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How to track your brand perception

The idea that “perception is reality” has more than a kernel of truth to it. How individuals think and feel about something is their reality, even in instances when it represents a limited or skewed view.

It’s essential to understand and track customer perceptions of your brand. How your brand is perceived has far-reaching implications that can and will impact every aspect of your business in one way or another from how fast your products are selling, to whether your social media content goes viral (in either good or bad ways), to influencing if top talent is eager to work for your company.

What is brand perception?

Brand perception is the sum of the thoughts and feelings a consumer has about a particular brand. For example, it may include whether the consumer is aware of the brand, what they may have heard about the brand, how they think about the brand, and how the consumer is interacting with the brand. Brand perception goes beyond the brand itself and actually includes the products, services, and even the company’s employees. Brand perception is really all-encompassing.

The idea that “perception is reality” has more than a kernel of truth to it. How individuals think and feel about something is their reality, even in instances when it represents a limited or skewed view.

It’s essential to understand and track customer perceptions of your brand. How your brand is perceived has far-reaching implications that can and will impact every aspect of your business in one way or another from how fast your products are selling, to whether your social media content goes viral (in either good or bad ways), to influencing if top talent is eager to work for your company.

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Brand perception is important for tracking key metrics like brand loyalty and your customers’ experience—factors that ultimately influence other key aspects of your business such as sales, product development, marketing, and advertising.

Getting a firm grasp on how brand perception is shaped and how it can evolve, as well as knowing how to effectively track brand perception can position your company to leverage your strengths, course correct as needed, and ultimately drive customer engagement, growth and profitability.

Your brand attributes help customers to not only recognize your brand, but also bring your brand to life. Read more about the SurveyMonkey Brand Attributes to help you to identify and develop your brand.

How brand perception is shaped

Think about some of your favorite brands – it could be big well-knowns such as Apple, Harley Davidson, perhaps a lesser-known regional retailer, or even a hometown coffee shop.

Now think about why you like them. What information, experiences, recommendations or other factors created and fostered your current perception? Of course, your answers could very well take into account scores of different touchpoints, and they likely differ significantly from others who share your allegiance to a particular brand.

Point being, everything has the potential to count when it comes to shaping perceptions of your brand. It could be your multi-million dollar advertising campaign featuring popular athletes. But maybe it’s the fact that a waitress at your restaurant offered to use her tip money to cover your lunch that day you forgot your wallet.

  • Social media: The increasing influence of social media and online reviews have added another layer of complexity to shaping brand perceptions as consumers more freely and publicly share their views of brands to a potentially large audience. The steady flow of information on particular brands has made today’s consumers more knowledgeable, but also less loyal. 
  • Purpose-built messaging: Consumers are looking for better experiences and are willing to switch brands until they find one that meets their needs. Which is why creating and maintaining a unique brand matters. With so many factors influencing brand perceptions, it’s critical that companies are purposeful in developing their brands and what they stand for, and then to make sure everyone throughout the company understands the pillars of the brand and their role in creating positive perceptions.
  • Customer experience: Within a customer experience, there will always be friction points. Maybe in consumer packaged goods that means a product is broken in transit. For a technology company, it could be that an ad campaign ends up inadvertently offending a certain segment of the population. Elements like this contribute to a customer experience that may shape brand perceptions.

Finding ways to consistently measure and track brand perception will ensure you have clear visibility into how your customers are thinking and feeling about your company. That way you can address specific issues quickly while doing more of what’s resonating in positive ways with customers.

How to track brand perception

There are lots of ways to track brand perception—some of them are focused on active listening to what customers are saying, while others are more proactive such as customer satisfaction and brand perception surveys. By blending different sources to track brand perception you can get a holistic and current read on how your brand is being perceived.

