Brand perception is how consumers view your brand and, although it can be influenced by you, it’s usually not without it’s challenges. What is understood within the company, may be viewed differently from the outside. Regardless of the message you transmit, if it’s not received by the audience, it’s null and void.
Think you know what your brand represents? I’ll let you in on a little secret; it’s not what you say in your slogan, brand values or advertisements. It’s whatever consumers say you are.
Once you have identified and understood where your brand stands within the perception of its consumers, it becomes a lot easier to identify any particular views or beliefs that are strongly dislocated from the brand’s own views and beliefs. From there it becomes objectively easier, as to which consumer perceptions need to be realigned and what types of communication strategies need to be rolled out in order to do so.
One year after pulling their controversial Kendall Jenner ad, Pepsi’s brand perception with millennials has made an almost unseen recovery, but they're not quite out of the woods yet – the age group’s consideration of purchasing a Pepsi is at its lowest level in three years.
It took nine months for Pepsi’s perception to fully recover with millennials from the ad’s backlash, which stemmed from making light of the Black Lives Matter movement. Pepsi’s perception level was stuck in a “trough” from May through to July last year, the lowest it had been in at least eight years. It then rose back to where it was pre-crisis, something that happens very infrequently after a calamity.
When you see such widely broadcast blunders as Pepsi's, it becomes clear that brand perception really does play a big part in a brand's health.
In this article, we’ll help you explore the different ways in which you can measure brand perception, and how you can actively shift it.
The Importance of Brand Perception
If you don’t think Brand Perception has any value let me ask you this, 'which battery would you prefer to use, Energizer or Eveready?'. Most of you would of said Energizer, as it is perceived as a more established brand, with a reputation as a leading brand in the battery market. With that in mind, both batteries are in fact owned and manufactured by the same company. Eveready was established as a cheaper competing brand in order to both, reach alternate markets and solidify Energizer’s status as a premium brand, eventuating in elevated sales.
Reputation influences everything from the type of customer a brand draws in, to how much those customers are willing to pay and which retailers will stock a brand’s product. Brand perception is deeply rooted in customer and retail choice, it can have a massive impact on the success of your business.
Brand Perception is a broad concept that covers a lot of ground. Customer’s can view your brand as too expensive, cheap and nasty, out of touch, outdated, overbearing, irrelevant and so on, it’s up to you to proactively combat these negative viewpoints.
A great example of this can be found in the men’s toiletry brand Old Spice, up until more recent years the younger male generation perceived Old Spice to be a brand that only their Grandfather’s use. In an effort to kick-start the brand and capture a new generation, Old Spice created a series of surreal commercials that have since become legendary in the advertising world. The now iconic “Old Spice Guy” and quotes like “I’m on a Horse” helped completely reinvigorate Old Spice’s sales.
Following the launch of the ad campaign, the company’s sales more than doubled, their website traffic increased by 300%, the Old Spice YouTube channel became the #1 Most Viewed Sponsored YouTube Channel, and Old Spice became the #1 body wash brand for men.
The reassuring takeaway here is that even if your brand image is failing, it is possible to turn things around. So, don’t be afraid to assess your brand perception and act accordingly. In order to do this you need to know how to;
- Accurately Measure Brand Perception
- Shift Brand Perception
How to measure Brand Perception
When gaining an accurate depiction of what consumers think of your brand, you can’t just ask your own existing customers. Although their opinions are vital, they’re already buying from you. To get a complete picture, you also need to understand what’s stopping others from doing so. Who you should be asking includes;
1. Long-term consumers
Your loyal customers make a good place to start because they will give you an understanding of who is buying your brand as well as why. You might find your customers are not who you thought they were. When Old Spice conducted research prior to their rebranding, they would have discovered their customer profile had aged along with their product.
As such, as well as probing consumers about their feelings towards your brand, you should be sure to obtain comprehensive demographic data. When asking long-term customers what they think about your brand, be sure to ask, ‘Why do you keep buying from our brand?’ and ‘What do you love about us?’.
Use a combination of quantitative and qualitative responses (i.e. ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers and free text) so you can quickly assess overall sentiment but also hear your customers’ thoughts in their own language. A really valuable free text question would be: ‘‘How would you describe us to friends?’. This enables you to pick out the key words and themes your customers associate with your brand, without leading them.
2. New consumers
New consumers offer interesting insights because they are not buying through force of habit or due to long-held beliefs about your brand, they offer fresh eyes on your product offering. Ask them questions like: ‘Why did you buy from us?’, ‘What made our brand stand out?’, ‘Why have you not tried us until now?’.
You might also be surprised that the reasons your newest customers are buying your product or service are actually different to your long-time loyal customer base, which can then help you shape a more targeted communications strategy to keep both groups happy.
