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Brand Recognition and How People Recognise Brands

Brand image is expressed in many ways which can also help brand recognition. I wrote a highly popular post on the topic last year, which I would recommend reading first if you missed it; it’s called “What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes”

Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about what brands are, above and beyond their names, logos and the product or service they offer. Which of them have a face, a voice, an aroma, a unique packaging, a slogan or a sound that immediately identifies them? If so, what does it bring in addition to the brand in terms of brand recognition?

Here is a very personal perspective of some of the best examples in each area. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

 

Face

Some of the faces which represent brands are of celebrities, others of unknown people who become celebrities.

One of the first faces I think of for a brand is Flo from Progressive. She has won the hearts of Americans over the years, with her helpful but quirky discussions with potential customers. She has also made insurance less confusing and more friendly through her “girl next door” looks and sparky attitude. Here’s one of the most recent ads with Flo from last year.

In 2012, an animated box was added to their campaign concepts, to represent the company’s products. Apparently, the vast number of ads with Flo – over 100 – had resulted in a “love her or hate her” relationship as some found her off-putting.

George Clooney has been the face of Nespresso for many years now. He started as smooth and superior, but over the years he has become more approachable, even funny. The latest commercials actually show him being injured in various ways, from falling pianos to “Mafia-type makeovers!” They are always entertaining, even for non-Nespresso drinkers.

Perhaps Nestle is trying to open their appeal to younger coffee drinkers who enjoy humour and hoping that the videos get shared on social media?

There are many other examples of “faces” that we now immediately recognise and associate with their brands. Even if some have been dropped over the years, they still maintain their strong connection:

SC Johnson’s Mr Clean and the muscle man

Quaker Oats and the Quaker.

Coca-Cola and the Polar Bear

Marlboro and the Cowboy – Darrell

Duracell / Energiser and the Pink Bunny

Each face is chosen to represent the brand because it fits with the values with which it wants to be linked.

The Muscle man suggests toughness, never tired, perfect for house cleaning when you want the quickest and easiest solution to difficult jobs.

The Quaker implies integrity, harmony, simplicity, perfect for natural products.

The Polar Bear is associated with cold, stimulating, refreshing liquid (ocean), perfect for a carbonated soft drink.

The Cowboy suggests independence, freedom, strength, perfect for a masculine brand.

The Bunny implies endurance. never-ending energy, perfect for a long-lasting battery.

The advantage of a cartoon character over a real person is that associations are unlikely to change. Just consider some of the recent sporting disasters which resulted in brands firing their “faces”.

Almost all celebrity spokespeople are required to sign an agreement containing certain moral or behavioural clauses. These give the brands the right to cancel a contract if the celebrity does something which could be damaging to the brand.  Nike has done this with Maria Sharapova, Manny Pacquiao, Michael Vick and Lance Armstrong.  Tiger Woods was apparently dropped by Gillette, Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and Tag Heuer. Wow, that must have lowered his income somewhat!

Find out more about the challenges of choosing a face for a brand in this article on advertising law, and this one on the top 15 athletes who were dropped by their sponsors.

 

Sound / Voice / Tone

Besides the faces of celebrities, some brands have adopted a very individual voice or sound. These can be actual voices, such as the infamous Budweiser’s Wassup campaign that was first aired in 1999. (yes really that long ago!) Or the tones used in print advertising, which has become even more important with the rise of social media.

George Clooney is definitely a smooth talker, at least he was in the first ads he did for Nespresso. With time, he has become more self-deprecating and funny, as in the above commercial. As already suggested, perhaps Nestle wants to move its brand image and reputation to appeal (also?) to younger coffee-drinker?

Both Coke and Pepsi use sound to great effect. For Coke, it is the ice being dropped into a glass and then Coke being poured over it. For Pepsi, although it may have started by using the sound of the ring pull releasing the fizzing bubbles from the can, the brand now introduces unknown music performers with their “sound drop” campaign.

Kellogg’s believed that the reason for their success was the sound their cornflakes made when they were being eaten. In fact, they hired a Danish sound lab to recreate the Kellogg’s crunch for inclusion in their advertising. It became so identifiable and uniquely Kellogg’s Cornflakes that the company went on to patent it.

One of their latest developments is the creation of the world’s first light therapy bowl. Although only in prototype form, for now, it is part of a project to help beat SAD. I find this a particularly interesting development, that they are experimenting with adding sight to their already well-known sound.

Unilever’s Magnum is another brand with a distinctive sound. The ice cream is instantly recognised today from the cracking as the model bites into the chocolate coating. This sound is used at the beginning and at the end of the ads for their bars; pity the music in between is somewhat irritating, at least to me! And recently, they have added the cracking sound to the advertising for their new range of chocolate topped ice cream tubs, albeit it more discreetly.

Moving on to the tone of voice on social media, some of the best examples I’ve come across include:

Innocent: Would you be interested in following a Twitter account that posted about natural fruit drinks all day? Probably not, and Innocent Drinks clearly understands that. Instead of simply advertising its juice products, Innocent posts chuckle-inducing, highly relatable content. It comes across as Innocent being just a friend who is always coming out with random, yet spot-on observations of life. Who wouldn’t want to follow them on Twitter for this daily dose of fun?

