The Ultimate Guide to Brand Image

Think of your favorite brand. What’s so great about it?

Does it have amazing customer service? Quality products? Affordable prices?

Digging a little deeper – does the brand align with your own personal values? Do you feel like it really “gets” you and knows what you’re looking for?

Your perception of what this brand stands for and what it delivers to customers is its brand image.

And since it’s your favorite, they’ve done a pretty darn good job of building theirs, eh?

In this article, I’ll explain what brand image is, the importance of brand image, and some examples of companies that excel at conveying their brand image. I’ll also discuss how to create a brand image from scratch, and how to improve yours if it’s not quite meeting your expectations.

Ready? Onward we go.

What Is Brand Image?

According to Philip Kotler – an American author of more than 60 marketing bookswho’s been given the lofty title of “the father of modern marketing” – defines brand image as “a set of beliefs, ideas, and impressions that a person holds” about the brand.

[Brand image] is a set of beliefs, ideas, and impressions that a person holds – Philip Kotler

In other words, brand image is how each person views the identity, purpose, and value of brands that they interact and potentially engage with.

The tricky thing about brand image is that, at the end of the day, you can’t fully control how each visitor or customer will perceive your brand.

That will vary from person to person. It’ll depend on their own personal beliefs, ideas, and impressions, and how you tie into that equation.

But what you can do is implement a brand image strategy that gives you the best possible chance of coming across the way you want to, which will ultimately increase your company’s chances of success.

Brand Identity vs. Brand Image

You might hear the terms brand identity and brand image used interchangeably, but there’s a difference.

In simple terms, you can think of brand identity as what you’re saying, and brand image as what people are hearing.

brand identity vs. brand image

Source

Your brand identity is the combination of all of your marketing and branding efforts, including your:

  • Logo and tagline
  • Aesthetic style, such as fonts, colors, and visuals
  • User experience and engagement
  • Overall brand tone and personality
  • Competitive positioning in your industry and niche
  • Marketing materials, campaigns, and channels
  • Customer service and support efforts

These are all things that you’re creating and publishing in an effort to sculpt your brand image. And the brand image is how it all lands for your audience.

In an ideal world, everything goes perfectly according to your plans.

To make this happen, you’ll need to do your research to make sure you’re catering to the traits and needs of your audience. You’ll also need to be on top of managing your own reputation.

Importance of Brand Image

Perhaps you’ve caught on by now that having a strong brand image that resonates with your audience is important.

I mean really important.

It can be a proverbial “make-or-break” for your company’s success.

Here are just a few reasons why you should focus on creating or enhancing your brand image.

1. A strong brand image improves recognition

A truly strong brand is one that’s so consistent and reliable that it’s recognizable from a mile away. And when you’re able to grow into a recognizable brand, you’re set up for many profitable years to come.

2. A strong brand image generates referrals

A powerful brand image works like glue, binding consumers to your company, so they work with you, stay with you, and tell others about your business.

3. A strong brand image increases revenue

A solid brand image is a direct influence on consumers’ buying decisions. People want to buy from companies they recognize, like, and trust. So, if you manage to create a strong brand image, you’re far more likely to make a sale.

Brand Image Examples for Inspiration

Let’s look at a few brands that have excelled at creating their brand images..

Warby Parker

Warby Parker revolutionized the way people buy eyeglasses by sending quality lenses straight to customers’ doors. In fact, this idea was so awesome that the company had a 20,000 customer–long waitlist within 48 hours after its launch!

One of its main crowd-pleasers is sending prospective customers five frames to try on for free. The company also has a strong philanthropic value proposition as part of its brand image – by donating a pair of glasses for every pair sold.

Also active on social media, Warby Parker also uses its own hashtags like #WearingWarby to build brand recognition among followers.

waby parker brand image

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club totally nailed it with its approach to breaking into the men’s grooming market.

