Understanding Your Consumers to Manage Brand Perception

Have you ever asked yourself, Do you actually know what your consumers think about your brand, or are you just guessing?

Often, marketing managers and brand owners believe they have an understanding of their brand, but may not always be accurate. They certainly may have a good perception of what their brand means to them, how it is positioned and what the message is supposed to be. However, the public awareness of the brand, hence the customer’s perception, may not correlate to this vision. As we all know, perception is reality; whatever people are thinking and saying about a brand forms the brand and is the brand.

The public brand perception can change rapidly and constantly. In a 24/7 online media world, one small wrong or right move can go viral and change everything.  To better control the concurrent influences of other fast-moving economic, environmental and brand-internal factors, it is important to understand consumers’ behaviors and opinions of your brand. Only by knowing your consumers – and addressing them directly – can efficient actions be taken to guide their brand perception in the right direction. Advertising, PR or social campaigns can be used to address consumers’ perception and to build public opinions.

The big German grocery chain Aldi is a great example of how brand perception can shift. After the grocery store opened its doors for the first time in the UK in the early 90’s, Aldi battled the negative perception of discount grocery store chains. Over the last two years, however, its brand image has changed significantly, as more and more people discovered that quality products could, in fact, be purchased at highly competitive prices.

To shift consumers’ perception, the grocery chain launched a big marketing campaign to stress that they were not a seller of cheap products, but instead, that they sold products at cheap prices. Although most shoppers still go to Aldi for their low-cost staples, the store has increasingly offered their customers delicacies, too. Aldi recently unveiled Christmas offerings that included legs of Serrano ham, lobster tails, Gevrey-Chambertin (a red Burgundy), and more luxury goods – all at a fraction of the price at some exclusive outlets.

Aldi’s efforts to change their brand perception seem to have been successful. With just 3.8% of the grocery market (which is less than Waitrose at 4.9% and Tesco at 30.1%) Aldi is now the fastest-growing chain in Britain, and has 500 shops across high streets in the UK. It was ranked fourth on the YouGov BrandIndex Ranking 2013, which measures the most-popular brands among different markets.

What can we learn from this?

Your brand is your business. In addition to executing against your long-term brand strategy, you need to understand how today’s market impacts your brand and impacts your competitors, and most important, you need to understand what your consumers are thinking. No sector stands still; there are changes every single day. A new product launch, a new campaign; whatever it is, you don’t want to be caught unaware.

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