Marketing 101: Brand Image – Here’s Everything You Need To Know
Marketing strategies are essential when it comes to empowering a brand and shaping consuming behaviour. An integral part of these marketing strategies is building strong yet positive Brand Image.
Brand image plays a central role in defining which brands can better survive and succeed in their relative markets. This article will help you define brand image and outline its importance, before looking at building and improving brand image to better position yourself in the market.
What is a Brand Image?
Two of the world’s leading branding academics, David Aaker and Kevin Keller have proposed the following definitions of brand image:
“A set of associations relating to things like product attributes, benefits or price, that are organized in meaningful ways.” (Aaker, 1993)
“Perceptions about a brand reflected as associations in the minds of consumers” (Keller, 1993)
Put simply, brand image is all about how consumers feel about a brand and how they perceive it. It’s important to note that even those who do not need or use your products or services can form associations and create an image of you in the same way, so brand image is essential across the board.
Why is Brand Image Important?
1. Competitive Advantage
Brand image can positively impact brand equity and is therefore vital to capturing a larger proportion of the market share. This allows companies to charge premium prices, which customers will actually be willing to pay or implement brand or product extension strategies more successfully since consumers view you positively and therefore trust you to deliver.
2. Positive Reputation
A positive brand image implies that existing and potential customers view your brand as being one that satisfies or could satisfy their needs successfully (through physical product attributes and benefits, or more intangible benefits such as a desirable price point).
3. Overall Reflection of Management
As perceived by consumers, your brand image can be seen as a reflection of how well you manage your business and meet the needs of the market overall. This will impact how well you can compete with other incumbent firms.
How to Build Brand Image?
1. Work on Your Brand Identity
It’s essential to understand what you want your brand to stand for, and communicate this effectively to the market and beyond. This ensures the company can build up positive associations, which are then converted into the perceptions comprising brand image. Sending out well-defined messages about the values and missions underpinning your brand can, in turn, lead to positive external perceptions (brand image) which align closely with your internally desired identity (brand identity). Similarly, it’s vital to ensure that your values and missions are relevant and valuable to your target audience. Being customer-centric enables you to indirectly impact the associations consumers form towards you, allowing you to influence the creation of brand images indirectly.
2. Create Positive Customer Experiences
Brand image is primarily formed through direct experiences customers have with your brand. Making a good impression at all customer touch-points therefore becomes crucial. This might be a seamless online experience or a physical in-store experience comprised of excellent customer service. This means well-trained and enthusiastic employees, as well as ensuring that your store is clean and easy to navigate or that your packaging is attractive and speaks to your desired identity.
3. Position Your Brand Well
Positioning concerns how you intend to deliver value to consumers in a unique and personal way to your target customer. Amazon, for example, has a mission to “continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology to help consumers find, discover and buy anything…” This immediately speaks to how Amazon wishes to be perceived by consumers, and through this clear statement, if delivered to consumers successfully, Amazon can indirectly build its brand image.
4. Effective Communications
There is no use in formulating your desired identity and attempting to shape a consumer’s real image of you without adequate means of communication. Brand image can be influenced by creatively advertising what you stand for, thereby creating strong, unique, and relevant associations in consumers’ minds.
How to Improve Brand Image?
Since companies can only control brand image indirectly and to a limited extent, it’s important to improve your existing brand image as best as possible. This can be done very practically in several ways, for example:
- Monitoring word of mouth, which can contribute to the formation of perceptions that comprise brand image
- Ensuring consistent delivery of the value you promise to consumers in your positioning statement
- Continually communicating your unique values and attributes through marketing strategies
- Providing high-quality products or services, focusing on the customer experience