Victoria’s Secret has a problem with their brand image. Between 2016 and 2018, their market share in the US dropped from 33% to 24%. Not because they changed their products, their branding, anything—but because they didn’t do any of that: they didn’t evolve with the times.
The brand identity they had created over the years—revolving around Angels and supermodels—didn’t match with the values real people, their customers, have. And when people started speaking up, sales plummeted. Now, Victoria’s Secret is working hard to create a new, more inclusive and body-positive image.
And they’re certainly not the only brand with an image problem.
Facebook’s stocks and market share are as high as ever, but even they struggle with a brand perception issue. Their identity was created around building connections, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg is constantly defending the platform and how it divides people more than ever. Young people are jumping ship as if Facebook is the modern-day Titanic—that’s if they ever joined in the first place—and the company is now trying to win share in other fields.
The list goes on… From Disney to Amazon to the freshest startups, every brand, big or small, actively has to work on their identity and hone their image—because the consequences of not doing so can be huge. The bakery at the end of the street needs to keep up a good reputation, banks do: every kind of business benefits from a good brand reputation. A good image isn’t built in a day, but you can ruin it in one.
To prevent that from happening, it’s crucial that you have an accurate picture of your brand perception. That goes beyond checking online reviews or reviewing the sales numbers: even if they are seemingly healthy, you don’t know what people are really thinking about you, and that’s what will matter for your long-term survival and growth. That’s why brands should stay in-the-know by asking questions like:
Who is your favourite brand selling (X Product)? Why?
How likely are you to recommend (Brand)?
How would you describe (Brand products) to a friend?
Which brand do you prefer, (Brand) or (Competitor Brand)?
In this article, we’ll dive into more relevant questions to ask when you measure brand perception, and how you can use a brand perception survey to make your brand stronger than ever.
Why brand image is important
Your brand perception will influence everything. A decent product and okay marketing doesn’t cut it. There are so many options out there, people will go for the brand they connect with most, one that shares their values: a whopping 89% of customers stay loyal to brands that share their values. So paying attention to image definitely pays off.
Just think about why you choose one orange juice in the supermarket over another. There’s something about the brand you tend to go for that you like better, even though you never think about what it is. Maybe you subconsciously view the quality as better based on the packaging, or relate more to people who pick this brand over the other.
Putting effort into your brand image builds brand equity
A good amount of well-measured brand awareness is good for business. Not only will more people be inclined to go for your product, they’d even be willing to pay more for it.
Trust sells. Trust and image are deeply intertwined with one another, and playing on that could be the secret to growing your business. Just look at the stats: When buying a new product, 59% of customers tend to go for a brand they already know and trust.
And you can charge them more, too: 75% of consumers with high brand trust say they will buy a product even if it isn’t the cheapest option out there.
It’s not about how many people know you, but how many people like you.
Because that’s how brand perception works: it doesn’t only influence your own decision-making, it influences that of other people as well.
At the same time, a good brand image allows you to spend less on acquiring new customers, thanks to brand recognition.
Brand awareness and image go hand in hand
Brand awareness and brand image are crucial ingredients for maintaining good brand health. Your brand’s image will influence how people talk about you: if you get it right, there will be people referring to your brand in a positive way: free marketing!
A good brand image will also snowball into higher customer loyalty. Finally, it will also be easier for you to launch new products into the market, because people already know what they can expect from you.
First impressions matter
And as a brand, the second impression does just as much. It takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember a brand, so make every single one count.
Because in today’s market, people can switch to the competitor in a blink of an eye if they are suddenly no longer interested in your brand—or even worse, when they feel disconnected from it and don’t want to associate with it.
Brand image is not what you see, but what you feel
Brand image is not about looks, although your visuals definitely influence your brand perception.
Brand image is what people think when they hear your brand’s name: do they respect it? Do they feel connected to it, share values, do they get happy thinking about it—or does it bring up feelings of irritation, distrust or do they view it as something negative?
That’s what you’ll measure in a brand image survey: not whether they like your branding or your product, but whether they like you.
24 brand image survey questions
For many, ‘image’ can feel like a vague way to measure for your market research. To keep things simple, let’s divide it up into smaller sections. We’re going to segment ‘image’ into four categories:
Cognitive: what concepts does someone associate with your brand?
Emotional: how does someone feel about your brand?
Language: what words does someone use to describe your brand?
Action: what positive and negative experiences has someone had with your brand?
Now let’s expand on that.
Category 1: Cognitive
Even though most people don’t really know anything about cars, they know to trust Volkswagen—it’s German, which should mean that it’s good quality and durable, right?
This is a great example of cognitive associations consumers have about a brand. You can ask your target market questions like:
When you think of our brand, which of these words comes to mind?
Which of the following brands do you connect our brand to?
Of the following reasons, why would you choose our brand over brand X?
Of the following, what values do you connect to our brand?
What initially attracted you to our brand? Select from the following.
Which other brands, if any, did you consider when shopping for our product?
On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate us on the following attributes?
What was your initial reaction to our brand? Select your top answer.
Why do you buy from us? Select your top answer.
How can we do better? (This could be an open-text answer, to make sure that you get verbatim, valuable insight from your market.)
What do you think is our best quality? Please rank us on the following attributes.
Which of the following attributes do you recognize most about our brand?
Category 2: Emotional
Subconsciously, we all feel something towards brands. There’s loyalty to brands like Coca-Cola and Apple, even though Pepsi and Samsung also create great products. Maybe it’s comfort: you’ve been using a certain brand since you were a kid.
Emotion sells: one survey showed that 64% of women and 68% of men have felt an emotional attachment to a brand. That comes from good branding, great service—the whole customer experience.
