Managing perceptions is critical to enhancing brand equity

In 1954, a 52-year-old milkshake mixer salesman entered a restaurant kitchen for a tour. Having seen (and been in) thousands of kitchens, he was convinced that this was the best-run operation he had ever seen.

In 1955, he opened his own restaurant under the same franchise.

In 1971, he bought the company.

This brings us to a simple question…

If he knew how it all worked, then why didn’t he just start his own operation?

Because he knew it wouldn’t work.

He knew he needed more than just staff, system and strategy.

That salesman’s name was Ray Croc. The restaurant was McDonald’s.

Ray Croc knew he couldn’t start his own restaurant because he needed the name. To him, it felt honest, homely, and truly American.

He was right. Today, McDonald’s feeds over 1% of the world’s population, every single day. That’s the power of a brand.

What Is A Brand?

A brand is more than your products and services.

It’s more than your logo and colours.

A brand is what consumers feel when they see your logo or use your products.

It’s what your company is identified by, and it’s what separates you from all the others.

A brand is a reflection of your mission, vision and values, and yet, it is much more.

A brand is the end result of every emotional investment made in your company, products and/ or services.

If your company was a person, then that person’s personality would be your brand.

It is this personality that consumers perceive, which brings us to…

Brand Perception

Unlike your brand, brand perception is owned by consumers.

Brand perception is the result of people’s experiences with your brand. It’s what they feel when they see you. With the right experiences, it translates into a lifetime of brand loyalty and brand equity.

Brand perception is brand image. It is the impression you leave on your consumers’ minds after repeated personal encounters and sensory interactions.

These interactions can take various forms: a Google search, an Amazon purchase, a Facebook ad, a Yelp review, a suggestion to a friend on WhatsApp, a Twitter mention, a billboard, a word of mouth, a bad experience, and so on.

The good news is that these interactions can be measured. Gathering all this sensory information allows you to understand consumer sentiment, and subsequently, your brand’s perception, which could be one of three types:

  • Positive: Good experiences which have improved perception and moved consumers to develop positive feelings about the brand. Consistent positive sentiment will make the brand a favorite or preferred choice for consumers.
  • Negative: Bad, unpleasant experiences create general dislike, distaste or avoidance of a brand. Over time the brand loses trust and market share with consistent bad sentiment.
  • Neutral: Lack of emotion due to bland, ordinary and expected experiences that have failed to emotionally connect with consumers. This can be just as bad as a negative sentiment.

Why Does Perception Matter?

Because perception drives purchases.

Perception takes consumer choices into account, and with digital media, sentiment is everything.

Take Pepsi’s recent campaign with Kendall Jenner. Negative brand perception took over, and the campaign’s performance took a massive hit in the crossfire. However, effective sentiment analysis allowed Pepsi to take swift damage control, allowing them to enforce prompt counter-measures to put out the fire.

Perception is not set in stone, and changes over time. This change can be studied, navigated and incorporated into your marketing strategy. This also gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and grow: by listening to what consumers say through their online interactions, and what they feel through their sentiment.

Domino’s Pizza is a great example of perception done right. The brand actively works towards creating positive change in consumer perception through honest, timely marketing campaigns that address their mistakes and errors. Customers appreciate such candidness and reciprocate with engagement, adoption and loyalty. It is this positive sentiment that has allowed Domino’s to lead its market.

The same approach can (and will) work for any brand. Understand your customer’s perception, create positive sentiment, and address negative/neutral sentiment. A key aspect of this is reporting, measurement and analysis. But you won’t know how consumers perceive you without the right tools and data.

Companies need to understand that they cannot control perception, only consumers can. They can, however, leverage perception to their advantage by:

  • Setting up a framework of metrics to measure brand perception among their consumers
  • Identifying internal brand perceptions within their organizations and understanding how they’re translating externally
  • Using custom research and analytics to get deeper insights about consumers and their experiences
  • Adapt proactively to changes in brand perception quickly and effectively through constant measurement, monitoring and assessment of brand performance and effective allocation of marketing spends
  • Comparing and contrasting their own brand performance and brand perceptions against their competition

Moving Forward

The digital age is moving faster than ever. At this rate, The Internet of Things might soon become the Internet of Everything. Laptops are now tablets, and tablets that once doubled as phones now double as laptops. Voice and AI are bigger than ever, and touch screens have stepped aside for folding phones.

The future is moving faster than ever. Tomorrow is already here, today…