* This article appeared first in Brand Quarterly.
Consumer perception of brands has evolved greatly since we have entered into the digital age. Traditionally, there was a simple formula for how brands could project an image through the combination of three basic things: have a great product, toss in some good values, and present it all through a compelling advertising campaign.
Fast forward to 2017, and the way to approach consumers has drastically changed. In order to be successful and stand out in today’s fast-paced world, brands have to invest in tactics that will help them form an emotional connection with consumers, beyond traditional advertising – both perception and brand loyalty depend on this.
The Relationship Between Brands And Customers Is About Trust
When it comes to consumer / brand perception, trust and loyalty play hand-in-hand. Consider Clorox, a brand that offers a series of products based on one common ingredient: bleach. Clorox has been viewed to offer a trusted product line and is embraced for much more than its mere ability to clean surfaces, but rather a must-have to keep families safe, kill germs, and maintain a healthy environment.
Clorox uses simple, yet compelling advertising coupled with social media campaigns to stay top of mind for customers, tying its value to two very important factors for today’s health-conscious consumers: safety and wellness.
Engaging With Consumers Helps To Build Loyalty
Building customer loyalty is key to sustaining and growing a business. A few brands that have managed to obtain strong customer loyalty include Apple, Google, and Amazon. Each brand has successfully formed an emotional connection with consumers.
For instance, Google has become an integral part of everyday life for consumers across the globe. It is perceived to be reliable, accurate, and safe. Countless consumers trust it as their go-to search engine, email provider, instant messaging tool, document house, and general news source of choice. The term “Google it” has become an integral part of common household terminology.
With a premium price tag and an emphasis on privacy, the latest gadget to hit the market is Apple’s Siri Home Pod.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words When It Comes To Giving Back
A charity component is highly recommended for brands looking to create a positive perception with today’s consumers. Brands need to put themselves in the shoes of the consumer and ask, “what sort of impact are we having beyond the one to our bottom line?” Selecting the right charity to align with their mission is also key. Millennial consumers, especially, are bound to associate with brands that are giving back.
Take, for instance, Tom’s Shoes – for every pair purchased, a pair is donated to someone in need. Today’s consumers strive to be impactful shoppers and brands that give back are perceived positively and attract the attention of potential customers.
A Brand’s Reputation Is Fragile Like A House Of Cards
Projecting and complying with a positive image helps to carefully build, maintain, and protect the assets of a business. Consider celebrity chef Paula Deen, whose image began as a clean-cut, family-oriented, beloved cooking show host that consumers trusted and welcomed into their homes. Due to her popularity, Ms. Deen formed a series of partnerships with household names such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Sears, JC Penny, and more.
Following the racial slurs scandal, her image experienced a drastic change through a shift in public perception, which resulted in the termination of several brand partnerships.
Perception Is Equally Important To Stakeholders And Partners
Take, for example, the recent crisis faced by United following the forced removal of a passenger from flight 3411. Due to a serious shift in consumer perception, coupled with the power of social media through which onboard customers shared their experience of witnessing the forced removal of another passenger, the airline’s stock value dropped by an astounding $1.4 billion.
Public criticisms escalated further through social media campaigns including #BoycottUnited, #Flight3411, and #UnitedAirlinesAssault. Consumers were further outraged at the response and took things to another level by contacting Chase to terminate their United Mileage Plus Explore Cards.
With the addition of social media to the mix, what may have once been viewed as a small mistake can now quickly escalate to a full-blown scandal.
Brands need to be mindful of every step they take, be more selective of those that they chose to associate with, and most importantly listen and cater to the needs and expectations of today’s consumer.
Alfredo Fraile, Chief Business Development Officer