Perception, while being a subjective concept, can be created as well as changed. Brands spend years building their reputation and perception among customers using a process that is calculated, straight-forward and widely used in the industry. We have dived deep into the concept of brand perception in our previous articles; understanding brand perception and how to measure it.
While brands create their perception, it is actually owned by their customers and unbelievably, there is a huge gap between how brands perceive themselves and how customers perceive the brands. A recent study by Accenture and AdWeek found that 80% of brands think they provide superior customer service, but only 8% of customers actually feel that. This perception gap is usually the key reason brands start thinking about changing their brand’s perception and undertake rebranding exercises.
While changing brand perception is hard and it can get a little tricky, it is possible to do it effectively. The key to success here is for brands to really listen to their customers and understand their needs. To develop this level of radical empathy, brands need to become tech-forward and dive deep into their data. Today’s data can help brands uncover fundamental truths about their customers’ behaviors as well as the industry which can be used to transform brand perception.
But does your brand really need a perception change?
Sometime in the late 90’s, Apple almost went bankrupt which happened just after they fired Steve Jobs. While we can get into what went wrong, what matters here is that they decided to change their brand’s perception only after such a major event or issue. Similarly, Target, only after being faced with a stark reality of being just another low-cost retailer, decided to rebrand itself, to become the go-to option for the Yuppie Class (young professionals).
So, before starting the journey of changing brand perception, it is important to go through the process of introspection to understand if it is actually required.
If the only way forward for your brand is perception change, then here are a few tried and tested methods to go about the process of changing your brand’s perception among your target audience:
Start from where you are
As mentioned earlier, there is a significant gap between how you see your brand and how your customers see it. Start from there – understand what they feel about your products or services, how they perceive your advertising and overall communication, their experience with your customer support, etc. Create a 360-degree understanding of what they feel about your brand.
While it might seem like a massive undertaking, and it is, most of the data should already be available with your functional teams. And for additional data and customer perceptions, there are tried and tested ways like targeted surveys, focus groups, and a few up & coming perception technology tools. For instance, our creative intelligence platform, Incivus, helps marketers understand how their ads will be perceived by their customers and predict the success of ads before they go live.
Most times brands make the mistake of limiting their focus on gathering perception data from their current customers. While the perception of current customers matters, the real insights are with your old & new customers, recently lost ones, and even the non-customers who might have interacted with your brand while looking for a similar solution.
Your current paying customers are with you for a reason and what they think about you might not be as critical as what your old and recently lost customers think. So, branch out and seek feedback from everyone in your ecosystem and industry.
Your aim should be to gather as much data as possible so you can paint a complete picture of your brand’s current perception. This should also help you pinpoint the problem areas that can become the starting point for this entire undertaking.
Since perception change is an elaborate process, it is best to build a dedicated team to execute the entire process. Here, you would need people who are clear about the starting and ending points. They also need to share and embrace the vision of brand perception change.
The team would primarily consist of people from customer-facing teams like marketing, sales, and support and it might be fruitful to bring in some talent from outside that are not too attached with the old ways. This would bring in fresh perspectives as well as novel ways of thinking, doing, and executing things.
Look for emotional truths
This exercise of changing brand perception can alienate your current customers which means it is essential for you to build emotional connection while implementing this change.
Use data to uncover emotional truths about your customers and target audience. Emotional truths will enable you to build deeper and meaningful relationship with your customers. Many brands do not realize the real power of making people feel – it emotionally connects them with your products and brand.
Coca-cola’s advertising strategy has always revolved around the feeling of happiness wherein repeatedly they have managed to build a strong relationship with their audience with campaigns like Choose Happiness and Share a Coke.
Make a big splash
Once everything is in place, it is time to go out in the world and make a big splash with the announcement of your changed brand perception. Have your marketing team create an elaborate plan that includes all the major customer touchpoints and platforms where your customers and potential customers are present.
It is important they know that you heard them and made the necessary changes to cater to their needs and desires more efficiently.
Pro Tip: Make sure to boldly communicate what your brand stands for to reset your relationship with your current customers. The key here is to communicate everything, frequently and transparently. And especially in the times of change, communication becomes the most crucial part of any strategy.
While communication is important, it is also important to make sure you have the right resources to deliver on the promises you are making in the process.
Next Step: Maintaining Brand Perception
As mentioned in the beginning, before starting the process of changing brand perception, it is important to introspect and be intentional about the reason for this change. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the industry fads and short-lived trends that might spark the conversation of change.
So, the key to actually making the most of your brand’s equity and changed perception is to align all the operations with the new perception and keep maintaining the same. <im