Brand reputation is how the public – including your customers, clients, and partners – perceives your company. Their views are formed by personal direct or indirect experiences with your business, and this experience can range from how you treat your customers and colleagues through to what you sell and how you sell it.
With so much competition out there, potential buyers do their research into the best products on the market and check what other people are saying about you. That negative review about your latest product release online? The customer on social media whose negative post about your service team has gone viral? These individual pieces of feedback – and, crucially, how you manage them – have a massive impact on your brand reputation, which, in turn, can damage your growth and performance later down the line. A study by the World Economic Forum revealed that more than 25 percent of a company’s market value is directly attributable to its reputation.
It’s not just market value that can suffer the impact of a sudden downturn in brand reputation. As the negative word spreads, you will see critical mentions of your brand online rise as positive sentiment dips. Search traffic to your website may drop off as negative searches related to your brand increase. Your customers’ loyalty might wane, giving your competitors the chance to steal business and market share. With no control over how people share their opinions about your business online, one negative hit to your brand reputation can quickly spiral out of control. In 2018, global fashion brand H&M sparked outrage and accusations of racism with its launch of a sweatshirt modelled by a young, black child reading ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’. Social media blew up with complaints, which were exacerbated further by H&M using white children to model clothing from the same line that featured text reading ‘survival expert’ and ‘junior tour guide’. To add fuel to the fire, an ex-employee spoke out to say that the brand was ‘clueless’ when it came to issues about ‘racism, cultural and social challenges’.
It’s not all doom and gloom though! Get your brand reputation right by doing something that creates a positive wave of reactions, and you’ll see your metrics soar instead of drop. US pet brand Chewy responded to a bereaved customer who wanted to return her unused cat food after her cat passed away. Chewy responded with empathy in a quick and supportive manner – they immediately issued a refund without any quibbles and sent her flowers with a personal note expressing their condolences. This act of kindness towards their customer gained Chewy global media coverage and lots of positive social media attention.
Simply knowing what brand reputation is and how it might affect your business isn't enough if you want to stay competitive within your particular field with a loyal customer base and steady revenue. It is a critical metric that needs to be measured and monitored over time so that you can celebrate improvements but also react quickly to negative dips. Brand reputation also serves as a great temperature check for how the energy and effort you invest into marketing initiatives – such as brand positioning and great campaigns – is going and helps to make sure your time is being well spent.
A positive brand reputation signals to your current and potential customers that you can be trusted to deliver great things across your service, product, and operations portfolio.
81% of customers said that they need to be able to trust a brand in order to buy from them. A negative brand reputation can spiral into existence very quickly and can take down years of positive work and successes just as fast.
To be successful in measuring and monitoring your brand reputation, you must become proficient in proactively handling your reputation online. If you simply wait for a negative event to happen, you will find yourself reacting fast in order to keep the fire from spreading. Reacting without a strategy or get your message wrong in the heat of the moment can sometimes make matters worse. By being proactive and tracking your brand reputation (and the associated metrics and key performance indicators), you will be in a far better position to spot the early signs of potential damage to your reputation. This can also help you stay on track of the aspects of your brand that your customers really love (and could be used to boost your brand reputation!).
Now you know the importance of monitoring and measuring brand reputation, what's the best way to get started? It's common to feel daunted by brand reputation as a concept; you might find yourself asking, 'Is there a tangible way to measure brand reputation over time?' The answer to this question is yes.
Monitoring and measuring brand reputation isn't a new phenomenon and there are software companies around the world who have spent many years using the benefits of the internet and digitisation to their advantage to accurately track brand reputation and help businesses succeed.
There are lots of platforms that have been designed specially to measure (and manage) brand reputation through service and product reviews. These services can be an absolute necessity for businesses with large customer bases and broad portfolios, where review collection can feel overwhelming and time-consuming. Some of the most popular platforms include:
- Google reviews
- Trip Advisor
These platforms ask customers about their experience with the product or service they have recently purchased. Once you start to manage your product and service reviews using one of these platforms, it becomes much easier to manage your brand reputation. Plus, they have been designed to be as simple and efficient to use as possible, which means that your customer service team can be trained and working on monitoring and maintaining your brand reputation in no time at all.
