No matter how great a brand believes itself to be, the real verdict lies in the hands of the public.

Truly consumer-centric brands work hard to stay up-to-date with how their market is feeling to help them stay relevant, anticipate risks, and maximize the rewards of their marketing efforts. 

It’s obvious that a brand that activates positive associations from its audience will have more favorable outcomes to one that doesn’t. What’s not so obvious is how brands can retrieve information on customer perceptions, and action their findings.

Here we discuss the ins and outs of customer perceptions, why they’re relevant now, and how to measure them.

What are customer perceptions?

Put simply, this is about  what your customers (and potential customers) think.

But not every thought is of value to a brand, so to effectively analyze customer perceptions, it helps to break this down into two categories:

  • Opinions towards your brand and its competitors.
  • Opinions towards aspects of wider life and themselves that could influence purchasing behaviors.

These thoughts and feelings will affect your brand’s capacity to attract new customers and maintain positive relationships with current customers.

Why do they matter?

Customer perceptions are shaped by the world we live in. 

And with the global population facing substantial changes to daily work and living routines, and with new purchasing behaviors emerging in parallel, now’s the time to really tune into how your customers are feeling.

As Kanika Bali, Digital Strategist at a leading marketing and advertising agency, told us: 

“The customer will decide which brands are remembered and which are forgotten after this time. So be there for them.”

And what does the data say? 

Consumers globally are looking towards brands at this time to elicit a positive response – more so than the government in many cases.

Chart showing consumers expect brands to lead the response

Our research also shows that, right now, consumers are making a ‘positive mindset’ their main priority for the next month (59%). Following that is ensuring that they have necessary items (52%), and then maintaining relationships with friends and family (48%). 

Paying attention to overarching trends like these and then delving into what matters most to your specific audiences is the best policy for ensuring you build and maintain positive customer perceptions towards your brand, and know what to tap into in uncertain times.

Doing this means consumers are well disposed towards your brand, more likely to seek it out and choose you over competitors.

Conversely, negative perceptions towards your brand will not only make people more likely to turn to rival brands, but encourage them to share unfavorable opinions with others, fueling further negative sentiment.

In short, customer perceptions are inextricably linked to a company’s bottom line in times of crisis.

Measuring customer perceptions

There are a number of ways to access the data needed to gage how consumers perceive both your brand and themselves.

1. Look into their attitudes and lifestyles.

To successfully shift consumer perceptions, brands first need to understand how and why their target consumers might identify with their offering. 

Psychographic data offers insights into the lives of your target audience, from self-perceptions and interests to their professional lives. Let them know that you understand what drives them, and deliver what they need. 

Only then can they set about shifting perceptions in the desired direction, using insights to guide the way.

2. Unravel emotional brand connections with brand data.

Deep consumer data can measure the rational response to your brand, but also the more difficult-to-measure instinctive responses.

Instinctive responses are a key indicator of your brand’s reputation. They’re a driver in decision-making and the more automatic the response to your brand is, the greater the emotional bond.

3. Fill in the gaps with custom surveys.

Custom surveys allow you to ask the questions you need answers to, and disentangle the impact of individual touchpoints on the brand experience.

If you’re identifying key sentiments amongst your target market, or perceptions towards your brand, survey data cuts through the noise, so you can ask consumers what they think of your brand directly. 

Combining a custom survey with wider data sets on consumer trends helps contextualize these findings provides more scope for detailed analysis.

4. Monitor social media.

Conversations about brands increasingly occur on social media platforms. Track what’s being said about your brand and competitor brands, identify trends, and engage in the conversation.

5. Read online reviews.

Understanding how people are rating your company and its products is a valuable source of detailed insight. Use your marketing to address any common misconceptions or capitalize on recurring positives and feed this intelligence back to the product team.

Case study: BuzzFeed

A recognized leader in viral content for younger internet users (18-34), BuzzFeed wanted to challenge common perceptions around the brand, proving its appeal to far more than just millennials, opening up new advertising opportunities. 

The challenge

“One thing we wanted to change with our international markets in particular was how brands viewed us as an advertising partner, beating down some common misconceptions”, says Jackie Lundblad, Head of International Insights at BuzzFeed.

In order to shift these perceptions, they needed to gather local insights.

The action

Using data gathered from the GWI platform, BuzzFeed could analyze their wider audience in depth, which led to them uncovering key insights that challenged misconceptions in certain markets.

Focusing first on their Australian market, the in-house teams created a number of targeted newsletters showcasing some of their most impactful findings that proved their mass appeal.

“For the first of these newsletters, we decided to focus on Australian moms as this is obviously an audience we have, but it’s one that’s often overlooked,” says Jackie. 

The result

By positioning themselves as experts on their consumers while proving their appeal to far more than just millennials, BuzzFeed was able to:

  • Successfully shift perceptions by proving their appeal across demographics.
  • Earn client trust with consumer insight unavailable elsewhere.
  • Boost interest in advertising across emerging markets.

“Using GlobalWebIndex, we were able to tell a story centered around our readers’ financial situations and life events. That provided us with the fuel we needed to shift those perceptions and build that level of trust,” says Jackie. 

It’s about building empathy through solid research 

Brands that harness today’s wealth of data to find out exactly who their customers are, what motivates them, how they feel about the brand and how they relate to its products and services, will emerge from this crisis.

Collecting detailed information around how your customers are feeling towards your brand and beyond is the basis for delivering impactful messaging and a well conceived, genuine brand purpose.

Why? By staying in touch with what matters most to them, you can build the level of empathy that’s needed to drive truly meaningful relationships.

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