What is Brand Image?
Brand Image is the impression consumers have about a brand.
It’s developed over time based on every interaction consumers have with a business.
While it only exists in the mind of consumers, this subjective perception includes associations with:
- products and services,
- the brand, or
- an entire business
and refers mainly to the ability of a brand to satisfy consumers’ needs and desires.
If you have read our Guide about Brands, you will notice that the definition of Brand and Brand Image are very similar.
That is because both are based on the fact that a brand exists in the minds of consumers.
Why is Brand Image important to a business?
Brand image is essential to a business because it significantly affects the purchasing decision process of consumers.
The higher the level of consumer involvement, the more severe the brand image becomes.
Strong profiling of your brand is particularly important in the following markets:
- markets with strong competition
- saturated markets
A well-known and popular Brand Image can also be very advantageous to enforce prices.
Why Brand Image is important
If you want to sell your products and services easily, you need to have a powerful Brand Image.
The question is: What makes your Brand Image so relevant?
Read this chapter to find out.
Why create a strong Brand Image?
There are five reasons how your business benefits from a strong Brand Image:
- Customer Recognition
Consumers enjoy simplicity and saving time. Having many brands to choose from, recognizing a brand because of its image makes the purchase much easier and faster.
Consumers buy specific products and services to express their personality. If your brand matches their needs and differs from your competitors at the same time, it makes it much easier for consumers to connect with your brand.
- Customer loyalty
Customers are attracted to brands that they’ve had positive experiences with. A strong brand image works as an emotional bond between you and your customers.
- Ease of purchase
Consumers want to buy goods and services from businesses they know, like, and trust. Being a reliable, well-known brand improves your credibility, which makes it very easy for potential customers to buy from your brand.
- Easy introduction of new products
Consumers love new products of brands that they’ve already bought lots of times. When you want to introduce new products and services, that’s a significant advantage over any competitor without a powerful Brand Image.
Are there any conflicts that might come up?
A conflict that occurs regularly is the struggle between image and profitability.
That is mainly due to the way both work.
The image tries to build long-term preferences for a brand to increase sales.
Profitability tries to reduce costs in the short term to increase profitability.
As you can see, while both goals try to increase earnings, they vary in terms of time horizon.
Brand image causes costs for long-term benefits while rentability saves costs to increase short-term profitability.
How does Brand Image drive Brand Equity?
Brand Image is related to Brand Equity, as it increases
- Brand Loyalty,
- perceived quality and
- customer preferences.
Research has shown that the extent to which Brand Image drives Brand Equity depends on the theoretical model used to evaluate Brand Equity.
How to create Brand Image
Having a solid Brand Image boosts your sales.
However, how do consumers form a Brand Image in the first place?
Also, how do you create a strong for your brand? Let’s dive right in.
Are there any conditions for a brand image to develop?
For a brand image to develop, Brand Awareness is a mandatory condition.
That includes the ability to remember a brand (brand recall) or to recognize it after acoustic or visual support (brand recognition) and to assign this information to a product category.
A high level of brand awareness significantly favors image building.
Without Brand Awareness, no one knows your brand, so no one has an image of it.
Since brand awareness is the requirement for the development of a brand image, it cannot be part of the image itself.
How do consumers form a Brand Image?
It works as follows: Brand Awareness > Brand Likeability > Brand Use
Once consumers are aware of a brand, they form a Brand Image by experiences over time.
These experiences include:
- actual experiences with the products or services,
- marketing and advertising, or
- word of mouth.
If customers like the encounters of a product or service, they will buy it regularly.
Consistent messages and experiences enhance the formation of a positive Brand Image.
How do you create a Brand Image for your business?
To understand how to create a Brand Image, let’s assume you are just starting with a new store.
You’ve already completed tasks like:
- writing a Business Plan,
- developing a product or service, and
- defining a Brand Identity.
Consumers don’t know your brand so far, so there is no Brand Awareness.
This changes at opening day, where consumers become aware of your brand for the first time.
They might see your store or your website for the first time, they might have the first interactions with you or your employees, and some might even make their first purchase.
By these experiences, consumers do not only build Brand Awareness but also start building a Brand Image.
For the next few years, you proceed to grow your business, whereby a rising number of consumers becomes aware of your brand.
For the simple reason that they’ll have many more encounters with your brand, their brand image will grow stronger by the day.
How to manage Brand Image
Of course, you care what buyers think of your brand.
After all, a beneficial Brand Image sells your brand.
See how you achieve just that.
How do you manage Brand Image?
Management always involves setting a strategy to utilize one or more business goals.
This simple definition of management already suggests that you cannot manage Brand Image actively.
Let me explain:
Management involves two things: a goal and a strategy.
While the goal of Brand Image aims to have an impact outside your business (which is consumers to have an image, that sells your products and services in the best way possible), you can only map out a strategy for goals that are within your business.
The goal of the Brand image is outside your business (and within your customers), while the strategy always is within your company.
So you can’t manage Brand Image actively.
That’s why the concept of Brand Image is not so relevant in Brand Strategy.
And anyone who tells you differently doesn’t understand how brands function.
What to manage instead?
Instead of managing Brand Image, you can manage your brand itself.
By creating the appropriate conditions for the formation of the desired brand image, you can inactively affect the brand image.
You can do so by managing your Brand Identity.
Every brand has a Brand Identity. Identity is within a business, so it is manageable.
By ensuring that consumers’ experiences with your brand always correspond to your brand identity as closely as possible, you create the conditions for the formation of the desired brand image.
Is it possible to change a Brand Image?
Some advertisers have the understanding that they could crank out one ad to change a Brand Image.
This is not how it works.
It’s hard to change a Brand Image.
That’s because an image is never based on the latest advertisement seen.
It’s the result of all previous contacts consumers have had with a brand.
Therefore, a brand image is always outdated because experiences from the past shape it.
Today the brand might cause totally different experiences.
However, until the image of the Brand changes, it will take quite some time.
For example, Toyota used to be the car manufacturer that has the Brand Image of exceptional quality and durability.
The number of product recalls shows that this is not true anymore.
However, it will take quite some time for consumers to change their Brand Image.