Customer surveys

Customer surveys should be at the top of your list when it comes to getting direct feedback from customers on things associated with the perception of your brand. More specifically, brand perception surveys hone in on the key issues that play a role in your customers attitudes and feelings about your company.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Survey

CSAT surveys are designed to provide sound data and insights into how satisfied customers are with your company’s products and services, and how satisfaction translates into their perceptions of your company. CSAT surveys are built on the simple premise that the best way to find out the degree to which your customers are satisfied is to simply ask them on a consistent basis. Measuring customer satisfaction usually means asking customers to rate their experiences. 

A typical question is often: How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the service you received?

Answer choices are usually from 1-5 scale, in which 1 represents very unsatisfied and 5 represents very satisfied.

Once customers respond, you can measure your score by:

(Number of satisfied customers (4 and 5) / Number of survey responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customer

You only include responses of 4 (satisfied) and 5 (very satisfied) in the calculation, because it’s been shown that using the two highest values on customer feedback surveys is the most accurate predictor of customer retention.

CSAT surveys also often conclude by inviting respondents to share open-ended feedback that can provide deeper perspective into the issues that contributed to them feeling good, bad or indifferent about your company.In addition to providing ongoing tracking, CSAT surveys can identify aspects of your business that customers value and appreciate. And just as importantly, CSAT survey provides unhappy customers an easy way to voice frustrations. While negative feedback isn’t fun, by hearing directly from customers through  a CSAT survey, your company can quickly respond to rectify a problem or at least provide an explanation for why a situation occurred.

Explore the question types and examples of customer satisfaction surveys

Net Promoter Score® (NPS) survey

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the gold standard of measurement in customer experience programs. NPS measures the loyalty of customers to a company based on how likely they are to recommend a company’s products or services to others. NPS scores are measured with a single question survey and reported with a number from -100 to +100, with a higher score being the most desirable. First developed in 2003 by Bain and Company, it’s now used by millions of businesses to measure and track how they’re perceived by their customers.

It measures customer perception based on one simple question: How likely is it that you would recommend [Organization X/Product Y/Service Z] to a friend or colleague?

Respondents give a rating between 0 (not at all likely) and 10 (extremely likely) and, depending on their response, customers fall into one of 3 categories to establish an NPS score:

  • Promoters respond with a score of 9 or 10 and are typically loyal and enthusiastic customers.
  • Passives respond with a score of 7 or 8. They are satisfied with your service but not happy enough to be considered promoters.
  • Detractors respond with a score of 0 to 6. These are unhappy customers who are unlikely to buy from you again, and may even discourage others from buying from you.

Brand perception surveys

Surveys for customer satisfaction, NPS, and a third—brand perception—are the three primary types of brand perception surveys. Each of which plays a unique role in capturing and measuring how your customers perceive your company. There are instances when it makes sense to leverage all of these surveys, while other times you may focus on one or two options to generate the data and insights that are most useful for what you are trying to discover, track, and quantify.

Try using our Brand Perception Survey Template to understand how your customers perceive your brand.

Brand awareness survey

How much of your target market knows you exist? For those that do, what do they know about your company and how do they view it compared to your key competitors?

A brand awareness survey aims to answer those questions by measuring how aware your target market is of your brand while also capturing key demographic data. Results of brand awareness surveys allow for detailed analysis of how consumers view your brand, and how you can improve and differentiate its positioning among target audiences.

Often in the retail and services spaces, brand awareness surveys assess the ability for customers to recognize your brand from a list of several brands presented to respondents. In a sense, these surveys replicate what your target market experiences while shopping, such as assessing the options in the soft drink aisle in a supermarket.

Brand perception survey questions

Brand perception survey questions aim to explore respondents' familiarity and opinions on your brand, with some questions posed in creative ways to elicit more robust and insightful responses. Examples include:

  • How familiar are you with this brand?
  • How would you describe your opinion of this brand?
  • How would you rate this brand on a scale of 1-10?
  • When you think of this brand, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
  • How does this brand make you feel?
  • If our brand is not your first choice, what brand do you prefer?

Google Alerts

Back in the day, if you wanted to know if companies or the media was talking about your brand, you had to pay for a media clipping service. Obviously things have changed dramatically, and when it comes to keeping a pulse on how your brand is being discussed and perceived, Google Alerts is a powerful tool.