The company’s creators saw the need for cheaper, more convenient access to razors, so it sent quality generic razors straight to customers’ doors for as little as a few dollars a month.

Dollar Shave Club’s first YouTube video in 2012 went viral, paving the way for a young and stylish – yet still totally goofy – brand that perfectly fit a unique market need.

brand image examples

And the company followed through on the brand’s promise – the blades were, in fact, f***cking great, and customers have continued coming back for more.

Headspace

Headspace is a meditation app with unique visual aesthetics that complement the brand’s overall tone.

The illustrations show cartoon “people” of all shapes and sizes, which tie into the overall brand image that anyone can use it as a resource for better health and happiness. Plus, they all have peaceful smiles on their cute, weird faces.

I, for one, am convinced that they’re healthy and happy.

headspace brand image

The head of design, Anna Charity, said that the team worked to rebrand meditation, eliminating “all the mysticism and cliched imagery associated with it” and making it feel more accessible to everyday people.

Now that you know the basics, let’s look at how to create a brand image.

Creating a Brand Image

As I mentioned above, your brand image is how your audience ultimately feels about the brand identity you’ve created from a marketing, advertising, and communication standpoint.

So, creating a brand image is the process of building your brand strategy and sticking to it in every facet of your brand.

Let’s go over some things to think about when learning how to create a brand image from scratch.

Audience Analysis and Personas

Pretty much everything you do should be shaped by your audience: their needs, interests, desires, preferences, and expectations.

That’s why you can’t skimp on market research and segmentation.

Try to cover these four bases when it comes to getting to know your audience:

  1. Geographics: details about their home city and country, like the climate and population – and how that influences purchasing habits
  2. Demographics: personal details like age, gender, education, income level, and life stage can have a big impact on the way they shop
  3. Psychographics: their lifestyle, interests, values, and attitudes toward different topics, which can help you better connect with them on a personal level
  4. Behavioral: how they behave in a shopping environment, like what they’re looking for, how they use these items, and where they are in the buying process

what is market segmentation

Value Proposition

Now that you know what your customers need and want, you can develop a clear idea of what you’re all about and how you can provide value to them. A value proposition is sort of like your internal mission statement and overall definition of your brand.

Your value proposition should answer these questions:

  • What do you offer your customers?
  • How and why do you do it?
  • What makes you unique and better than your competitors?

Consider how Shopify translates its value proposition into its marketing messaging:

value proposition brand image building

It has four main points for what it offers customers: start, sell, market, manage. And it drives these home through its website and other marketing materials, even including those items as the four main navigation tabs on the website.

shopify brand image

Brand Aesthetic and Personality

Tying the above elements together, you can figure out the best aesthetic and personality to draw in your customers.

Say you have a dropshipping store that sells novelty sunglasses to humor-loving millennials. You can create a lighthearted or eccentric brand that’s aimed at making your customers smile and showcasing their own quirky personality.

If you’re a financial consultant, you can use your brand to play into the deep emotional impact that one’s financial situation can have. In this case, your brand can be more stoic and comforting, illustrating that you know the importance of each client’s situation and that you can be trusted to help.

An awesome brand image example is the aesthetic of Shopify store BOREAL FOLK apothecary.

All of its branding and personality elements showcase how connected the store is to nature and the natural processes used to create its skincare products.

This shines through simple touches like the store’s stick tree logo, calm deep color palette, gorgeous nature-inspired photos, rugged fonts, and even how it chooses to break standard copy capitalization rules.

strong brand image

Pro tip: When designing your aesthetic, use color psychology to pick your brand color palette, including your logo.

Marketing Strategies

You know by now that marketing is an absolutely crucial element for building and growing a successful brand.

Once you understand your ideal customer, you can craft powerful messages and campaigns to speak to their souls and bank accounts.

You can also send out these messages on the channels and mediums where they’re most likely to be heard.

