Understanding brand image and perception is vital for every business.
And knowing what shapes that perception starts by listening to your customers.
Getting a handle on what consumers believe you represent, how they view your products and services, and how this perception compares with competing brands is the key to gaining a comparative advantage in the digital marketplace.
What is Brand Image?
Brand image can be defined in any number of ways. But in the marketplace, it ultimately boils down to consumer perception—and how your company stacks up against the competition.
This perception is developed over time; though, it plays an important role in the decision-making process—particularly when it comes to making sense of the position and authority your company holds in your industry.
How image is shaped over time
Brand image is developed in the minds of customers based on the sum of their experience with your business.
Each interaction with your company takes place in a different way—and doesn’t just consist of the purchase and use of your product.
Brand image is shaped not only during and after the transaction, but also over the course of every interaction with your business—whether that be the initial search for your services, clicking on your ad, combing through customer reviews or reading through your blog.
As a business owner, it’s important to carve out an image that is positive, distinct and provides a comparative advantage at every stage of customer experience.
It also helps to strengthen your brand impact on the web—making use of brand communication avenues like packaging, advertising, publicizing through word-of-mouth, and other promotional tools to heighten visibility and reinforce a positive presence online.
What is Brand Perception?
Simply put, brand perception comes down to the associations people make when they interact with your brand. Such ideas are not only triggered when a consumer becomes aware of your business, but also each time they see, hear or engage with your company on the web—and at every stage of the buying process.
The bottom line: your brand’s perception is owned by your customers. Regardless of the message, that perception is what ultimately determines the quality of your online footprint.
Elements that shape public perception
Brand perception is developed, refined and reinforced during every customer interaction—every time a potential customer finds or engages with your business online.
From search results and review sites to Google ads and social profiles, there are no shortage of items shaping and defining your online image at any given time.
Perception is crucial to small business marketing
No matter the size or reach of your business, brand perception is a critical factor when determining the shape and scope of your digital marketing strategy.
Answering questions like how your product or service resonates with your target audience, how consumers feel about your brand and steps you can take to measure customer sentiment is key to understanding your image and crafting an impactful marketing approach.
Think about your brand. Ask such questions as:
- Why do people like it?
- Why do they use it?
- What emotions are elicited when they think about your brand?
Knowing how you’re perceived and how your business measures up among consumers helps point your marketing team in the right direction.
Measuring Brand Image and Perception
By analyzing your social presence, your business can better understand the factors contributing to brand image. These insights can then be used to support initiatives that reshape and improve brand perception well into the future.
Social listening platforms allow you to measure the sentiment surrounding your brand. Analyzing conversations can help you better understand negative sentiment and allow you to identify the various customer issues harming brand perception.
By looking at these metrics over time, you can work out what causes spikes or upticks in brand conversation, and how perception of your company evolves over the long-term.
Of course, brands rarely exist in isolation. Taking time to measure brand sentiment against that of your competitors can be extremely useful—as well as to help you understand your position in your industry and the digital marketplace.
Using Social to Gain the Comparative Advantage
Once you know how customers perceive your business—and you know more about what makes your customers tick—you can start to take action.
A recent Ogilvy study analyzed 20 channels and found effective social media use to be one of the easiest ways to impact and improve brand perception.
As a digital ‘word-of-mouth’ tool, social sites can provide a powerful way to spread positive news of your brand—as well as to enhance your digital image and your bottom line.
When you know who your customers are and what they think of your business, you can begin to really harness the power of social. And once you’ve got a handle on the social narrative, you can begin to steer the conversation—and use it to gain a comparative advantage over your competition.
The Importance of Brand Image
Ultimately, it’s up to each organization to build, maintain and control their brand’s image—to achieve the positive and engaging digital footprint integral to pursuing their vision and accomplishing long-term business goals.
Controlling your online reputation is key not only to ensuring profitability and comparative advantage, but also to attracting new customers and fostering the relationship needed to earn repeat business.
But reining in the online conversation is no easy task, particularly in a complex digital environment that’s always changing and that poses new threats to your integrity and bottom line every day.
Reputation Sciences™ is here to help. Our online reputation professionals provide the data-driven digital management solutions to improve and fortify your online image—and to gain the competitive advantage you need to thrive on the web.