Brand Perception: The Definitive Guide

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The term “brand perception” is one of many “fluffy” branding terms.

It’s fairly self-explanatory on the face of it.

Your brand perception is the perception of a brand in the market… Simple.

It’s true that the term is self-explanatory and easy to understand though few realise how the art of shaping that perception, determines the success (or failure) of that brand.

In this article we’ll break down what brand perception is, the important role it plays and what you can do to shape your brand’s perception in the mind of your audience.

brand perception header
brand perception header

The term “brand perception” is one of many “fluffy” branding terms.

It’s fairly self-explanatory on the face of it.

Your brand perception is the perception of a brand in the market… Simple.

It’s true that the term is self-explanatory and easy to understand though few realise how the art of shaping that perception, determines the success (or failure) of that brand.

In this article we’ll break down what brand perception is, the important role it plays and what you can do to shape your brand’s perception in the mind of your audience.

What Is Brand Perception?

brand perception art

As I outlined in the intro, brand perception is easily defined as:

A Brand’s Perception In The Market

You could be forgiven for believing that the brand’s perception is in fact owned by the brand.

Even the structure of the statement is possessive.

The reality is however, the perception of a given brand is owned not by the brand but by the consumers and the wider audience.

You see, although we can see physical collateral or digital platforms or even experience the brand physically through brand activation, none of these things are the brand itself.

They are simply expressions of the brand, which aim to influence the perception of that brand in the minds of the individual customers who experience it directly or indirectly.

In other words, the brand manifests in the mind of the audience, shaped by those experiences.

To distill that even further;

The brand lives (and dies) and the mind of the audience through its perception.

Why Is Brand Perception Important?

brand perception consumer

Your customers are the reason your brand exists.

Without them, there is no brand or business behind it.

It’s fair to say then, that your customers matter… and so do their opinions of your brand.

The Impact Of Positive Perception

If a customer or prospect has a positive experience with your brand (whether through consumption or experience), your brand earns trust.

Earned trust dramatically increases the likelihood that they’ll choose (or come back to) your brand over your competitors.

They’re also far more likely to talk positively about your brand or demonstrate loyalty and advocacy.

In fact, according to Yotpo, 60% of customers will tell friends and family about a brand they’re loyal to.

brand perception recommend-brand-loyalty

This kind of brand advocacy (when your customers turn into marketers) is far more influential that any other form of marketing and is widely considered to be the holy grail of branding.

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The Impact Of Negative Perception

brand perception broken

If a customer or prospect has a negative experience with your brand on the other hand trust is lost.

Though it may take your brand multiple touch points and multiple positive experiences to generate any kind of influential impact, it may only take one negative experience to completely destroy a consumer relationship.

The reality is, we’re far more likely to share bad brand experiences with our friends and family than good brand experiences.

50% more likely according to marketingcharts.com

Where Brand Perceptions Are Shaped

brand perception experience

Considering that the brand lives in the mind of the audience through perceptions shaped by experiences….

The perception of a brand is everything.

The art of branding is not designing logos or even crafting messages or stories.

The art of branding is the art of shaping perceptions through the strategic tools a brand has at its disposal.

Brand Perception Is Shaped At Every Touch Point

brand perception performance

When we experience a brand we are experiencing strategically developed touch points that are all designed to shape how we feel about that brand which ultimately influences our overall brand perception.

These tools of brand expression include:

Positioning

Differentiation

Benefit & Value

Personality

Voice

Messaging

Stories

Emotion

Empathy

Logos

Typography

Colour

Imagery

Activation

Emails

Coupons

Advertisements

Articles

Videos and more…

Essentially, every single touch point across every single channel or media whether digital or physical is another opportunity for a brand to influence the perception that lives in the mind of the audience.

How To Influence Perceptions
With Strategy?

Each of the brand tools of influence mentioned in the previous section isn’t created through a shotgun strategy.

Each one is carefully developed through the brand strategy process, which in turn strategically shapes the individual touch points of the brand and the experiences of the audience through them.

Here are some of the most influential brand strategy elements that contribute to the overall brand experience.

Positioning Strategy

brand perception unique

The position of the brand defines:

Why the brand is different to its competitors

And

The value of that difference to the customer

In essence, the positioning strategy establishes exactly what the audience should understand and remember about the brand as a priority, which influences the rest of the brand development and the overall communication strategy.

