The ability to share information instantly has democratized perception of brands. Customer opinion is more influential than ever in determining brand perception.If we want to know how to increase brand perception, we first need to understand what those opinions are.
What do consumers believe the brand represents? What is their view of its products and services? How does this perception compare with competing brands and the wider market?
What actually is a brand?
There are many competing definitions of what ‘brand’ actually means.
Seth Godin defined a brand as a set of “expectations, memories, stories and relationships” that in combination drive the decision to choose a particular company, product or service.
Basically, it’s primarily a mental creation, which helps consumers to understand a company over another. This is necessary to make sense of what has become a very competitive market.
This perception is in part formed through shared experience.
The avenues available for people to share have massively increased with the rise of social media. The amount and frequency with which people share has correspondingly increased.
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What is brand perception?
Brand owners may feel they understand exactly what their brand represents.
However, this image may be more reflective of their aspirations for the brand, rather than the reality of public opinion.
Brand perception is owned by consumers, not brands. Regardless of your message, whatever people are thinking and saying about your brand, that is your brand.
Surveys and focus groups can form an important part of any strategy in measuring and improving brand perception.
One of the easiest ways to research what people are saying about your brand is to use social listening to find relevant brand mentions within the billions of unedited online conversations.
Measuring brand perception
The inherent traceability of social networking sites means you can start from nothing and quickly build a thorough picture of your brand that reflects the current reality.
By analyzing social conversations, brands can better understand what aspects are contributing to their perception. These insights can then be used to help support initiatives to reshape and increase brand perception.
Social listening platforms, like Brandwatch, allow you to measure the sentiment of the talk around your brand, products and campaigns.
Analyzing conversations with negative sentiment will help you identify the various customer issues that could be harming your brand perception.
By looking at these metrics over time, you can work out what causes spikes in the conversation around your brand, and how perception changes over time.
Of course, brands rarely exist in isolation. Measuring the brand perception of your competitors can help you understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
Know your customers
Knowing your customers, things like their general age, gender, location, language, professions and interests, is vital when considering what shapes your brand perception.
It’s not just about what people are saying, but who is saying it.
Every person’s experience of your brand will be different, but there may be some common themes that social listening can uncover.
Fortunately, information collected from social listening comes fully hydrated with data that will tell you more about the people behind the conversations.
With Brandwatch, you can segment the data by gender, professions and interests, giving you a detailed overview of the people talking about you.
For example, by looking at location data, UK retailer Argos was able to track the conversation and sentiment around the rollout of digital only stores, replacing their traditional catalogs with iPads.
Londoners were happier with the digital stores but were quick to complain about queueing, whereas customers from the North of England commented positively on the human touch and great customer service.
The data from Brandwatch allowed them to deliver a regionally tailored experience for customers, making real world changes to stores to improve brand perception at a local level.
Act on your knowledge
Once you have worked out your customers’ perception of your brand, and you know some more about what makes those customers tick, you can act on your findings.
An Ogilvy study analyzed 20 channels and found that social media is the easiest way to change and increase brand perception.
Another study from Nielsen shows that for 77% of consumers, the advice of family and friends is the most persuasive when looking for information about new products. This word-of-mouth aspect of social is part of what makes it so effective in improving brand perception.
Knowing who your customers are, what they think of your brand and what else they are passionate about gives you the information you need to harness the power of social, word of mouth and influencers to take control of brand perception.