For any company focusing on their marketing strategy, brand reputation and brand image are likely two terms you often encounter.
There’s no doubt that both play a significant role when it comes to forging relationships and trust with customers. But what exactly is the difference between them, and which one is more important for success?
Here, we explore the key differences between the two and highlight where your focus should be. By understanding how the two differ, you will be in a better position to make decisions based on how customers perceive your brand.
Let’s dive straight in!
What is brand image?
The term describes how your customers view your brand through their direct experience with you. This includes their past and present perceptions and how prospective customers may also view you before they buy from your company.
Brand image is a very personal response, as each individual customer may have a different opinion of their dealings with you and have a certain picture of you in their mind.
What is brand reputation?
Brand reputation, on the other hand, is how the general public perceives your company. A company’s reputation is based on its actions and how they affect wider society and public opinion. Some factors contributing to brand reputation can be charitable giving, the ability to build community, hiring policies, and general citizenship. This reputation is often built up over several years in the industry, but can be affected by scandals or a faux pas made on social media in an instant unless handled well.
A brand’s image and its reputation are two separate concepts. But they're often directly related and can help companies in times of crisis. An effective brand image can help repair a company's reputation if something happens that may affect it.
Which is more important for companies just starting out?
You can now see that both reputation and brand image are important to how your business is perceived, and both should be carefully considered.
When a company first sets up shop, it's important to focus on branding from the outset as this will help to inform your brand image and how potential customers will view you. Does your branding look professional? Does it clearly convey who you are? Your brand’s reputation will be developed as the company grows, but setting up a clear message of who you are and what you stand for is key from the beginning.
Over time, your brand can be negatively or positively affected by your reputation. Fortunately, you can promote your brand by influencing how others perceive you.
Ensure your brand image and reputation are in harmony by following these steps:
Define your brand clearly
Establish a clear brand identity. Clarify your brand (this applies to both individuals and companies) by asking yourself the following questions:
- Exactly what do I represent?
- What is the mission of my brand?
- What is my public image?
- Is there a set of values I hold dear?
- How do my actions reflect those core values?
- What is the ideal brand for me?
- Where am I now in terms of my ideal?
- How can I move closer to that ideal?
Keep an eye on what others are saying
Do some research on your reputation. Google is the first place someone who wants to learn more about your business will look:
- Google the name of your company
- How do you feel about the first page of Google results?
- According to your brand definition, are you seeing results in Google related to it?
If you're unhappy with your Google results, you should create a strategic plan to align your brand with the reputation you’d like to have and put measures in place that will improve public perception, such as increasing your customer testimonials and improving your links with reputable companies.
You can also use social listening tools to keep an eye on what’s being said about your business across the web. Tools like these cut down on the time and effort spent searching for customer feedback online and make sure you keep on top of what people are talking about in direct relation to your brand.
At Feefo, we make it easy to collect genuine customer review via invite-only so you can have customer feedback displayed for all to see on your website. Around 93% of customers turn to brand reviews before making a purchasing decision, so having a dedicated review section on your website can help to enhance your brand’s image and show off your excellent service to prospective customers.
Go above and beyond
As the importance of brand reputation has never been higher for increasing your sales and customer base, businesses should go beyond just maintaining their good reputation.
By differentiating your offering from other brands in ways that win the hearts, minds, and wallets of customers, you can improve your brand image while also strengthening your reputation over time.
Here are some practical steps to improving both brand reputation and brand image:
- Establish a strong SEO presence
- Deliver exceptional customer service
- Have authority in your niche
- Personalise where you can
- Nurture your employees and your company culture
- Focus on social media to engage your following
- Listen to feedback and respond appropriately
- Make sure your content marketing is strong
- Consider the use of influencer marketing
- Reward your loyal customers
- Monitor your brand
- Gather reviews from your customers
Building your brand reputation and image takes some work, but having the right team in place who are on board with your business values can really help to streamline the process. Clear planning, strong customer reviews and high-quality branding that shows your brand values, will all help to enhance your brand’s image in the short term, while allowing you to grow your reputation in the long term.