2021 has been a year of unprecedented change in many aspects, branding and marketing included. 2021 will no doubt follow the same path. With such a sudden shift toward digital services, social distancing, and online shopping, companies need to rethink their brand perception strategies.
According to Small Biz Genius 89% of customers stay loyal to brands that share their values, with 73% loving brands that provide helpful servicing. Likewise, Finances Online reported that 66% of customers are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies.
But where does brand perception fit in?
Brand perception is in a unique position of public advertisement which can help companies solidify their stand on the market despite current COVID-19 related changes. In practice, brand perception revolves around the customer base’s literal “perception” of what your company stands for.
For example, as reported by BBC, Nestle is currently facing a major negative brand perception hit due to its contamination of river fauna in France. This type of behavior is contrary to their mission statements which paints the company as hypocritical and revenue-oriented. Such a public display caused a negative uproar from customers and NGOs alike, affecting their brand perception.
Naturally, companies will want to steer away from such negative press and instead build strong brand perception with their target audience. But how can you shift your company’s brand perception to a more efficient strategy in 2021, and what are the benefits of doing so? The answers are here.
Reevaluation of Safety & Reliability
What was once considered safe and reliable by consumers has been turned on its head by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Even brands with the most loyal customer base can no longer take sales for granted and need to work on easing the fears of people.
Control of personal finance and budget is an area that has raised the concern of many in regards to the safety of their funds and wellbeing. Simple, an online digital banking service, has seen the positive in this turn of perception. It has made it its mission to establish itself as the most trustworthy brand amongst the competition.
Its mission is to provide its clients with a safe, reliable, and around-the-clock banking service, distancing itself from traditional banks and financial institutions. Taking such a bold stance can be seen as brave and pro-consumer in 2021 given that we face a shift in traditional values. As such, an emphasis on cooperation, teamwork, family values, and trust can be extremely helpful for your brand perception strategy.
Personalization of Pricing Structures
Although brand is extremely important, at the end of the day, companies need to generate revenue in order to remain viable on the market. But what happens if your brand value and perception is being questioned?
Recent changes in employment rates and income have raised concerns over many subscription-based services and their necessity for everyday living. However, that doesn’t mean impending doom if you can manage to change perception.
An example of a brand actively working to change how people think is Stichfix, a clothing company with an emphasis on personalized “loot box” shopping. What separates Stichfix from traditional apparel brands is their reliance on personalized services.
Each customer begins their journey by filling out a survey about their wants and needs in regards to clothing. The company curates which items it will ship and offers money-back guarantees and free shipping or exchanges to sweeten the pot. While such a business model may not be sustainable for many industries, it can apply to a majority of retail-based services. Plus, such branding will paint a brand image of a trustworthy, friendly, and personalized company for customers on a tight budget.
Emphasis on Contactless Servicing
Now more than ever, emphasizing that your brand is socially responsible can be extremely beneficial. This is especially true if your company relies on any form of retail model, be it grocery shopping or food delivery. The implementation of contactless servicing can build a caring, safety-first image of your brand.
A great example of contactless customer servicing can be found in Dominos, a fast-food chain that showcases responsibility and trust in these strange times. Dominos offers total contactless delivery to any of its customers given the COVID-19 situation. As such, it has garnered public praise and improved its brand perception to a pro-consumer company.
Placing an emphasis on social responsibility and health safety is an extremely important part of brand marketing in 2021. Failing to provide customers with a sense of security will quickly result in a dip of public trust, which is what happened with Gamestop. The company failed to respond to the crisis fast enough to make a difference to its brand perception, losing what trust they garnered so far.
Photo by Vishu Gowda on Unsplash
Building Your Own Audience
It’s very difficult to cater to everyone when it comes to branding and customer expectations. Some would say that such a task is impossible, even if companies such as Coca-Cola have done their best to disprove them. However, given the increased emphasis on building trust between brands and customers, it’s pivotal that you settle for your target demographic quickly.
Building brand perception based on who you target with content, style guide, and PR will make or break your company in these strange times. The Fox brand is a good example of the old guard coming to terms with new audiences. The company recently started building a brand perception of a trustworthy news source in line with modern times and contemporary viewer expectations. Taking such an approach to branding and settling for who you talk to with your brand will do wonders for your company’s performance in 2021.
Value of User-Generated Content
With social distancing in effect, many customers might feel cut off from their friends and colleagues. However, given that they can engage their favorite brands online, it’s time to reevaluate your user-generated content strategy. Companies such as Adobe have a long-standing practice of showcasing the works of their customers to global audiences. Given that the Adobe software suite is based on visual content creation, it’s a win-win for the company to implement UGC into its brand marketing.
Such a strategy can be used regardless of what niche you belong to. Get in touch with your customers via email or social media posts and ask for UGC submissions. Showcase representative work, comment on it, and even go as far as to offer small gifts to the best pieces. Make the most of the situation we find ourselves in to boost your brand perception for the foreseeable future.
Community-Based Brand Development
Lastly, you can take full advantage of these strange times by introducing a community-led development pipeline into your business model. Your customer base might be the best place to look when it comes to ideas about your brand perception. Create surveys which you will distribute to your mailing list and publish on web platforms such as your site and social media pages. Announce an initiative to involve your customers in the process of developing new features for your product or platform to engage the audience.
This is the strategy used by Slack, a cloud-based project management provider whose ideology revolves around community engagement. They frequently and efficiently communicate with their users on new features, bug fixes, and quality of life improvements for anyone who might use the platform. This is an extremely pro-consumer move that can have significant results on your brand perception in 2021 and beyond.
Benefits of Positive Brand Perception
Now that we have a grasp at how you can take advantage of a planned brand perception strategy, what are the benefits of doing so? Smart branding can effectively transform the way people perceive your company, seemingly overnight. You should measure your brand awareness prior to any attempt to change your brand’s perception.
A great example of measuring brand awareness prior to making changes to marketing or servicing can be found in Airbnb and their survey system. Airbnb publishes its brand survey findings in the form of a blog post and uses the opportunity to announce upcoming changes based on gathered feedback.
Whether you rely on user-generated content or outsource blog writing to professional services, make sure that you have a plan. Doing so will help you make an informed decision on how to proceed. To summarize, some of the most beneficial outcomes of planning your brand perception strategy in 2020 and beyond include:
Organic attraction of new B2C and B2B clients without aggressive marketing
Ability to affect your business model and pricing structure due to high reputation
Customers’ benefit of the doubt to control your public relations (PR) in case of negative publicity
Easier introduction of new products and services to the market due to established trust
High return on the initial investment in the form of positive brand perception on the market
Whether you have an established stake on the market or are about to launch a new company, brand perception should be taken into account. While we do live in strange times, it’s still quite possible to create a pro-consumer brand image with your audience.
Audit your brand, gather your content creation stack, and flex your creative muscles. Establish a brand perception that coincides with your company culture, values, and long-term goals to attract the right customers more quickly. Before you know it, the perception of your brand will shift to a more positive, noteworthy image.