When a consumer sees or hears a brand name, and is aware of that brand, something unique and psychological happens. Whether the consumer is aware of it or not, an initial reaction that entails their thoughts and feelings towards the brand almost always takes place. This mental reflection is a result of what the marketing world translates into brand perception.
Brand perception is a special result of a consumer’s experiences with a brand. It’s highly pivotal to a marketing strategy as it’s often what elevates a simple product or company into a brand: the same as putting a face to a name.
There are many stages of a brand, starting with awareness and ending with brand loyalty. As a consumer first becomes aware of a brand, their experiences and interactions with it ultimately culminate into brand perception. If the right experiences take place, it could establish a lifetime of brand equity.
Also, if a company can position themselves strategically when it comes to brand perception from the get-go, brand loyalty can result. But before embarking on that challenge, it’s pivotal to understand what brand perception is and why it’s so important.
Defining Brand Perception
Let’s first define what a brand actually is. Many would base the definition of a brand around a manufactured product and company name, but we believe a brand is much more than that. A brand can comprise more than its products. Often brands reflect a company culture, a mission or vision for their world or industry, and a personality carefully built upon each message and communication put forth.
Perception, on the other hand, is defined as a mental impression of something as a result of its interpretation through the senses. Combined with our understanding of what a brand is, brand perception is how consumers interpret a brand based on sensory information gathered through interactions with it. Put a little more simply, it’s how consumers think, feel, and react to a brand based on their experiences with it.
As a result, brand perception can take on quite the variety of interactions. For example, an experience with a brand can entail everything from a conversation with a friend, reading an online review, to watching an advertisement. All of this sensory information is then translated into a mental impression of a brand and determines perceptions of the quality, value, and reputation of that brand in the consumer’s mind.
How the information gathered on a brand is interpreted by a consumer determines the sentiment or what type of brand perception is likely to result:
- Positive: experiences have improved the perception of a brand, and that brand is more likely to become a favorite or top choice for the consumer
- Negative: general dislike or avoidance of a brand as a result of a negative experience with it
- Neutral: no form of an emotional experience has resulted, leading to a consumer to not have feelings one way or another about a brand
A neutral brand perception can be just as dangerous as a negative one. The goal of any brand is to create a positive, emotional bond with a consumer—only then will brand loyalty result—just one reason that leads us to why brand perception is so important.
Why It’s Important
Nothing is seemingly more important than what consumers think of your brand, but it’s even more than that. In fact, brand perception heavily factors into a consumer’s choices in the marketplace. Consumer perceptions of your brand, in addition to your competitor’s brand, can heavily influence their purchase intent one way or another.
Further, with today’s world of social media, it takes on even more significance. For example, Pepsi’s choice of celebrity testimonial and commercial with Kendall Jenner in 2017 was deemed more detrimental than it potentially would have been due to social media. That’s also just one example how brand perceptions have an immense impact on the performance of marketing campaigns and how important it is to understand them before diving into a creative strategy.
Luckily, brand perception, like any relationship, is fluid and can evolve over time. The more experiences and interactions a consumer has with a brand, the greater the potential for their brand perception to change.
Domino’s pizza is one such brand that has been able to create positive change in the way consumers see them through rigorous marketing campaigns that highlight a “we know we sucked, but we’re trying to be better” mentality. Consumers are actually able to appreciate this sentiment and see the change and engage with it. As a result, perceptions have shifted, and Domino’s has taken over as a market leader in the pizza category.
The same can be done for any brand if an understanding of consumers perceptions is present. But brands need to understand the reality of brand perception and stop projecting what they believe to be how consumers perceive without actually asking them.
Initial sentiment consumers feel about a brand can be very difficult to capture and measure, but brand perception provides the means to do so. Yet, many brands do not accurately measure brand perception, leading to ineffective marketing strategies. Additionally, brands make the mistake of thinking they can control brand perception, but the control and power lie almost entirely with consumers. However, brands can take certain steps to leverage brand perception more effectively:
- Identify the right metrics for measuring brand perception in your target audience
- Understand internal brand perceptions within the organization and how those may be translating externally
- Learn more about customers and the customer experience through custom research
- Learn to adapt to changes in brand perception when they arise by frequently assessing brand performance and allocating marketing spend more effectively
- Understand perception through each stage of the brand funnel: awareness, trial, purchase, favorite, and loyalty
- Compare performance and brand perceptions in the competitive space to better position strategies
Each of these steps will get a brand closer to taking what control of their brand perception they can get. Reach out to us to learn more about how consumers perceive you and what you need to do to leverage brand perception for an increase in sales.
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