Innocent on Twitter

Tiffany: This brand mixes product images with thoughtful commentary such as the example below. It continues its elegant, cool sophistication of its physical presence admirably. It also uses its signature colour in large blocks for instant recognition.

Tiffany on Twitter

 

Old Spice: Having been successfully relaunched with its “Man your man could smell like” campaign, which was directed at females, it recently moved to a more irreverent and fun tone which is particularly appealing to younger men. At least that’s what I think because most of their new ads certainly don’t appeal to me! Let me know what I’m missing in the comments, please!

Old Spice on Twitter

 

Aroma

Smell is the only one of the five senses which connects with the right-hand side of the brain. This is where creativity, emotion and hunger are processed, and memories of pleasurable experiences are stored. Therefore smell is the sense which can trigger an impulse reaction.

Branding is about creating an emotional connection with users and therefore aroma is a powerful ally in doing this.

There is little logic involved in impulse purchases! For this reason, aroma is being increasingly used to build brand recognition even further. It is a powerful yet subtle way to gain customer loyalty, especially in such industries as retail, hospitality, healthcare, finance or any enclosed environments. You find yourself feeling good in certain places without really knowing why.

Aroma is so powerful, that some brands have been created or relaunched using it as their USP. Think Herbal Essences as one example. It was originally launched as a single shampoo. But in the 1990s it was relaunched using commercials featuring women moaning with pleasure while using the product. The shampoos offered “a totally organic experience” thanks to their unique and luxurious perfumes.

Even if the groaning has gone away, the perfume of the shampoos remains the luxurious spirit of the brand, as shown in this latest commercial.

Other examples which have been launched in the past few years, positioned primarily on aroma, include Jeyes Bloo Foam Aroma and P&G’s Lenor Unstoppables™.

 

Packaging

Colour and shape are important elements of recognition. But packaging goes way beyond this today. A pack can become a brand’s signature, whether through its unique form, touch or sound. Yes, a pack can have a sound too – see the numerous examples below.

When thinking shape, Coke obviously springs to mind first, but Toblerone chocolate, Perrier water and Pringles chips also have distinctive packs. Their success can be witnessed by the copy-cat look-alike packs that have been launched by competitors ever since. In some cases even the pack’s colour is similar, making brand identification on-shelf more of a challenge.

Unique forms have also become important in a number of industries as a way of combating market saturation or stagnation. These include cigarettes, candies, condiments and perfumes. In the later, product shape plays a vital role since the bottles are transparent and the majority are colourless too. Luxury can therefore only be suggested through the caps’ materials and the form of it as well as of the bottles.

Shape can also be used as a differentiator in providing additional benefits. Think about the Heinz Ketchup squeeze bottle or the pump dispensers offered on products from cosmetics to liquid hand wash.

Companies are paying more attention to the sound their products’ packaging makes too. There is the well-known clunk of a luxury car door (not sure if we would call it a pack!), but also of the lid closing on a Pantene shampoo bottle. The click of a pen cap or mascara wand when closed are studied and evaluated so that they give just the right sound for associations with luxury or safety.

Branding is becoming ever more challenging with the explosion of products and new product offers being launched each year. Therefore to stand out from the competition, a brand needs more elements to identify its image and personality.

As I have shared, its face, voice, sound, tone, aroma and pack all increase its differentiation and enhance brand recognition. In addition, research shows that stimulating more of a user’s senses significantly increase loyalty. It has been estimated that senses account for 25-30% of a brand’s revenue! So what are you waiting for?  


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How to Stop Brand Decline: Following Brand Image is More than Meets the Eye

If the headline caught your eye, then you are probably challenged by a declining brand. Am I right?

Unfortunately for you, I’m not going to give you an easy five-step solution to turn around that faltering, or dying brand. And I will chastise you for letting it get that far! But I’ll also give you five ideas to help you understand why your brand is declining.

I was speaking with an ex-colleague of mine who is frustrated by her boss – aren’t we all at times? She is working on a brand that is globally doing OK, but the brand image results are beginning to show some worrying signs. The most important attributes identified for the product are all trending in the wrong direction.

Her boss continues to argue that since sales are good, why should they worry? He even went further and claimed that as the brand’s sales were doing well, there was no reason to continue to measure its image! This is just madness; wouldn’t you agree?

Brand image metrics are one of the best ways to follow the health of the brandif you are following the right attributes. 

Brand image metrics are one of the best ways to follow the health of the brand. #brand #marketing #brandimage Click To Tweet

By right I mean metrics that are relevant for the brand and the category. I have heard marketers request to measure their advertising slogans in a brand image study. This is obviously wrong, but it still comes up regularly when I’m working with a relatively inexperienced marketer. The reason you don’t is because slogans change, but the essence of a brand shouldn’t.

