How do customers perceive your brand?

When a customer sees your brand name or your product advertised on a billboard, what do they think of?

Do they associate your business with a particular value, such as sustainability, or does it inspire a feeling of nostalgia in consumers?

Perception is one of the core tenants of marketing. Perception can be described as the customer’s awareness or impression of your business, which stems from a range of factors. This is about what customers associate with your product, customer service and company culture. Perception involves the whole brand experience and for marketers, it is about filtering the customer’s view through the right messaging.

Put simply, a positive brand perception will encourage customers to purchase. When managed correctly, it lays the foundations for strong loyalty and gives you a customer for life.
With customers having more opportunities to engage with businesses via digital channels, managing perception is more important than ever.

To do this, companies need to understand what makes their customers think and react the way they do to their brand.

Using data to better understand customers’ perception

Marketers are not mind-readers, however with a little data and some clever tools, they can get close inside the minds of customers. Customers can appear one-dimensional in a company’s database. Harnessing customer intelligence allows you to drill down into an individual’s demographic, socio-economic and behavioural characteristics. This enables more accurate audience segmentation and creates a more valuable customer profile.

Marketers should use this information to pinpoint valuable consumer groups, what motivates an individual consumer and how they engage with the company.

It could be that a customer lives in the same geographic location as your business which makes it easier for them to visit your store. If that same customer visits and purchases frequently, then convenience is a big part of their brand association. Marketers might then devise personalised messaging which aligns with this motivation, such as sending location-specific offers to the customer.

Equally, companies looking to acquire new customers need to understand the potential customer’s ethos. Using a compliant third-party data source is a great way to access a wealth of consumer characteristics. For instance, consumers who regularly go to the gym indicates an interest in healthy living. A sportwear retailer might use this insight to tailor their messaging, ensuring that their company ideals reflect the customer’s interest in health and wellness.

Having a wide-range of insights on the customer enables businesses to personalise their language, images and touch-points to resonate directly with the consumer’s preferences.

Getting emotional

Feeling is a key part of perception which is why establishing an emotional tie with customers is imperative for loyalty. A 2019 Brand Intimacy Survey from MBLM found that companies with emotional customer connections have twice the number of consumers willing to pay 20% more. In this survey, Disney overtook Apple for first place as the most intimate customer brand, owing largely to the sentimental feelings it inspires in consumers.

Responding to changing attitudes

Perception is not set in stone; many well-known companies have been tweaking their brand experience to appeal to changing consumer tastes. One example is Coca-Cola, known for its fizzy and arguably unhealthy drinks, who has been changing perceptions in recent years by creating more reduced-sugar options. Coca-Cola is also launching a new energy drink with naturally-derived ingredients, as part of its “strategy to offer people a wide range of drinks to meet different lifestyles and occasions.”

Customer analysis enables companies to stay abreast of new consumer trends and ensure their brand association remains fresh and current.

It is essential for marketers to understand how and why customers think about their business so they can create brand communications which drive sales and long-term engagement. Perception is at its most powerful when it identifies with consumer at a core level. It is data which reveals the customer’s basic motivations, lifestyle and aspirations.

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Stephen Green

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