Another benefit of review platforms – Feefo being a good example – is that they collect closed reviews. This means that your customers are invited to leave their feedback by email, which authenticates who they are and that they are real users of your product or service. Knowing that you are collecting genuine feedback makes it easier to manage because you can quickly find your reviewer’s account and deal with their feedback effectively. Plus, it reassures any potential customers that your reviews are completely verified and represent a clear, honest picture of your brand. This also means that if you get negative feedback, would-be customers can see how you handle and resolve the complaint authentically. Open review platforms allow anyone to leave their feedback for a business, even if they aren’t a genuine customer. This paves the way for fake reviews – both good and bad – and can damage how trustworthy your company appears. You may receive fake negative feedback from competitors (a very underhand tactic), or disgruntled customers who want to reinforce their frustration and amplify their complaints by making it seem like lots of people have experienced the same issue.
Sometimes your worst feedback can be from disgruntled employees – current or ex. Websites like Glassdoor give these employees the opportunity to leave reviews about their experience with your company, which – when the reviews are bad – can be damaging to your brand reputation. Keep a close eye on these websites so that you can manage and resolve any negative feedback that comes through.
Take a proactive effort to understand the cause of your employee's feedback and take steps internally to resolve any similar issues or problems other employees might have. It is always better to act proactively instead of reactively, finding and fixing the cause of negativity instead of having to manage it when it comes to light. Anonymous employee surveys are a fantastic way to listen to your team and gauge how your colleagues are feeling, giving you the chance to spot any themes or trends and act quickly to resolve them.
Social media listening can be key to keeping your finger on the pulse of your brand reputation. Social media creates the perfect sharing ground for both positive and negative feedback about your brand between friends, families, colleagues, and even strangers. Having an active social media presence means opening up the floor to public praise and complaints, so you must be prepared to listen to what is being said and act accordingly when required.
People can be talking about your brand, even if they don’t tag you in their posts, which can make things trickier to monitor. However, there are many social listening programmes that search the internet to pick up any mentions of your business in harder-to-reach places like message boards. Proactive listening for positive and negative mentions of your business online gives you the chance to identify, mitigate and resolve complaints fast. The faster you move, the less chance there is that the complaint in question will have a big impact on your brand reputation.
The only true way to know how your customers are feeling and to use that information to protect and enhance your brand, is to ask them. Reach out via email using an online survey, which you can tailor to draw out the information most pertinent to your business. If you're worried about your response rate being low, you can always incentivise the survey with a prize draw for respondents. It is also really important to act on the insights you receive and to keep your customers in the loop with any improvements or changes you make based on their feedback. Customer satisfaction surveys allow you to start a dialogue with your customers, which will make them feel heard and appreciated – a surefire way to bolster your brand reputation.
For the most part, businesses find that the majority of their organic search traffic comes from brand searches. The more organic visits you have to the website, particularly from brand searches, the more your company is resonating with and reaching your target audience. Keep a tab on month-on-month and year-on-year performance, to spot any lulls or dips in traffic. Fewer people searching and visiting your website on brand terms could indicate a negative shift in your brand's perception.
It is also worth investing time into analysing how the brand searches made for your company are constructed. One thousand brand searches a day might sound fantastic, but not if they include terms like 'scandal,' 'complaints,' 'fraud' or 'thieves'. A rise in brand searches plus negative terms like these means that your reputation has taken a turn, and you need to identify why – fast. You can use Google's Search Console, as well as tools like SEMrush or Google Trends to check for any spikes in these searches.
If your customers are talking about your company at scale, sometimes it just isn't feasible to manually keep on top of every customer communication out in the digital ether. This is where sentiment analysis tools, such as Feefo's Performance Profiling tool, can help you to spot key themes efficiently. They are designed to automate the analysis of your customer feedback and reviews, which in turn will highlight areas of concern, areas for improvement, and areas that are performing really well.
Share of voice in the digital era refers to all types of quantifiable brand awareness. This can be such figures as the number and reach of online mentions, your website traffic, campaign successes, and more. Measuring your share of voice can reveal how many people know your brand, how often they see and engage with it online, and how frequently they talk about it. Each of these metrics is a great indicator of how far and wide your brand reputation is spreading.
