Volkswagen. Coca-Cola. Burger King. What do consumers associate with these brands? Is it great cars or the emissions scandal? Is it a refreshing drink or rather sugar and overweight? A juicy burger or greasy, unhealthy food? What consumers associate with a brand determines the brand image, and thus also whether the brand's products are bought by consumers. It is important for a company to know what customers or potential buyers associate with the brand. Advertising strategies can be specifically geared to this. Firstly, however, it is necessary to find out what exactly consumers associate with a brand. How this works is described in detail on this page.
I. Brand Definition
A brand summarizes everything behind a company's name, logo, design and claim. This includes expectations, memories, stories and relationships. All of this, when combined, help consumers decide on a particular product or brand.
A unique and memorable brand is necessary to stand out from the crowd. It also helps to build brand awareness and establish a long-term presence in the market.
II. Brand Image is Determined by Consumers
When it comes to measuring the brand image, the big challenge is to create a deep and multi-layered understanding of how consumer perceive the brand. This brand perception, i.e. the process of recording, ordering, selecting and interpreting brand-related information - is influenced, among other things, by shared experiences.
How does a brand affect customers? What is their view of certain products and services? And what does this perception look like in comparison to the competition? For brand owners it may be clear what their brand represents. Each consumer, on the other hand, is different and has a different attitude towards what they associate with a brand.
Regardless of a brand's messages, the perception of a brand is always determined by the consumer. Because what consumers say about a brand is the actual brand. The brand image is the deciding factor whether consumers buy a product or not.
III. Know Your Target Audience for the Right Customer Approach
Strong brands such as Coca Cola, Apple or Starbucks seem to be able to easily keep their position at the top of the market for decades. The secret lies in the special attraction that unfolds in the consumers' brains.
The worldwide flop rate for new product launches shows that this attraction is not self-evident: More than every second product launch fails. Reasons for the failure at the market are usually a lack of understanding of the target audience and a wrong customer approach resulting from it.
Always conduct a thorough target group analysis. Knowing your customers, starting with average age, gender, location, language, occupational group, interests, attitudes and habits, is vital when it comes to shaping brand image and perception. Because not only what people say but also who says it, is decisive for forming a general brand image.
IV. Unconscious and Emotional Brand Image
The majority of our perception and consequently also our behavioral processes take place automatically. Brands, products and advertising messages are also perceived unconsciously. When making purchasing decisions, it is therefore not a question of conscious (cognitively processed) information but rather of emotional associations (implicitly processed), which are transported via brand communication and associations with the brand. The sustainable power of brands unfolds only in the minds of the customers.
The biggest advantage of a positive brand image is that potential customers connect with the brand and its values on an emotional level. If a customer intends to buy a new smartphone, they can choose from a huge range of comparable products with merely the same functionalities. This is where emotional connectivity, familiarity and brand image come into play, as the customer is guided by his own instincts. The emotions triggered by an iPhone, for example, replace the time-consuming information gathering and decision-making process. The customer is unconsciously attracted to the iPhone.
V. Measuring Brand Image
In order to build a sustainable brand personality, it is necessary to find out whether a brand is present at all in customers' minds and how exactly it is perceived. You need to know which changes work for a brand and which don't. Surveys can be an important part of the strategy to measure and improve brand image. There are different ways to measure brand awareness.
Brand recall test (unaided): Participants are given a brand and should list as many associations as possible. They do not receive any other hints.
Aided brand recall test: Participants are shown one or more brands and asked what they associate with these brands. Or they are asked to describe the packaging, logo or other characteristic features.
Brand impact tests: Market research uses numerous other tests to assess brands, such as brand association tests, brand awareness tests, brand attitude tests, brand dominance tests or brand equity tests. Even if these tests do not explicitly measure brand image, they provide general indicators of a brand's "health status" and are often used in combination with unaided or aided brand recall tests.
VI. Don't Ignore Your Competitors
In order to classify the results of a brand image test, it is necessary to include competing brands in the survey. Because what does the statement "I like to buy the brand" mean if other brands are bought at least as often? It is therefore advisable to have all possible brands or a selection of top competitors assessed by the participants.
Multiple-choice questions are particularly suitable for this, such as: "For which brand can you imagine to work" or "Which brand would you recommend to your friends?" Further multiple-choice questions can be used to find out about usage behaviour, satisfaction or dissatisfaction, impression, value for money or trustworthiness.
In our dashboard, you can find a sample questionnaire.