What does your brand represent?
You might be able to reel off a list of values, marketing messages or campaigns that you believe sum up your brand, but how would your customers describe it?
It’s their perception that matters!
Indeed, businesses live and die by the perceptions of their audience.
Knowing this, how can you influence perceptions about your brand and build this into your brand strategy? Here are six pointers to create positive brand perceptions:
1. Make your brand strategy as specific as possible
Everything you do as a business will help to shape brand perceptions. From marketing and PR pieces to the design or materials you use in your packaging or how you approach customer service, every point of contact is a chance to influence your audience.
But get one piece of the puzzle wrong – for example, an awful customer service experience – and it could damage how people see your brand.
The solution is a robust brand strategy, one that focuses on building positive brand associations at every step. It needs to be intentional.
- Your mission/what drives your brand
- What you want your brand to say
- How you want it to make people feel
- What your brand looks like
- What it’s voice sounds like
- The value your business offers (and how to highlight this)
- How you differ from your competitors
- The unique benefits of your brand
- What you want people to remember
The more clarity you have – and can communicate to your audience – the less room there is for them to fill in the gaps with perceptions that could harm your brand.
2. Measure brand perception
We asked the question above, what does your brand represent? Although you might know what it represents to you, when was the last time you asked your customers for their take?
If you’ve been up and running for a while, it might be time to measure brand perception.
Ask your existing customers what they feel about your brand.
- Why do they keep buying from you?
- What is it that they love about your brand?
- If given a list of brand attributes/values, which do they think best describe your brand?
- Is there anything they would change?
Remember that your existing customers are likely to be fairly favourable in their feedback, especially if they’ve recently had a good experience of buying from you or they’re repeat customers with a high degree of brand loyalty.
This is why it’s advisable to reach out to new customers, past customers who’ve stopped buying from you, and also people who aren’t your customers yet.
New customers aren’t buying from habit or brand loyalty. Instead, they’ve recently decided to buy from you. Why? What made your brand stand out from others? What did they like about your brand? Did anything almost stop them from making a purchase from you?
These insights could tell you what’s working well in your current sales funnel.
Past customers can tell you a lot about how your brand is perceived and may give you insights into where there’s room for improvement.
- Why did they stop buying from you?
- Did they switch to another company? If so, which one and why?
- Is there anything you could do to win them back?
- Would they recommend your brand?
- How would they describe it to someone else?
If several past customers moved on from your business for the same reason, there could be a more deep-rooted problem you need to resolve.
3. Measure brand awareness
People who aren’t your customers yet can still give you important information to feed into your brand strategy.
When questioning non-customers:
- How many have heard about your business?
- What characteristics or qualities would they use to describe it?
- Do they buy similar products or services from a competitor? If so, why?
- What would encourage them to buy from you now that they’ve heard about your brand?
If you discover that a large percentage of the non-customers surveyed have never heard of your brand or they don’t know how to describe it, then you may want to incorporate steps in your brand strategy to raise brand awareness.
4. Get to know your customers
In our last blog, we looked at why knowing your customers is key to brilliant brand communication. This point is so important, it’s worth revisiting.
If you know what your customers care about, what they value, what drives them to buy from you, how they consume information, and more, then you will understand what matters to them and how to meet their needs.
For example, if your customers have a post-purchase problem, talking to a real person and not a bot may be a dealbreaker for them. Knowing this, your brand strategy might include personalised customer service, more points of contact with real customer service reps and so on.
Research suggests that 32% of people will walk away from a brand after just one negative experience, so knowing your customers will help to reduce potential drop-off points.
People value speed, consistency, convenience, helpful employees and a friendly service. Once you know your audience, it’s far easier to accommodate their needs and be genuinely helpful.
In turn, this will create positive associations with your brand that they want to share.
5. Prioritise connections and conversations
A recent article in Brandingmag highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the role of brands in people’s lives. Many of us spent our time in lockdown decluttering and re-evaluating what we want. The result? Consumers want “a less transactional and more emotional relationship with brands”.
Indeed, a survey by Motista (no longer on their website but reported in various news sources) found that customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have three times higher lifetime value and will likely recommend the company at a rate of 71%, instead of the average 45%.
With this in mind, it’s vital to embrace opportunities for connection and conversation with your customers.
Celebrate holidays, milestones, special events and causes. Ask customers to generate their own content using your products or services. Ask them questions. Reply every time someone gets in touch – and personalise the response. Share the story that drives your brand.
All of these steps will help you to forge a positive brand perception.
6. Identify and manage potential threats to your brand
Every brand faces potential threats. These can range from something like a bad Google review to an awful customer experience that goes viral, or even finding out that a supplier is investing in unethical practices, such as animal testing.
Embrace all customer feedback, even when it’s critical. A bad review is an opportunity to understand how your customers experience your brand and where there might be room for improvement.
Plus, having one or two negative reviews may actually help your business. This is because consumers are wary about 100% five-star reviews. Are they genuine? Have they been paid for? Do they reflect the real customer experience?
A couple of negative reviews can show that your business is authentic.
The most important factor is how you respond to a negative review; be dignified, open to resolving the issue, respectful of criticism and look for a solution. In this way, a bad review is just an opportunity to show how great your brand is at customer service.
Of course, if you’re getting a steady stream of bad reviews then you may need to address the root of the problem. This is why your brand strategy should include plans to monitor what people are saying about your business!
Hopefully, you’ve done your due diligence when it comes to choosing ethical suppliers and partners for your business. If a problem goes public that you didn’t know about, it’s best to be open and honest about it. We all make mistakes – the businesses that survive own their mistakes and do better, turning perceptions in their favour.
No business can rest on its laurels when it comes to brand perception. Attitudes shift and change. Competitors come and go. World events reshape how we act as consumers.
The challenge is to have a brand strategy that helps you to navigate these ever-changing waters and create positive brand perceptions. Get that right and your brand will go from strength to strength, creating loyal and emotionally invested customers at every step.
Need help to unlock the power and potential of your brand, raise brand awareness and create positive perceptions? We’d love to have a chat.< Back to Blog