3. Recently lost consumers
Who amongst us hasn’t experienced a painful breakup? One of the hardest parts of the process is hearing painful truths and criticisms from an ex, it can be hard to hear these things but if you don’t, you’re missing an opportunity for self-improvement and growth. The same can be said for a brand undergoing the loss of a customer. Asking the hard questions can really help your brand to identify its blindspots.
Questions to ask include: ‘Why did you leave?’, ‘How could we win you back?’ and ‘Which brand(s) have you moved to?’ Identifying the brands you’re competing against enables you to look more closely at their image and how they’re communicating it. Research their advertising campaigns and social media activity and you’ll be able to find ideas you can replicate.
Non-consumers fall into 2 main categories; Brand Aware and Brand Unaware.
For those consumers who are aware of your brand but choose not to purchase from it, you should investigate the factors deterring them. Ask, ‘What do you think about our brand?’, ‘What qualities do you associate with it?’, ‘What brands do you purchase instead and why?’. All this will help you understand where you’re getting your messaging wrong.
As for the brand unaware non-consumers, although it may seem disappointing that your brand is unknown, it’s not a bad place to be, since it’s easier to influence opinion of something new than it is to change entrenched beliefs. There is big opportunity for growth through a brand awareness campaign.
The kinds of questions you want to ask this group are, ‘What alternative products have you been using?’, ‘What are your initial thoughts when I show you our product?’.
Social Media never pulls its punches
In addition to asking consumers directly, you can also get a glimpse of what they’re saying about your brand on social media. Use social listening tools to see all the mentions your brand has received online. You can get an overview in order to quickly assess the levels of positive vs. negative sentiment and track how your brand mentions have changed over time.
Take a deeper dive and read the comments to see what people are actually saying about you. Maybe they love your recent promotion or perhaps they think your customer service sucks? Whatever it might be, you need to know, because others are reading these opinions and being influenced.
A study by Nielsen shows that for 77% of consumers, advice and opinions from family and friends is the most persuasive when looking for information about new products. The importance of word-of-mouth marketing cannot be underestimated and is why monitoring your brand perception is essential.
How to Shift Brand Perception
Changing public opinion might seem like a difficult task if you can’t afford to hire a big PR firm and throw millions into advertising, but small efforts can add up to a big change. Once you’ve accumulated feedback from multiple varied sources, you can take that information, any inspiration you may have from your competitors and develop a brand perception initiative that is structured around SMART goals.What exactly do you want to achieve when it comes to shifting brand perception? It’s one thing to say you want to increase the flow of customers, it’s another thing entirely to say you want your customer base to expand in a particular geographic location. The more specific your description, the more targeted your efforts can be and the bigger your chance will be at reaching your goal.
Questions you may ask yourself when setting your goals and objectives are:
- What exactly do I want to achieve?
- With whom?
- What are the conditions and limitations?
- Why exactly do I want to reach this goal?Having measurable goals means that you have objectives that are trackable, you have identified exactly what measurable elements need to be incorporated into your initiative to shift brand perception and you intend to have concrete numbers and evidence inform you that you have achieved your goals.
Measurable goals can go a long way in refining what exactly it is that you want, too. Defining the physical manifestations of your goal or objective makes it clearer, and easier to reach.Is your goal realistic? There’s nothing wrong with wanting strong results but like all things in life, big picture goals often require an accumulation of small achievements in order to reach a larger objective. That means investigating whether the goal really is acceptable to you. You weigh the effort, time and other costs your goal will take against the profits and the other obligations and priorities your brand has.
When it comes to shifting brand perception, not every brand can be the next Old Spice. Sometimes you just need to be resourceful with what your brand has access to in order to see the change you want.Much like the earlier point of attainable goals, are your goals aligned with your skill base and resources? If not, maybe you should be asking yourself, why do you want to reach this goal? Will your goal truly help you reach the underlying objective?
You could think that having a large giveaway will help your brand sales to perform better, but will they really? Should your efforts be focused towards a different approach on the matter? Is there a more relevant solution to your brand perception problem?One of the best measurers of progress within an objective is to set time-based goals. Setting deadlines and timeframes, helps ensure that goals are constantly being reached and/or pain points are being revealed both internally and externally for a brand. Time is money!
To know if you’re meeting your goals, you’ll need to keep measuring consumer perception of your brand. Once you hit your targets, don’t stop focusing on brand perception. Unfortunately, it can change, even if you don’t.
Remember, brand perception is owned by consumers, not brands. When you listen to what people are saying, you can better understand what you need to do in order for your own messages to be heard.
It’s not just about broadcasting loudly; brands need to open a two-way dialogue, understanding the needs and motivations of different customer subsets. Once in possession of that insight, you can devise strategic methods for shifting brand perception amongst them.
Don't be like Pepsi, be like Old Spice.