Brand image is a lot of things, depending on who you ask. It’s the primary identification of a company — true. It’s the way a company connects with its audience — also true. It’s the logo that marks products produced by the brand — well, now you’re oversimplifying.
As a matter of fact, brand image is about a lot more than just the literal images and visuals that are tied to a company. While those visuals play a part in the definition of brand image, the image itself transcends pure visuals.
Let’s get into it.
Defining a Brand Image
Whether you’re setting the branding vision for your new startup or revising products/goals/themes/connections/etc. for an established brand, the connection between your company and your audience is vital. That connection is all about your brand image.
While it’s tempting to solely identify brand image as the visuals that accompany your branding efforts (after all, it’s right there in the name), brand image is made up of many more components than simply the visual aspect. And all of those components play a part in the success of your brand, fueled by audience perception and customer loyalty.
Brand image is professionally identified by Forbes writer Solomon Thimony, for example, as the “mix of the associations consumers make based on every interaction they have with your business.” In short, every single point of communication or connection between your company and your customer coalesces into the overall brand image.
That makes it pretty easy to see why it’s more than just a question of your logo or your advertising campaigns, but that doesn’t mean that details such as those can just be sidelined.
What Goes into a Brand Image
Brand image is a matter of compilation. The more that goes into it, the more accurate the image can be.
So every detail that an entrepreneur adds into their brand image, all across the internet, feeds back into that image.
Theoretically, a brand image can be made up of ever-changing, ever-adapting connections, just like the interactions between two people. But in practical terms, it’s important to have a clear idea of just what deserves attention in order to build a good brand image. Otherwise, you might miss out on an opportunity to further contribute to your brand image, which in turn will boost your connection with your audience and brand loyalty.
- Visuals — this is an easy place to start, especially since the word “image” is right there in “brand image.” Visuals are what most people commonly associate with the concept of branding, and good visuals are a tangible goal. The color palette that you select, the types of graphics that you choose, the choice of whether to use a free logo maker software or work with a professional graphic designer — everything plays a part in how your audience views your brand, whether or not they choose to interact with it, and how the interaction plays out.
- Advertising — we’ve all seen the poorly-done advertising that leaves us shaking our heads or wondering why they even bothered. Bad advertising leaves a bad taste in the audience’s mouth, and impacts whether they choose to follow through on interacting with the brand. Good, innovative advertising, on the other hand, can favorably influence the viewer.
- Clarity of messaging — in both the branded visuals and the advertising, as well as through social media and official websites, clarity of messaging is important. Messaging includes the promises that are made by the brand, and the brand’s ability to follow through. If a viewer isn’t entirely sure what your brand is all about, what the goals, services or products are offered, or whether they’re even the right audience for those services and products, the messaging is muddled and so is the brand image.
- Customer service — this is an easy avenue to overlook, but it pays dividends when handled well. In terms of how well a brand is viewed, more than 70 percent of consumers declare their love for a brand because of excellent customer service, and almost as many would choose not to go back to a brand because of poor customer service. One-on-one customer service is one of the most effective ways to create a fantastic brand image.
- Ease of contact — the lack of contact can have a debilitating effect on brand image. While it might seem easier from the brand’s point of view to simply cut off complaints at the source, all it does is cause greater frustration in the customer when they can’t even discuss any potential problems with brand representatives. I personally have written off more than one brand after getting the run-around from them on their website or social media.
- Public relations — this is an excellent opportunity for a brand to take charge of its own image. Getting out into the community and sponsoring or participating in events is a clear demonstration of the values held by the company. And almost 90 percent of consumers will choose to remain loyal to a brand that they view as sharing their own values — a statistic that vividly illustrates the importance of brand image in company growth and success.
- Follow-up — a specific point of customer service that deserves attention deeper in the customer-brand relationship. Follow-up isn’t just about ensuring that consumers are pleased with their purchases. It’s also about figuring out why they might have been displeased or disappointed. Why viewers who never became buyers chose not to. And why those who clicked out of a website haven’t come back. Follow-up demonstrates the continued interest of a brand, and we all like it when someone is interested in what we think and feel.
Brand Image — the Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Ultimately, brand image is problematic for brands, no matter what they do — and this is because there is no way to guarantee 100 percent control. To a certain extent, brand image depends on the individual who interacts with the brand. You may choose your visuals, products, customer service, outreach, demonstration of values, and follow-up carefully, designing it to appeal to everyone — but there will always be outliers.
You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and that’s the main reason for continually laboring under a brand image.
Measuring the success of your brand image isn’t going to be a matter of ensuring that every single customer is entirely happy. There simply isn’t a way to ensure that, and a lot of time and effort will be wasted in chasing the 100 percent standard.
For each individual brand, setting an acceptable standard in effective and accurate brand image is a vital part of creating a brand growth strategy that makes the most of brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. Including all the elements listed above gives entrepreneurs the best chance of continued success now and in the future.