Perception is not always reality. However, when it comes to branding maybe it can be. Living at a time where there are endless channels for customers’ to express their thoughts, the customers’ voice is increasingly vital for business success. For that reason, taking the time to truly understand your customers and how they view your brand will provide invaluable insights.
As it relates to branding, this is where challenges can arise. While a company may have an established brand identity, it may not be the same as their actual brand image. Despite sounding the same, brand identity and brand image have distinct differences. Brand identity is “made up of what your brand says, what your values are, how you communicate your product, and what you want people to feel when they interact with it”. Conversely, brand image is the “customer’s perception of your brand based on their interactions” with it. Therefore, to effectively build your brand, companies must find ways to align their brand identity and brand image as closely as possible.
For instance, luxury hotels often define their brand identity by the class of service and price as well as the amenities they provide. When customers are enticed to book at that hotel and they have a subpar experience, that will negatively impact their brand image of the hotel. Depending on the severity of the experience and if it occurs more than once, the long-term effects could be extremely damaging to the brand image. As much as the company may want to believe they are a luxury brand, customer perception is even more important to consider. Overall, do your customers perceive your brand to represent luxury, exemplary service, and prestige? If that was the intent and your customer’s feel differently, there is clearly a disconnect.
While we would like to think that perception is not always reality, when it comes to our customers’ perception of our brand, their perception means more than the company’s. Ultimately, the goal is to make sure that your brand identity mirrors your brand image. To do so, companies should take the time to truly understand their customers, see what their customers say about their brand online and on social media, read customer reviews, and find ways to connect with their target audience. By prioritizing your customers’ needs and listening to their feedback, companies can continue to improve their brand image and hopefully equate their brand identity with reality.