your brand will resonate the most.
- Reassess your brand: When you’ve measured brand perception, you can use the results to give yourself a refresh (if needed). Countless brands have revived their image in the minds of their customers through targeted rebrands and new-look makeovers.
- Communicate your vision company-wide: As well as obtaining buy-in from senior leaders, it’s important to communicate any change of direction to the entire company. Brand perception is influenced by every interaction, and every one of your employees is a part of that.
- Nurture brand ambassadors: On that note, engaged employees will be some of the best brand ambassadors you’ll ever have. You can have the best marketing strategy in the world, but if you don’t treat your people well, word will soon get out. Asking for anonymous feedback and suggestions is a great way to gauge employee satisfaction.
- Create coherent content: As well as being targeted to your ideal customer base, every piece of content you send into the world needs to align to your brand messaging. That includes your website, social media accounts, blog, PR, internal comms, and marketing campaigns.
Brand perception examples
In building a brand and making efforts to influence brand perception, companies often align themselves with a particular value. From quality to status to personality, the strongest brands always have a very clear message.
Let’s take a look at some examples below.
LUSH – A strong ethos
Cosmetics brand LUSH has built quite the reputation as an ethical retailer – without ever actually labelling themselves as ethical. The message that LUSH puts into the world is that no business should stand out for being ethical or trading fairly, because that ought to be business-as-usual.
Innocent Drinks – A force for good
From playing their part in tackling climate change, to encouraging hat-knitting to help the elderly, Innocent Drinks is strongly marketed as a force for good. With plans to donate 10% of their profits to charity, and a sustainable factory build underway, every action strengthens their brand equity.
Aldi – Sensible savings
Positioning itself as the most economical retailer, Aldi is frequently in hot-water for producing cost-competitive ‘dupes’ of more expensive products – from Liz Earle’s Hot Cloth Cleanser, to M&S’s now infamous Colin the Caterpillar cake. Why spend more when you can spend savvy?
Skoda – A sense of humour
Skodas are now some of the highest rated cars on the road, but once upon a time, Skodas were the butt of many jokes – seen as fit for only poor drivers or cheapskates. Rather than brush over its troubled past, Skoda relaunched with the tongue-in-cheek tagline: “It’s a Skoda, honest”.
As well as aligning yourself with a particular value or personality trait, you should also pay close attention to your brand design – because logos matter.
Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, Google, and FedEx were voted by consumers as having the most visually appealing logos, with evidence that a signature colour (such as Starbucks’ green or IKEA’s yellow and blue) can increase brand recognition by 80%. That’s why 73% of businesses choose to invest in design to boost brand perception and increase brand equity.
In fact, choosing the right colours for your brand has been found to boost brand recognition by up to 80%.
How can Forsta help?
Improving brand perception is one of the most effective actions you can take to boost profitability, drive growth, and pave the way for long-term success. Forsta’s brand experience insight software can help you get there.
If you want to know what your customers are saying about you behind your back (and who doesn’t?), our software can help you to get to the bottom of what they really think about you, why they chose you, whether they like you, and if they don’t, why the heck not?
We help you to cut the guesswork, appeal to what your target audience actually wants, and form a clear picture of what everyone from your biggest fan to your most disgruntled customer thinks – as well as giving you an insight into whether your ads are doing what you think they are.
Ready to get the inside scoop on your brand?
Boosting brand perception for a brighter business future
So there you have it. You now know what brand perception is, why it’s important, how to measure it, and why you definitely should. You’ve also got some handy strategies to draw on, examples to peruse, and the perfect software to help you make a difference. Not bad for a day’s work.
There’s not much in the world that’s certain right now, but we know one thing for sure: people will always be the driving force behind your brand. Get it right, and you’re made; leave the brand work for another day, and you might just lose your chance to make that first impression…
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