Google Alerts is one of the many free and useful online tools Google offers to anyone on the web. It’s essential for companies that need an easy way to monitor their online presence and, because it’s free, it doesn’t require investing in an expensive monitoring service.

You can track various things related to your company through Google Alerts:

  • Company name
  • Company leaders
  • Products offered
  • Services offered
  • Competitive terms 

How to set up Google Alerts:

  1. Visit Google Alerts site
  2. Enter the search term you want to be notified about (e.g., company name, executive name, product, industry topic, competitor, etc.)
  3. Select “Show Options”
  4. Choose how often you'd like to be notified and fill in other requested information

Social media monitoring

Social media has altered the landscape when it comes to brand perception. The ease and frequency in which your customers and others can post or Tweet about your brand are limitless. At any given time, a social media post about your brand—whether it be positive or negative—has the potential to go viral drawing outside attention to your company.

On a more routine basis, monitoring social media allows you to consistently track how your  brand is being perceived in real time, and also provides you an opportunity to respond when appropriate.

Ideally, your team should be tracking all social media channels on a regular basis, as well as having a process for capturing the feedback and responding. There’s a wide range of social media monitoring tools to help streamline the process. 

Online reviews

Online reviews can have a major impact on your company, and how your brand is perceived.

A recent study found that over one-third of respondents (38%) said reviews offer the most helpful social media content and 52% of online shoppers conducting research before buying start by reading online reviews. To win their trust, 34% of consumers expect unbiased reviews.

Consumers often turn to established online review platforms to provide their own reviews of products and services and read those posted by others. Among the must-monitor review platforms are:

  • YELP: A go-to source for many consumers trying to assess products and services. It also publishes crowd-sourced reviews about businesses
  • Angi: Formally known as Angie’s List, Angi is an online directory that allows users to read and publish crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses and contractors.
  • Google My Business (GMB): GMB is a free tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. GMB helps customers find your business, and to tell them your story.

Brand perception examples

Beyond doughnuts

For decades, Dunkin’ Donuts was positioned as a donut shop. Yet the company realized that perceptions and doughnuts, in and of themselves, were turning negative among much of the population. This awareness led the company to rebrand, changing its name to simply Dunkin’ but sticking with its long-running slogan of “America Runs on Dunkin’.”

The changes included positioning the company as a “beverage-led, on-the-go brand,” rather than a donut destination. They’ve also invested $100 million in a newly redesigned store concept and new equipment to aid the on-the-go beverage strategy as well.

A crafty Fox

The Fox News brand offers an example of a company that actively manages its brand perception to align with the preferences of their target audience. To Fox News loyalists, the Fox News brand is perceived as “fair and balanced” while those who don’t like Fox News would beg to differ. Yet when it comes to brand perception, Fox doesn’t focus on those that don’t like the company—in fact the outspoken opposition to Fox actually helps strengthen the positive brand perception of their loyal viewers.

Geographic change

Many among us likely have memories of paging through National Geographic magazine while visiting grandma’s house. Yet today’s National Geographic is well, not your grandma’s National Geographic.

By assessing ongoing trends of how consumers want to consume information, National Geographic has evolved with changing times. With an updated logo that appears as a window’s view into global culture, National Geographic has expanded its presence through a TV channel and social media to position itself as a vehicle for connecting us to our greater “human family” rather than a stark display of our differences.

Ready to start tracking your brand perception?

Like it or not, perception is reality. And to succeed and thrive into the future your company needs to deal with that reality on a daily basis, by consistently tracking brand perception and adapting accordingly, you can solidify your brand to build strong loyalty with existing customers and continue to attract new ones.

A great place to start ramping up your brand perception focus is to put our brand tracker to work for you. And SurveyMonkey’s brand tracking surveys make it easy for you to keep your finger on the pulse of how your target audience is thinking and feeling about your brand.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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