Brand Personality

brand perception personality

Brand personality is becoming an increasingly important tool brands are leveraging to shape audiences’ perceptions.

Neuroscience has uncovered that as humans, we make the majority of our decisions subconsciously through our reptilian complex and our emotional limbic system.

As humans, we connect with others based on characteristics and behavioural traits we’re either attracted to or not.

Brands making a conscious effort to understand their audience, their desires and their personality, are at a distinct advantage when they use that understanding to shape brand communication through personality.

The more familiar a brand feels and the more attracted the audience is to the characteristics being displayed, the more likely the brand is to resonate.

Brand Messaging

brand perception messaging

One of the most influential tools at a brands disposal is the brand-messaging framework.

Though many understand the brand message to consist of a single “core message”, the reality is, with the indefinite touch points of modern brands, a comprehensive brand-messaging framework is required.

brand perception journey

This framework should outline a collection of key messages, which are developed to shape the audiences understanding of the brand.

These individual key messages are then used to influence specific touch point messages across every platform.

Emotional Storytelling

brand perception story

As humans, we all have an innate attraction to stories as they’ve been used to transfer information from one generation to the next over millions of years.

We gravitate towards stories because our instinct tells us that there is a reward of knowledge at the conclusion.

This gravitational attraction towards story and our emotional limbic system decision-making bias, make for a potent combination.

Brands that can wrap their messages up in emotional storytelling can leverage our human instincts to attract eyes and ears.

Authenticity

brand perception cast

Authenticity is the hallmark of modern brands, which aims to connect with audiences through human emotions.

Since the shift of consumer power from brands to consumers on the back of the digital revolution, brands have evolved into human personas.

The days of one-way broadcast communication are gone.

Today, brands must communicate on the digital front lines and consumers are less tolerant of brands talking… well, let’s call it bulldust.

Honesty is a key ingredient of modern brand communication and is measured by instinct.

Visual Identity

brand perception visual identity

The development of the brand personality defines the characteristics that the brand should use throughout its messaging.

While the messaging framework has an opportunity to deliver those characteristics through language and tone, the visual identity can bring them to life visually.

As the old adage goes:

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

We all know that a brand is not a logo, though the visual identity as a whole, still has an important role to play.

If the strategic characteristics are displayed visually, the brand strategy can begin shaping perceptions within milliseconds of first contact and beyond.

How To Measure Brand Perception?

Brand equity is the premium on the value a brand offers a business.

In other words it’s the intangible value attributed to the brand in isolation from the business.

Growing brand equity is in essence growing the brand and in order to measure that equity, brand perception must be measured.

Because your brand perception lives in the mind of your audience, that’s where you must go to measure it.

Audience Outreach

brand perception social media

Most brands begin building an audience from day one across multiple platforms.

A social media following across multiple platforms and an active email list, provides the brand with an outreach tool.

Although social posts asking for positives and negatives might result in your brand hanging out its dirty laundry in public, private messages and email offer a great way to get the lowdown from the horse’s mouth.

Reach out and ask the people that matter.

Social Monitoring

Social media has become the modern day Piazza where people hang out and share their opinions and experiences.

Unlike the days of old where eavesdropping in on a conversation might get you a bad rep or a bloody nose, today, brands can simply search discussions for mentions of their brand to get a temperature of the overall sentiment.

There are plenty of social media monitoring tools today, which all offer the ability to gain insights through social media conversations.

Review Sites

brand perception status

Whether we have a good or bad experience with a brand, we have plenty of digital platforms available to us to spread the good, the bad or the indifferent word.

Review sites are an excellent and way to get an overall gauge of brand perception in the market and it’s a go to for consumers who are in the consideration phase to get their own perceptions confirmed (or readjusted).

Over To You

The branding industry have many terms that are used interchangeably they can dilute the importance of others.

Brand perception is a key branding term you need to take not of as a brand builder because this is the very thing the brand you’re building aims to shape.

If the brand is developed with a crystal clear understanding of who the audience is and a clearly defined position, it can develop a communication strategy with a definitive plan to shape those perceptions.

Do you consider the perception you want to create in the mind of your audience as you build your brands?

I’d love to hear your brand perception experiences or challenges in the comments below.