Does your brand strike a positive chord with your audience?

By Elin Salekärr

Does your brand strike a positive chord with your audience?

We tend to make decisions based on how things look, even if one would like to think that what's under the hood matters the most. In business, it's called brand perception, which is an essential aspect of brand management. 

Your brand's perception can attract visitors and potential customers to you, but it can also drive them away. You're dealing with a broad audience here, from your biggest fans to your detractors, so you want to handle it thoroughly and carefully. In addition to setting a relevant message to improve the brand perception from where you are today, you want to capture your company's brand essence, personality, and positioning, and it should distinguish you from the competition.

The very definition of brand perception can be summarised as your customers' feelings, thoughts, and experiences associated with your brand. And the perception exists in their minds, so shaping their attitude to associate your company with positive experiences is not something that will come for free. You need to create a well-thought messaging that needs to be continuously maintained. And the ultimate goal is to influence people's buying decisions - picking one specific wash detergent over another or why they will select a particular ice cream brand.

Companies can do a lot when it comes to influencing and weaving in powerful emotions to shape the brand perception, but when the push comes to shove, it will always be the customer who makes the final decision. You can not fully control the outcomes; just ask Burberry, but what you can do is set the narrative and stick to the plan behind it.

Focus on positivity to generate growth rather than addressing the negative aspects. Of course, crisis management is needed when the situation requires it. Still, it's better to focus on highlighting all the upsides and how your company can benefit the customer. Once a brand attitude is established, it can be tricky to change. If your brand is already highly recognised, you're in a good position with a loyal audience. If your positioning has started to go south - it's time to curate the complex setup that makes up your brand. From the brand name and logo to tagline, messaging and ads. Your brand messaging needs to capture the full extent of what your business offers and how it differentiates from the competitors. And don't just set it and forget it, be sure to have both a launch plan and a nurturing plan for what comes next.

You have two things to sort out here;

  • What is your brand perception today?
  • What would you want it to be in the future?

Here are some fundamentals you need to address; have you assessed the competition and how you are positioned in the race? Have you built a well-thought plan for execution? Do you have a localised plan in addition to the master track? You ought to monitor industry changes closely and do your best to anticipate shifts in consumer behaviour at an early stage.

90% of B2B customers start their buyer's journey by doing a Google search. At the same time, 29% of companies say they have no formalised brand guidelines. How does that fit together? Are you ready to welcome your Google searchers with a positive, clear, and distinct message on how you can ease their burdens should they land within your domains?

Where to start

When trying to shape someone's attitude, enhance your messaging using the five senses that help all humans navigate the worldsight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. While scent and smell might be more of interest for B2C companies (using free samples at the grocery store or a faint blossom scent at the cosmetic counter to trigger all sorts of feelings and desires), the visual, auditory and emotional signals are helpful to consider in a B2B context.

Sight – Visual perception

For instance, you should strive for a robust and recognisable logo. Ideally, it's also self-explanatory, visible, and unmistakable. And in the online world, it really needs to work in all sizes - e.g., having a cluttered logo creates issues when using it as a favicon - to pick an example.

Another powerful approach is commercials that trigger feelings and spark emotions if they are visually appealing. However, remember that a vast number of likes and comments don't necessarily result in conversion - you need to have a plan for what to do with the engagement it generates.

Hearing – auditory perception

Music, jingles, and taglines can also be a strong cue when you want to communicate a clear feeling. It can be argued that taglines are in a recession, but it can be beneficial to some extent if it makes sense for the overall brand and the products or services you're offering. Suppose you want to come up with a good tagline, be ready to invest some time in it. There are rarely any taglines or slogans magically popping out of the blue, so it's more likely you're up for numerous iterations before reaching a result that will fly - a result that is something memorable, likeable, and related to the brand. 

Touch – emotional perception

Focus on the problem you are solving for the customer, and add the emotional aspect as a dimension of your purpose, vision, mission, and values. If your brand's true heart can be communicated and accepted by your customers, you'll reach a more profound, solid, and personal ground to meet them. If the heartfelt feelings are in the right place, it will be much easier to move the mind and convert positive associations into business growth.

What to do

  • Investigate how your customers view and think of your brand.
  • Customise your messaging with set demographics in mind.
  • Ideate, create, implement and maintain positive associations.
  • Set a hypothesis for how you think the world will change within the next two years. Anticipate what will be necessary, and develop a plan for the predicted change since nothing stays the same and your audience will change.

You don't just want to solve today's problems; you also want to foresee the challenges around the corner.

It might be that the adversaries that are really in your way are not the ones with similar offerings but rather the ones who make the same forecast for the future. And if you don't tend to your brand's reputation, there is still a high risk that your opponents are overlooking theirs - and that could put you in the backseat before you know it.

If you successfully create a positive brand experience, chances are you will see an increase in first-time and recurring customers. And you will also most likely see a rise among your loyal brand ambassadors.

Guide: Brand loyalty 

My colleague Anders Björklund has created a PowerPoint with some effective ways to build brand loyalty. I hope you find them useful!

How to build brand loyalty

Want to know more? With our branding guide, you'll find all the information you need about the what, why, when and how of branding.

Elin Salekärr
Project Manager 2011-14 and 2017-23.
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