Tracking and analysing brand reputation is a great start, but it works best when combined with other key customer metrics. This provides a much fuller, more holistic, and more robust picture of your brand reputation and where it sits in the wider customer experience. They are also great to track over time so that you can see your progression in a quantifiable way, which is very useful when running reports. These key supporting metrics include the following:
Net Promoter Score (NPS) and brand reputation go hand in hand, as NPS is all about whether your customers trust your company and how likely they are to risk their own reputation by recommending you to their friends. NPS sits on an index that ranges from -100 to 100, and this scale reflects how willing your customers are to make that recommendation of your product or service. You can use your NPS score to create an internal benchmark of performance and use it as an indicator for negative tremors in your brand reputation. It can also help you identify and help customers who are at risk of threatening your brand reputation.
The Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) measures the happiness and satisfaction of your customers on a scale of either 1-5, 1-7, or 1-10. It is great for measuring an in-the-moment reaction to a specific interaction or event, and you can use multiple questions to measure different aspects of the customer journey (from your products or service through to customer service or even item delivery). However, due to the ‘here and now’ nature of the CSAT, it isn’t very effective in measuring a customer’s long-term, ongoing relationship with your products, service, or business.
The scale usually looks like this:
- Very unsatisfied
- Very satisfied
The CSAT calculation is (Number of satisfied customers (4 and 5)/ Number of survey responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers.
Pay close attention to all your website traffic, not just to the organic visits. A steady stream across all channels indicates a happy, consistent flow of potential and actual customers to your website. If this dips on a particular day or week, firstly, make sure that this does not correlate with a drop in brand reputation that you have missed. As you put effort into increasing your brand reputation over time, you should see your web traffic correlate in the same positive way.
Domain authority is a digital marketing term that indicates how well a website domain ranks in online searches based on its quality and trustworthiness. The more high-quality and trustworthy websites that link to your website and are associated with your business, the more obvious it is that you are a brand with a stellar reputation.
When someone subscribes to your newsletters or emails, it is a great sign that they trust your brand and want to hear more from you. The stronger your brand reputation is, the more likely people are to subscribe to your content. As your brand reputation improves over time, you should see a similar improvement in your email subscription rates. If you have a historically strong, well-engaged email database that suddenly starts to unsubscribe from your emails, it is time to investigate why. A negative hit to your brand reputation could cause a chain reaction of people no longer wanting to hear from you, let alone buy from you.
The lifetime value of a customer represents how much money they are expected to spend on your products or service during their lifetime. It's a key business metric that can help you to make decisions about customer acquisition and retention. When used in conjunction with brand reputation, it can be a key indicator of how positively or negatively you are being perceived. If high CLV customers suddenly start to disappear or your churn rate doubles overnight, you have to move quickly and make sure that the impact isn't the result of negativity around your brand that you have failed to pick up on.
Word-of-mouth referral schemes can work wonders when you have a happy customer base of loyal brand advocates. There is no denying how powerful a recommendation between friends or family can be. Make sure that even if you don't have a referral scheme in place, you are still measuring the source of your customers and how many are referred by people they know. Measure this data over time for a complete picture of past performance and future projections.
If brand reputation isn't on your company's radar yet, it's time to make it a priority. How your brand is perceived has the power to make or break your business, and any damage that is done by negative feedback or news can destroy years of excellent work. It can also take years to repair. For businesses that aren't measuring their brand reputation yet, there are plenty of sophisticated tools and platforms available that have been designed to make the process easy and efficient. The thought of collecting and analysing your customer data in order to protect and improve your brand's reputation might feel daunting, but it's imperative that you get started and don't fall behind your competitors.
Once you start to measure and track your brand reputation, especially alongside the supporting metrics listed above, you will find yourself in a very solid position that gives you much more control over what is said about your company and how you deal with it. The rise of the internet has meant that now, everyone's bad experience can become public within seconds. The speed at which information can be created, absorbed and shared is phenomenal, so as a business, you must be prepared to move just as fast as your unhappy customers in order to protect your brand and reputation. With a strong brand reputation comes more trust, more loyalty, and more revenue – three things that no business should ever shy away from.
Net Promoter® and NPS® are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.
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