What do people think of, when they think about your brand? That’s brand perception in a nutshell. You may have big ideas for your brand, but if there’s a gap between your own self-image and how you’re actually perceived, that’s likely to cause problems. Here we’ll explore why brand perception is so important, and how to present your brand effectively to your target market.
Get to know your audience
More than ever before, individual customers can influence a brand’s reputation through online reviews and feedback. It’s this authentic, word-of-mouth style of criticism (or recommendation) that people take seriously – how many times have you checked the online reviews before booking a restaurant or buying something online? It’s impossible to control what people say, so brands need to do all they can to listen to their customers and act on what they hear.
- Spend time considering your imaginary ideal client. Who are they and what are their interests? How do you want them to see you, and how does this match up with reality?
- Make sure you monitor your reviews and other mentions online; use Google Alerts and other tools to keep track of what people are saying.
- Ask for feedback: encourage people to fill in a short survey and respond to customer concerns. Show that you’re listening and that your customers’ experience matters to you.
- Do some market research. Set up a focus group to build a better understanding of customer perceptions and how they align with your brand values and business goals.
Build a bigger picture
You might be surprised at what factors can influence your brand perception. Even if you’ve spent money on visual branding and made an effort to get the right tone of voice in your marketing materials, a poorly judged customer service email or face-to-face meeting can undo all your hard work if it doesn’t match the rest of your branding efforts.
- Pay attention to the way you interact with the public. The friendly wording on your packaging won’t mean much if it’s undermined by an abrupt interaction on the phone.
- Get social media right. Plan your updates ahead of time as far as you can, and work hard to source images that reflect your brand. For off-the-cuff updates and responses, make sure you entrust your account to someone who understands your brand and can be relied upon to maintain your reputation.
- Dress the part. Whether you’re having a client meeting or attending a networking event, the way you look needs to reflect your brand personality.
However much you promote a particular message, it can only reflect your brand reputation if it chimes with what people are thinking (and talking about) when they encounter your brand. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have control over brand perception. What you put out there moulds how others perceive you – so be mindful of every aspect. It’s far easier to consider your reputation in advance, than to repair it after it’s been damaged.