The development of a strong brand image is something everyone recognises. Consumers know which sports brand a ‘swoosh’ represents, which tech brand embosses pieces of fruit on their products and which fast food has golden arches above its restaurants – all without the business’ names been written alongside them. There are now hundreds of tools at the disposal of companies to help their brand journey, but one many have not considered is Feefo’s speciality: business reviews.
What is a brand image?
A brand’s image is not just a visual concept. When a customer thinks of a business, the brand image is what they consider – the name, business type, products/services, values, look and feel, as well as their own experiences and interactions with the business, be that positive or negative.
A brand image can be sculpted by the business behind it to fit their own values and objectives, but however it fits, it should be consistent. The ideal brand image is one that's instantly recognisable by consumers. Good examples are Innocent’s tone of voice in comms, Louboutin’s red soles and the smooth thin shape of an Apple iPhone. All will conjure up different images and feelings in the mind of a consumer but are well recognised and easily distinguishable from their competition.
It’s often the case that businesses learn from brand mistakes as they go in order to improve and strengthen their brand presence, or in some cases, re-brand entirely. In order to develop and stick to relevant and appropriate branding, knowing (and listening to!) the customers of a business is key. Customer insights are crucial and open, honest communications with customers should always remain a priority.
The purpose of a brand image
The brand image of a business forms its identity, and the first impression it leaves on consumers, suppliers and stakeholders alike. It should do three things:
- Identify the business
- Communicate clearly to consumers the who, what, when, where, why and how of the business
- Position the business within its market and alongside its competitors – differentiating it from others while also showcasing its intended audience, market segment and values.
Without a consistent brand image, there's no way for consumers to tell businesses apart – and certainly, no reason for them to choose one over another. It's no surprise, therefore, that the most successful companies are usually those with a strong branding and marketing presence which has garnered loyalty from their customer base over time.
Old-school brand development techniques
Traditionally, brand development sat with advertising agencies who were largely external to the companies they worked for. While marketing may still be outsourced -particularly for big firms with hefty ad budgets - branding and the nurturing of it tends to remain in-house for the best possible oversight and ownership.
Whereas print advertising and TV marketing reigned supreme for many years looking for mass exposure and a recognisable product or service, the marketing discipline has considerably diversified since – along, of course, with people’s tastes and appetite to be ‘sold’ to.
Digitised brand development techniques
The advent of the internet has changed everything for marketers, but with that too has come a degree of mistrust in brands. The public are now more than ever aware of sales techniques and marketing messaging. Marketing has moved to the online space in ways unprecedented, through retargeting, website ads and PR pieces, yet the growing awareness of these marketing methods that consumers crave something much older – genuine human recommendations.
Our recent customer survey of over 2,000 UK-based shoppers revealed that 64% of them liked and trusted third-party business reviews sites, and they were 49% more likely to trust a closed, verified review platform than an open one.
This is precisely where business reviews come in: they offer genuine customer feedback and experiences in a transparent way that can bolster trust and encourage purchases by potential customers.
Why we believe customer reviews should play a pivotal role in your brand image development strategy
It’s great for someone to think positively of your company, but to truly understand why they feel that way and to identify how to better nurture that feeling in others is exemplary. Business reviews on an independent platform allow for real-time customer feedback – leaving no room for a gap between management’s perceived brand value and the general public’s real, tangible experiences.
Understanding new perspectives through the eyes of real customers to better understand their wants and needs is delivers a true insight, and these insights can be used to better position a brand development strategy and inform future brand image decisions, pivots or tweaks.
It's only with this insight that brands are able to target their marketing activity, business development and NPD activities with laser precision in order to really deliver products and services that will delight – and sell. Such results will allow the brand image, and the business behind it, to flourish.
Lauren Murrell, the co-owner of By Sarah London, who use Feefo, says that collecting customer reviews has really helped her brand build consumer trust from scratch:
"Prospective customers can see the feedback from real, verified customers which further builds that positive feedback loop of trust. At By Sarah London we are about quality, transparency and trust, which is why Feefo works so well for us. That sense of connection it gives us informs much of what we do. We can connect with customers in a way many other legacy brands cannot."
What insights can be collected from customer reviews?
There are numerous business reviews platforms available online, but we believe the more accurate and insightful the data behind them, the better. Business reviews collected on Feefo deliver the following (amongst other insights too numerous to list!):
Business perception sentiment
Perception sentiment allows businesses to ensure their brand image fits and works for them and that they can tackle any niggling issues or concerns customers may have that they hadn’t previously identified. Business perception sentiment data lets firms not just establish that their business image is working as they would like it to, but also to ensure that they’re able to make any necessary changes to improve their brand development strategy.
Product quality sentiment
The people inside an organisation understand why their products and services are great, of course – but this isn’t always felt as keenly by consumers. Product quality sentiment lets businesses determine the real opinions on the quality, value and relevance of products directly as seen through the eyes of the people using them. Learning whether or not a customer would recommend a product is hugely indicative of their experience and the likelihood of them to reiterate that experience to others.
Jonny Evans, the Digital User and Experience E-Commerce Manager of Vauxhall, agrees. He says:
"Consumers are influenced by what their peers buy and say, so it’s important to create customer advocates for our brand. As consumers we all want to know what people like us think and feel about the car we’re interested in. It’s the best set of recommendations there is!"
Customer experience quality sentiment
The whole CX journey should be understood and monitored by brands continuously. No matter how strong a brand image, it will not be able to survive continued poor experiences, and so the CX quality sentiment is one of the most important measures a business can use to determine its relevancy and quality. The consumer sentiment around a brand’s CX can often throw up issues and perceptions that were not considered internally and is a hugely valuable tool. No business always gets it right, but they can always work to be better.
"It’s important to be human as a brand and own up when you get things wrong. It almost makes people believe in you – you’re just a brand trying to do the best you can under the circumstances. Being very open about your mistakes when they happen can also help to build your reputation as a brand who doesn’t try to cover up", says Ria Pattni, the co-founder of a wellbeing business who has implemented Feefo business reviews.
Marketers know that no two markets should be treated the same, but the localisation of products and services can need continuous tweaking in order to retain relevancy. Splitting business reviews by different market segments offers in-depth insight into the differing preferences and perceptions of varied markets.
New product ideas
NPD departments can gain a huge amount of intelligence for their future direction from business reviews. Common themes around a product issue or a further desired development can help influence future product decisions and development that are guaranteed to hit the market as accurately as possible.
Building your brand image with reviews
All of the above business reviews insights can impact initial brand development and image building strategy as well as feed into it on a continuous improvement basis. The intelligence is right there in the data – it just needs to be extracted, understood and taken on board. If you’re ready to start gaining customer feedback and powerful consumer insights, speak to the team at Feefo today.