All You Need To Know About Brand Image With Examples
We’re going to start with something controversial: A strong brand image is the difference between a brand being on a side street, a high street, or having a flagship store on Oxford Street.
What’s controversial about that statement? We’re glad you asked. In today’s mass “hustle culture” mindset, new brands and businesses are often told that they can be big, they can take on Microsoft, they can rule the world - provided they put in the work.
And whilst that’s true, many of them become so ensconced in doing just that - working and prospecting - that they forget to build out the one thing that makes them, them, and that gives them the competitive advantage to connect with their customers: Their brand image.
A brand’s image is a real thing, and it makes a real difference.
It’s the reason why customers will walk past any other boutique shops selling jeans and head straight for Levi’s. It’s why consumers will consistently buy Apple products despite eyeballing the initial price, and it’s the reason many brands might just be missing out on global domination.
In this blog we’ll explain what a brand image is, why you need one - like now, and outline how to begin to build a bespoke one.
Don’t forget to check out our blog on how to rebrand too!
What is the Definition of Brand Image?
To help us define brand image we need to call on the acclaimed “father of modern marketing”, Philip Kotler. Kotler defines brand image as “the set of beliefs, ideas and impressions” that a person holds about a brand.
Put simply: A brand’s image dictates how a person views and understands the identity, purpose and values of a brand. Then those three assumptions will define how they interact and engage with the brand - if at all.
Because that’s sort of the one drawback about brand image: It’s bespoke to everyone. How one person interprets a brand will differ from how another person does. Those differentiations depend entirely on a person's individual values, their beliefs and ideas, and how your brand resonates with those.
Brand Identity vs Brand Image
At this stage you may be thinking: Hang on. I’ve heard all about how a brand presents itself before in Huddle’s blog about brand identity, so what’s so different about brand image?
Well, this: Brand identity is how the brand portrays itself to consumers, and how the brand wants its customer to perceive it. Think of it like the brand putting on its best self - a bit like on a first date.
On the other hand, brand image is how the customer actually perceives the brand. The brand can present its identity as one thing all it wants, but the customer may well see past its mirage to identify it as something completely different.
Brands have significantly less control over their brand image as they do their identity, but good brands know to attempt to align the brand image with the identity as fervently as possible.
Image and identity not aligning? Don’t panic. You might not need a brand refurb, just a refresh. Find out more.
Brand Image Examples
A good brand image is one that aligns with the brand’s identity. So good examples include:
- UPS: Logistics delivery service UPS promotes trustworthiness and security as two of their brand identity values, and their brand image aligns perfectly with this. When we think of UPS we think of uniformed delivery drivers wearing close to military colours, who drive with open doors (even in Winter). If that doesn’t cry “tough” and “transparent”, what does?
- Intel: Technology giant Intel has always portrayed themselves as a supplier of high quality computer parts that consumers and other corporations alike can rely upon to provide longevity and enhanced performance. Thankfully, their brand image aligns with those values. When we see the Intel logo we’re reassured that we’re about to get a good quality performance from a good quality computer.
- IBM: Just like Intel, IBM are technology stalwarts who have stood the test of time. They play on their longevity to emphasise an identity of experience, wisdom and innovation. And their image lines up: When we think of IBM we bring to mind images of wise, industry leaders with ingenuity, reliability and security.
Why is brand image so important?
Still not convinced that brand image is essential in how your customers perceive your brand? Still don’t think it plays a big role in whether or not they choose to buy from you? Then here are 3 more reasons which emphasise why brands must start seeing their image as a golden ticket of connection between themselves and their customers.
- Strong brand images cultivate recognition
When a brand is recognisable it’s not just a case of a consumer recognising the logo, colour palette or slogan - although all those things help. Instead strong brand images combine both visual elements and brand associations, like efficiency, quality and the brand promise to not only stand out to consumers but to also communicate their positioning wordlessly.
To put this in practice, think about how easy it is to spot an Apple device in a crowd. When we see a device, we’ll immediately recognise it as an Apple product but at the same time we’ll also consider the brand values of innovation, security and quality. That split second, almost subconscious consideration is the brand image working on all cylinders, and it’s that concoction that tempts consumers with similar values into the nearby flagship store instead of competitors.