So if you don’t measure its advertising (directly), what should you measure? I think that the three most important areas to cover are:

  • the rational, functional benefits
  • the emotional, subjective benefits
  • the relational, cultural benefits

Let me give some examples, so you better understand:

  • Rational, Functional: removes stains, has a crunchy coating, offers 24-hour service.
  • Emotional, subjective: trustworthy brand, high quality, makes me more attractive.
  • Relational, cultural: a Swiss brand, trendy, traditional

In addition to these three image areas, I would suggest you also follow the brand’s personality and value perception. Both of these will impact its image and can provide clues to help understand changes in the image.

One further best practice is to also follow your main competitors so you have a good perspective of the category and its main selling points. Sometimes declines in image come from a competitor emphasizing an attribute for which you were previously known. As a result, although your brand hasn’t changed anything, its association with the attribute can decline due to the competitive actions.

Coming back to my friend and her manager, she asked me what she could do to persuade her boss to continue measuring brand image. This is what I told her to discuss with him.

  1. Review the attributes that have been measured, especially those showing the largest changes. Can you agree on why these have happened? Are you measuring the right metrics that cover the category or are you in need of updating them? Markets change and perhaps your attributes no longer reflect the latest sensitivities. This might be the reason for the image declines while sales continue to rise because the brand corresponds to these new customer needs and desires.
  2. Review customer care line discussions to see what customers are calling in about. See if there are any comments that tie in with the image attribute changes. These discussions will also highlight any areas that you are not currently following in your image tracker – see #1.
  3. Review your customer persona. Have you followed their changes or are you appealing to a new segment of users? If the latter, this might explain the sales increases. However, if you are measuring your brand image on a sub-group of category users that no longer reflect your current customers, this could explain the decreasing metrics. For more information on how to complete a detailed persona description, check out “How well do you know your customers?”
  4. Review market dynamics. If you are following sales and not share, you may be losing customers to other brands which are driving market growth. This might explain why sales are growing, but the image is declining.
  5. Review social media discussion. Today we have the luxury of finding out what people really think about a brand from discussions on social media. If your brand has a solid following or a respected customer base that shares their experience online, then this is a great way to know what is working and what is not. People tend to share negative experiences more than positive ones, so rather than taking offence we can obtain valuable information about a brand’s vulnerabilities.

These five areas will make for a lively discussion for my friend and her boss. They should also provide the necessary information for you to slow and hopefully reverse the negative sales trend of your brand. Of course, once you have the knowledge on what to do, you will need to take appropriate actions, but I’ll cover that in another post.

Have you tried other ways to manage a declining brand? Have I missed other actions to take to better understand what is happening? If so I’d love you to share your own experiences.

Winning customer centricityThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, it’s coming soon!

What is your Brand Image & What does it Stand for? Ten Steps to Perfect Brand Image Following

Do you want to improve your brand image or that of your company? Silly question; of course you do. Who doesn’t? But do you know how to do so? The first essential is knowing where you are, before you can identify how to get where you want to be. If you are interested in some tips on how to improve your own image following then read on.

I was recently contacted by a company that needed help improving its image. They had already started conducting market research but realised very quickly that they needed more than that. I reviewed what they had already done and the next steps they were planning and I was extremely happy. Not because of all the work in progress but rather because they had called me in. I was able to save them both time and money, as well as considerable effort in all the low value-added work they were doing and planning.

From that experience I came up with the following ten point plan for all companies wishing to improve their brand and company image.

What is your image today?

Magnified customer with a great br and imageThe company I referred to above had already started doing market research to measure their image. Unfortunately what they were doing was going to be of little if any use to them in setting the baseline of where their image is today. This is what they should have done:

#1. Identify the most important attributes on which you want your brand to be measured; remember to include rational, emotional and relational items
#2. Add the major attributes associated with your most important competitors
#3. Run a quantitative measurement using these attributes
#4. Analyse images amongst different category user groups

These first four steps will help you identify exactly where you are today and how your image compares to your competitors.

What do you want your image to be?

Happy man with a great br and imageOnce you know where you are, you need to identify what changes you would like to make. Are some of your desired image attributes weak, whilst others which are of less importance are (too) strong?

#5. Identify the similarities and difference between your brand and its major competitors
#6. Choose a maximum of three changes you want to make over the next year; it is unrealistic to try to impact more and three will already be a challenge, even with an important communication’s budget

How are you going to change your image?

Man with TV advertisingOnce you have decided on the three attributes you want to build, identify how you are going to strengthen them. Identify:

#7. Which media and shopping habits do your user group have and how do they fit with your current activities?
#8. What is the overlap with your major competitors and are there any gaps from which you could benefit to make your budgets go further?
#9. Plan your improved communications and shopper marketing plans
#10. Plan a new image measurement

These are the ten simplified steps to measuring and following your brand / company image. By following them you will get a solid basis on which to build a better image.

I would like to add one additional comment on corporate branding. If you have more than one brand, it would be important to continue with research into the fit between brand and corporate images. Your image might be exactly what you want it to be, but if there is a mismatch with your corporate brand image, this could damage both in the long term.

How many of these steps do you do and are there any you ignore? Why? Do you include further steps during your own process? If so I would love to hear what I’ve missed; just drop me a comment in the box below and I’ll respond right back.

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