When a brand introduces a new product or service to the world, 9 times out of 10, it already has a bunch of competitors out there. This is where the business owner (or marketing department if we’re talking about a bigger, more established brand) needs to get creative and figure out how to stand out and cut through the noise.
A great way of differentiating your brand from that of your competitors is through having a strong brand image.
Someone might base their brand image of your company on a first-hand experience they've had as a customer. Forming an opinion of a brand can still occur without that person making a purchase. It could be based on something that someone else said about your brand, whether that’s online, via a media outlet or an influencer review, or just because Susan on their street said so.
What’s important to note is that your brand image is based on someone's perception, so it's something you can't really control. That being said however, there are a range of other factors that you do have control over that can influence how someone perceives your brand. These include things like your brand personality, voice, positioning, messaging, values, social media presence, and so on. We’ll go into more detail on how you can shape these to boost your brand image later on. But first, let’s understand why having a strong brand image is so important.
Why do you need a strong brand image?
As a marketer or business owner, you might be putting so much effort into creating the best product or service possible, that your brand image has had to take a bit of a back seat. However, the quality of your product is not always the number one reason why a consumer might make a purchase. Sure, it’s important, but in many cases, it’s actually your brand image that’s going to encourage customers to stick around, make repeat purchases, and tell their friends and family.
Source: Exploding Topics
So, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of having a strong brand image:
- It creates a great first impression, grabs your target audience’s attention and makes them eager to learn more. It only takes 0.05 seconds for people to form an opinion about your website.
- Sets you apart from your competitors. Otherwise, you might just blend into the background.
- Enables consumers to make an easier, quicker buying decision, which equals improved profits for your brand.
- A recognisable brand with a positive image is more easily trusted and gives confidence to your customers. According to a survey in the United States, 46% of consumers say that they would pay more to purchase from brands they trust.
- The ability to leverage the brand identity that has already been built to release future products or services onto the market that can make a bigger impact in less time.
8 Ways to Influence Your Brand Image
While you don’t have direct control over the mind of your consumers, you can certainly influence how they feel towards your brand by following these 8 key steps:
1. Start with your mission, vision and values
It’s important for everyone in your company to understand where you are going before you can get there, so be sure to define your mission, vision and values. Everything about your brand should line up with these values as inconsistency will only damage your brand image.
2. Invest in your professional branding design
How your brand appears visually is a key element of your overall brand image. Research shows that 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive. The visuals are what’s going to capture the attention of your audience initially, so these need to be on point.
The biggest and best brands in the world have dedicated design teams. Granted, this isn’t within the budget of every business, but it will definitely pay off to outsource some design work to get you up and running. A poorly designed logo and website can be spotted a mile off, and will only plant the word “unprofessional” within the minds of your target audience. Being consistent with your brand is vital in pretty much every industry. This includes your fonts, colour palette, logo positioning, typography and even logo variations. When you implement consistent branding design across all aspects of your marketing collateral, you can increase your revenue by as much as 23%.
3. Identify your target audience
If you don't know your target audience well, how do you expect to know what values, beliefs and messaging will resonate best with them? Having a clear idea of who you want to target is important as you want to make sure that your brand image appeals to them. Once you have successfully defined your target audience, ask yourself:
- What values does my target audience share?
- What inspires them to make a purchase and remain loyal to a brand?
From your promotional techniques and packaging to your customer service and website, everything should be carefully designed and carried out with your target audience in mind. You need this kind of clarity to have the ability to create an effective marketing strategy that speaks directly to their unique needs, wants and concerns.
4. Establish a brand positioning statement
A brand positioning statement is composed of the heart of who you are as a company. Different from a tagline, or a mission statement, a brand positioning statement defines how your company’s product or service suits the needs of a particular audience, as well as how you do it better than the competition. When done right, this statement can be a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes and can create a lasting impression in the minds of your customers. It requires going deeper than any buzzwords or other “marketing fluff” you might be used to, in order to develop a statement that truly captures what your brand is all about. Check out the example below from Amazon:
5. Give your brand a personality
A personality is an important factor when it comes to the image that we perceive of others. The same goes for your brand. Your chosen brand personality should be consistent across the board and reflected in your tone of voice, visuals, promotional content, social media and any communications with current or prospective customers (to name a few). If you can successfully portray a brand personality with similar traits and characteristics to that of your target audience then you’ll increase the chances of them being able to positively resonate with your brand.
6. Keep your social channels consistent
54% of consumers turn to social media to research products before making a purchase. The last thing you need is for these 54% to not like what they see. Social media channels that are inconsistent, unprofessional or fail to contain any up-to-date content will damage your brand image. Choose social media platforms that you plan to maintain a presence on, as an inactive page will simply raise eyebrows to the trustworthiness and the reliability of your brand. Make sure that your tone of voice is on-brand and any imagery or graphics you share have the same look and feel to those on your website, packaging, marketing materials, etc.
7. Utilise public relations
Public relations (PR) is a more subtle method of getting the message out there about your brand in comparison to advertising and marketing and can be great for boosting your brand image. PR is about telling the story behind your brand - so the idea origin, its impact on society and the vision of its founders. The idea is to exploit any unique angles in your story to create an awe-inspiring image of your brand and showcase this to a large portion of your target audience. Unlike advertising, PR is a non-paid media exercise and these authentic stories help you build trust and genuine relationships with your current and future customers, stakeholders, members of the media and the wider community. You can also use a personalised PR package that you can deliver to a select group of customers or a list of influencers for increased brand recognition and sales.
8. High standards of customer service
Good customer service is vital to the success of your business, and a key factor in how a consumer perceives your brand. Despite all the technology we have available today to replace the need for humans in the customer service process, consumers still appreciate when brands show their human side. Bots are all well and good for when you need to answer a quick, simple query online, but at the same time, the option to speak to a real-life human being is usually required for more complex problems. This is where your staff need to be highly trained to embody your brand values and show empathy and authenticity. With every customer interaction, your brand’s reputation is at stake. One bad customer experience posted online for the world to see can quickly spiral out of control, damaging any strong brand image you may have had.
Creating a strong brand image will take time, so patience and dedication are required. However, the rewards include the ability to attract new customers more easily, higher customer retention and increased loyalty. You can’t control the mind of your customers, but you do have control over all 8 of these elements that can have a direct influence on your brand image. Keep pushing your brand to provide your customers with the best experience possible in terms of your product or service, promotional efforts, content, customer service, PR and values. Be successful in all these areas and your brand image will fall into place as a result.
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