No matter how great a brand believes itself to be, the real verdict lies in the hands of the public. Both consumer perception of a brand and self-concept – how customers perceive themselves in relation to that brand’s products and services – are vital parts of data-driven marketing.

What is brand perception and why does it matter?

Brand perception is shaped by several factors, from how a customer is treated by a company to how they feel about its marketing and how their friends and family perceive it.

A positive brand perception means people are well disposed towards a brand and more likely to seek it out and choose it over competitors.

Conversely, negative brand perception will not only make people more likely to turn to rival brands, but encourage them to share unfavorable opinions with others, fueling further negative sentiment.

In short, brand perception is inextricably linked with a company’s bottom line.

What is self-concept and why does it matter?

Self-concept, or self-perception, is how a consumer perceives themselves. In the marketing world, such insight is important because it allows brands to see how their brand, product or service impacts on this perception.

Consumers are often attracted to certain brands because they reinforce the idea they have of themselves – for example, sophisticated, intelligent, witty or attractive – and allow them to make a statement.

Data illustrating how consumers perceive themselves in relation to a brand is hugely valuable, allowing companies to capitalize on deep-rooted motivating factors.

If data supports the fact that a fitness brand makes its audience feel more capable, for example, bestowing them with the assets of elite athletes, it can tap into this across its product development, brand positioning and marketing.

Similarly, if a brand makes people feel that they’re getting great value for money, it can explore different ways of reinforcing this feeling.

How behavioral marketing can impact self-concept

In 2016, a study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that behavioral marketing – targeting people based on their behaviors and actions – can actually alter a user’s perception of themselves, making them more likely to convert.

In other words, when a consumer is targeted by ads that imply something about who they are, they’re encouraged to inhabit those values.

One study in the research found that consumers were more interested in buying a Groupon voucher for a restaurant described as ‘sophisticated’ because they thought the ad had been targeted at them based on their actions. But when they believed the ad was served to them based on demographics – or not targeted at all – they were less likely to buy.

How perceptions impact business success

Today’s global market has given rise to a growing number of competitors in every sector, while digital has spawned multiple disruptor brands, changing industries with faster, cheaper and more efficient models. This means consumers are inundated with choice.

Brands who harness today’s wealth of data to know exactly who their customers are, what motivates them, how they feel about the brand and how they relate to its products and services, will steal a march on competitors.

These insights-driven brands will be able to build the level of empathy needed to drive meaningful creativity.

How to analyze customer perceptions

There are a number of ways to access the data needed to gage how consumers perceive both your brand and themselves.

Monitor social media.

Conversations about brands increasingly occur on social media platforms. Track what’s being said about your brand and competitor brands, identify trends, and engage in the conversation.

Read online reviews.

Understanding how people are rating your company and its products is a valuable source of detailed insight. Use your marketing to address any common misconceptions or capitalize on recurring positives and feed this intelligence back to the product team.

Access trusted third party data into attitudes and lifestyles.

This will give you insights into the lives and lifestyles of your target audience, from self-perceptions and interests to their professional lives. Let them know that you understand what drives them, and deliver what they need.

To successfully shift consumer perceptions, brands first need to understand their audience – learning how and why their target consumers might identify with their offering. Only then can they set about shifting perceptions in the desired direction, using insights to guide the way.

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