In 2006, Blake Mycoskie witnessed the hardships children without shoes had in Argentina, and developed Tom’s shoes, a company that gives one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold. You’ve most likely heard about this brand and its mission. Since the company’s conception, it’s given away 60 million pairs of shoes in 70 countries. It’s a leader in corporate responsibility and has inspired other companies to create products with similar business models.
Through this story, it has created a brand image that shows it cares about more than just its customers and wants to do good in the world.
But how do brands like these curate their brand image overtime to inspire brand loyalty, and how can you do the same? Read on to find out.
What is brand image?
In order to cut through the noise, you must have a robust and positive brand image. But what is the definition of brand image?
Brand image is the customer’s perception of your brand based on their interactions. It can evolve over time and doesn’t necessarily involve a customer making a purchase or using your product or service. Since customers can have different opinions of your brand, it’s important to work hard to maintain a consistent brand image.
Businesses spend a lot of time curating a brand personality, voice, and brand positioning in the marketplace. It goes beyond visible elements such as having an identifying symbol, mark, logo etc. that companies can use to distinguish themselves from rivals. All these elements of a brand contribute to the way a customer interacts with and perceives your brand, which culminates in brand image.
Why a positive brand image is important
Today, many consumers (especially millennials and Generation Z) don’t buy your product or service simply because you have the best option, but because of what you stand for.
In fact, a Harvard Business Review study found that 64% of consumers say that shared values is the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. That was, by and large, the biggest driver, and only 13% cited frequent interactions as the primary reason for a relationship. That means that, while you must interact with your customers, the quality of your interactions matters more than the quantity for brand perception.
This is particularly true in the post-pandemic world: 61% of people said that how a brand responded to the crisis would have a large impact on whether they’d keep their relationships with them afterwards.
It’s not just how businesses care for others, either – it’s about how they care directly for customers. We found in our Global Consumer Trends Report 2022 that more than 60% of consumers feel that businesses need to care more about them and that they’d actually buy more if they felt that care.
What’s your level of brand awareness in your target market? Find out with our free brand awareness survey template.
How to build a strong brand image
To build a strong brand image, you’ll need to start with understanding who your brand is and what it stands for. This foundational work helps you to position yourself in the market and win the hearts of your target customers. New customers and existing customers alike can benefit from brand image-based social media programs, marketing, and creating a pitch to individual consumers’ interests on a large scale.
Determine your mission, vision, and values
It’s important to start with defining your mission, vision, and values because everything your company does (and every experience you deliver) should line up with your mission and values. Inconsistency in values will hurt your brand image, so you must define your purpose before promoting your brand.
In addition, not only will your values attract customers but it will drive employee engagement as well. Mission-driven employees stay at a company longer and are more likely to be higher performers. Understanding your mission, vision, and values (and practicing what you preach) can go a long way in retaining happy, productive employees and customers.
Create a brand positioning statement
A brand positioning statement can set you apart from the competition and tells consumers exactly how you solve a need for your target audience. To create this, research your competitors and understand what makes your brand unique. Perhaps you have a strength in an area that one of your competitors is weak in. Once you understand what makes you different, create a one to two sentence statement that communicates your unique value to your customers. This will help inform your brand image.
Create a brand personality/brand identity
Just like a person, each brand needs a crafted personality, voice, and characteristics. Start by choosing the tone and write at least 10 attributes of your brand. You can also make a list of things your brand is and is not. Defining a brand personality and brand identity will bring consistency to your marketing and brand image.
Identify your key audiences using persona market research
If you don’t know who your potential customers are, you can’t craft a marketing message specifically for them. First, you must research you audience and gather demographic and psychographic data on them. Then, you segment them to create three to five fictional representations of your target customers. Understanding your buyer personas and audiences is key to portraying the right image for your brand.
How to measure brand image
There are multiple ways you can measure brand perception and how consumers feel about your brand.
These help you understand how your brand is perceived in the mind of customers, prospects, employees, and other stakeholders. They paint a picture of the mental real estate your brand owns and how it is considered against competitive brands. The insights you gather will help you to cultivate a better business-customer relationship, which in turn improves brand image.
Examples of companies with successful brand images
Apple is number one on Forbes “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” list and has created a strong image of their brand in consumers’ minds. It’s known for being innovative, sleek, and dynamic and has created customer loyalty by creating an emotional connection with its audience. Its customers are fanatics and line up to get the latest products on release day. It’s also more expensive than their competitors, proving that consumers will pay more to align with a specific brand.
It’s a great example of how a good brand image can become an unmistakable one. Founder Steve Jobs became involved in the marketing and decided to take the Newton-inspired original logo and change it to the simple, iconic logo to distinguish the brand. By using a clean aesthetic and building user-friendly but style-statement products, Apple has mastered the art of creating a lifestyle product and subsequently, a positive brand image.
Zappos is known for having superior customer support and a great employee experience. Its CEO, Tony Hsieh, has promoted the brand and built its culture through an exceptional customer experience that allows it to spend less on marketing because a majority of its sales are from repeat customers.
Even though it’s not the largest brand in America, it has one of the most positive brand images. Its light-hearted brand purpose – to create a “caring, fun and magical community made of up diverse friends that embrace change and love to try new things” – is replicated throughout every interaction in the customer journey. You wouldn’t think an online clothing retail company could help to make connections with friends, but Zappos has created a positive brand image that’s supported by its internet based / social media efforts and its internal culture.
Coca-Cola is one of the most recognised brands in the world and this is partially due to the consistency it has had over the years. It promotes its brand over its products, working to sell a lifestyle, not just a product.
Coca-Cola has worked hard to generate a brand image that has become synonymous with occasions that bring people happiness. The famous Christmas holiday truck advert that has pride of place in its marketing has helped to create a connection in consumers’ minds between the brand and joy – despite Coca-Cola not typically being a wintry drink.
Build a positive brand image with Qualtrics
Building a strong brand image and brand identity isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s measured in strategic interactions, knowing who your customers are, and understanding your competition.
If you’re looking to measure your brand image, contact us today to check out our Online Reputation Management Software and get actionable insights across all digital channels.