For example, younger audiences might respond well to Snapchat marketing, but there’s no point in even opening a Snapchat account if your audience doesn’t use the platform.

Social media marketing is generally a good idea, with Instagram being one of the top channels to use for this purpose.

BarkBox, a monthly subscription box for dog goodies, is a brilliant brand image example for Instagram. The company’s main strategy is creating adorable dog memes because that’s what the people want.

Give the people what they want.

brand image strategy

They even created a silly Instagram stories series for the “Game of Thrones” series finale – which shows that they’ve clearly done their research to know that their target audience loves “GoT.”

In this series of stories, two dogs recap what happened on the show.

Told you it’s silly.

Bonus: Check out these marketing strategy resources for some inspiration:

Remember: Consistency Is Key

One of the most critical steps for strong brand image building is to make sure your general vibe is consistent.

Everywhere. Always.

Here are some tips for making that happen:

  • Use the same visual aesthetics across all materials and platforms. This includes photo or illustration styles, filters, colors, icons, and fonts.
  • Likewise, use the same brand tone and voice in your copy. The tone is critical to personality perception, so all of your materials should support it.
  • Cross-pollinate your content. Email out your latest ebook, announce your new product line on social media, and use your website’s sale image in a Facebook ad.
  • Incorporate various channels into your sales funnel. Catch your audience on different channels to create a consistent cross-platform experience.

Now, let’s talk about how to enhance brand image after it’s been created.

How to Improve Brand Image

Have you established a brand image, but seen lackluster feedback or engagement on it?

You might benefit from polishing up your brand image. In fact, if you’re a relatively new company, it’s practically clockwork to need to tweak a few things to make sure you’re resonating with the right audience.

Brand image strategy is an iterative process – you just have to keep trying until you get it right.

To improve brand image, you’ll have to do some detective work.

It’s a quick three-step process that goes a little something like this:

  1. Collect feedback
  2. Draw meaningful conclusions
  3. Tweak and repeat as needed

1. Collect Feedback

You have to know what people think about your store before you can improve it.

There are lots of ways to collect feedback. You can take a passive approach, like reading customer reviews on your site, social media, or online listing websites. You can also gather insights from your store performance analytics.

To take a more active approach, trying sending out surveys and questionnaires.

Here’s a template for a quick-and-dirty brand image questionnaire that you can send out after a customer’s first purchase.

  1. How happy are you with your recent purchase? [1–10 scale]
  2. How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or family member?  [1–10 scale]
  3. Are you happy with your purchase? [Yes/No]
    1. Tell us a bit more. [Open answer]
  4. How can we improve your next experience? [Open answer]

You can do this by sending a quick email like ProFlowers did after I made a purchase.

brand image strategy

2. Draw Meaningful Conclusions

When I say “meaningful conclusions,” I mean gathering as much data as you can to try and understand what might be causing subpar or poor reviews.

It might help if you compare customer and order details against their brand image questionnaire results.

For example, say that you get consistently poor reviews from customers who didn’t like a certain product, or didn’t get their order in time when it was shipped to a certain region.

You might conclude that you should improve or nix that product, or try to find a different shipping partner for that region.

The name of the game is happier customers because happy customers mean that you’re pulling through on the brand image you’ve been flaunting all along.

3. Tweak and Repeat as Needed

Like I said, brand image building and improvement is all iterative.

Dig as deep as you can into your cold, hard data. Draw meaningful conclusions that make sense to apply to your brand image strategy. Implement those changes and see what the impact is.

Over time, you can use your same data collection techniques to see if you managed to improve brand image.

If you didn’t, get back to work!

Summary: Slaying with Your Brand Image

Due to rising market competition, establishing a distinct brand and a strong image has never been more important.

Businesses that take the time to get familiar with customers’ perceptions, and work on shaping their opinions, will always have a competitive advantage.   

Arm your brand strategy with a stronger image. Create equity through great customer experiences. Then, use your brand to grow.

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