2. Strong brand images generate customer referrals and retention
A large part of brand imaging is creating connection and resonation between the brand and its consumers. Take Patagonia for example: Consumers who resonate with Patagonia’s values and ethics of sustainability, fair trade and protection of the planet will buy from the brand because they want the world to know that they too hold the same ideologies.
The best part about that is that once a consumer then enters a social circle they will enact word of mouth messaging to tell their circles how great the brand is, and what it stands for. If their friends also share similar views (which is likely), more consumers will end up buying from the brand because they too want to display their support of the brand’s messaging. That results in retained customers, and constant referrals. To make this process even more effective, many companies offer referral rewards to their customers who become brand advocates.
3. Strong brand images bolster ROI
Solid brand images directly influence consumer purchasing decisions. A consumer is more likely to buy from a brand that they feel is relatable, trustworthy or resonates with their internal values somehow, than a brand that does the complete opposite.
Leveraging that connection and building the brand image can be the difference between the brand remaining in a small side street store with little to no foot traffic, or moving into a high street centrefold to directly challenge competitors and gain a competitive advantage. Ultimately people will buy from those they know, trust, and are drawn to, so if the brand can promote why it should be known and what makes it bespoke, it stands a much better chance of making waves in saturated markets.
How to build a brand image
Creating a brand image begins with creating a solid brand strategy. Without being able to align both the brand identity with the brand strategy and then take the most prominent points of the brand’s identity to transform them into the brand’s image, it stands little chance of taking off.
If at this point you’re falling over the brand strategy aspect, don’t worry. Just read this.
The following are some easy steps that any brand can undertake to get some idea of where to begin:
- Analyse your audience and identify their personas
The first step in creating any brand image is to start with those that it’s appealing to: The target audience.
Target audiences will all hold unique desires, interests, needs, preferences and expectations. That’s where market research comes in. It defines what values a target audience shares and what inspires them to make purchases. Use these four main areas to guide the research:
- Geographics: Home city, country, climate and population details
- Demographics: Personal details, like age, gender, income level, education
- Psychographics: Interests, values and attitudes toward varying topics
- Behavioural: What the consumer is looking for, how they will use it, and where they could be in the purchasing process
- 2. Show off your value proposition
Your value proposition acts similarly to your USP. Its purpose is to explain what the value of using your brand is over the value of using competitors, and it’s a great chance to display what makes your brand different. To find a value proposition, answer the following questions:
- What does my brand offer consumers?
- How and why does it do this?
- What makes it unique and separate from competitors offering similar?
3. Intertwine aesthetic with brand personality
We spoke about brand personality and why they’re so important in our recent blog, and the brand’s image is exactly where the brand personality can shine.
The brand’s aesthetic should outwardly display the brand personality. Take Microsoft for example. Microsoft tells us that by using their products we will take charge of our own destinies and achieve great things, because their products can be instrumental in our journey. To achieve this messaging Microsoft adopts the Hero personality, putting consumers at the center of their own story.
It’s this overall narrative: We, the people, are the heroes that can do anything that Microsoft uses across all of its brand aesthetic. It’s adverts emphasise its storytelling and often feature sci-fi heroic protagonists, whilst its website emphasises the need to “do more” and “go further”.
4. Keep consistent
The one thing a brand image must be is consistent. At any point if the brand suffers a disconnect between how it presents itself and what it actually delivers, or its messaging says one thing (“We’re innovative”) and its website says another (“We prefer to stick to what we know”), the brand image will fall apart and be unsuccessful.
Tips to keep the connect across all consumer touch points include:
- Using a cohesive visual identity across all materials and platforms. Includes colours, icons, typography and fonts.
- Using the same tone of voice in your copy. Tone is critical to convey personality so all materials should read and sound the same.
- Combine various channels into your sales funnel to build a consistent cross-platform identity.
- If needed you can automate photo editing and enlarge images with AI to ensure consistency.
Ready to capture your brand image?
How you perceive your brand to be is not enough: Your brand image must support your brand identity, and when it comes to realigning them both, we at Huddle can help. We can work alongside you in our proven Huddle Hack process to develop a brand image that is both unique, consistent and that demands consumer recognition. Get started or see more of our work.