There are a lot of feelings involved in marketing and brand perception is where they all come out. There are different levels of emotional attachment to a brand and, ultimately, brand loyalty. In his research ‘Emotional branding pays off: how brands meet share of requirements through bonding, companionship, and love’, John Rossiter used the following gradations:
Trust: “I trust this brand”
Bonding: “I regard it as ‘my’ brand”
Resonance: “I use this brand because it fits my ‘self-image’”
Companionship: “It is like a ‘companion’ to me”
Love: “I would say that I feel deep affection, like ‘love,’ for this brand and would be really upset if I couldn’t have it”
With these statements in mind, you could create questions to see if customers agree to the statements, or draw inspiration from the following example questions:
What do you feel when buying from our brand?
Which of these statements applies to you when you think about how attached you are to our brand?
Which of the following statements applies to you when you think about how proud you are to use our brand?
How would you feel if you could no longer use our product?
How have your feelings towards our brand changed over time? Select all that apply.
Category 3: Language
Let your target market play with words for a bit by asking them to describe your brand or product in different scenarios. For instance, if you have a rather complicated tech product, it could be interesting to find out how they’d explain it to their parents or grandparents.
These kinds of questions give you a peek into the internal world of your customers and help you see how well they understand your brand. Here are some examples of questions you can play around with:
How would you describe our product?
How would you describe our brand to a friend?
What three words come to mind when thinking about our brand?
In your own words, what is our mission?
Open ended questions like these are great for helping you get a true understanding of what your customers think about your brand image.
Category 4: Action
And…action! When we’re talking about action, we mean every little interaction people have had with your business and brand. This could be about your website, your physical stores, your buying process, and of course, your customer service department.
How would you rate your last experience with us on a scale of 1 to 10?
From the following list, where do you tend to buy our products/services from?
Which of the following problem/s are you trying to solve with our products?
How would you describe our customer service?
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You’ve worked hard on forming a strong brand identity. Your branding is on point, you’ve chosen the words for your communications with care and you deliver a flawless product. Where can it go wrong then?
The brand perception or image people have is formed with every little interaction they have. The first time they visit your store or website. The emails they receive from you. The conversations they have with your customer service agents. The reviews they read about you.
That all adds up to the brand image. It’s developed externally and can only be partially controlled—but the parts you can control, you definitely should.
Hard work? It sure is. Victoria’s Secret, for example, is still making up for years of excluding people from their brand.
The Facebook Company even went as far as changing their name to Meta, but the past isn’t forgotten just yet…
Their brand perception challenges didn’t appear overnight, but were an accumulation of the results events and actions had over the past years. Now, it will take a brand like Facebook years to rebrand and reposition themselves to ‘fix’ their reputation. A new name won’t do the trick, but a new way of working is a good start.
It just shows how important it is to measure brand image often—and act on it.
Brand image is not the same as brand identity
Ideally, it would be, but realistically, there’s usually a gap between your desired image—the identity you developed internally—and your actual brand perception. You measure brand image differently, and it’s shaped differently too.
Brand perception should be measured externally, by asking your customers how they perceive you. The best way to do so is using a brand image survey. Questions should revolve around values, quality, associations they have with your brand, trust, and respect.
Measure brand image using surveys
An online brand perception survey is the best way to start discovering your brand’s performance when it comes to image. You can get a lot of valuable insights in a short time—if you ask the right questions in your brand image survey.
Kick it off with some demographic questions, so later you can see if there is a difference in perception between age groups, genders, or even location.
Then start figuring out the things consumers associate with your brand! Something to always remember is that a survey like this is yet another interaction consumers have with your brand, and it will be something your consumers connect to their perception of your brand.
Measure your brand image with Attest
Measure your brand image in minutes with our free-to-access brand tracker template.
How many times have you posted to social media when you had an average customer experience with a brand? Never, right? Plus, there’s a lot being said about brands by customers on platforms that can’t be monitored, like WhatsApp.
So only using social media listening tools will give you a distorted view of reality. You can, however, use them in addition to your brand perception surveys, to see if you find an overlap in sentiments, or to give more context to some survey answers you’ve gotten.
Measure brand image using focus groups
If you really want to dive deeper into insights from your brand perception surveys, you can also set up a focus group. Here you get the chance to hear in real words how customers view you when they talk about and describe your brand with other consumers.
Keep an eye on the competition
If you want to make your brand image insights actionable, it’s key that you put them in the big picture: your entire target market.
This doesn’t mean you should also investigate the brand perception of your competitors and deliver that to their doorstep, but do ask your audience questions that compare your main competitors and gauge what the sentiment is about them.
Deciding who to survey
Last but definitely not least: choosing the best audience for your market research and brand image survey. Your target audience should include survey respondents that are in different stages of the buying process with you, if you want to get the full picture.
Of course, you could also focus on only one of the following, if you’re looking into a specific segment:
Non-customers that don’t know your brand
Non-customers that know your brand, but don’t buy from it
All of these groups will have valuable insights to share, and connecting them will help you improve your tactics in every stage of the sales cycle.
Making the brand image survey data actionable
Okay, so what do you do if it turns out your brand image doesn’t match with your brand identity as much as you’d like?
Brand image is something you actively work on, every day. Knowing where you stand helps massively with that. Here are some ways you can put that knowledge to use:
You can create specific brand image surveys to improve your marketing campaigns and communication.
It’s also a useful piece of insight if you want to provide better customer service – the customer experience you offer is crucial to ensuring customer loyalty.
You could even use what you’ve learned as a foundation for a rebranding process.
Measure your brand image with Attest
So, what will you need for a successful survey? First of all: an accurate audience. And we’ve got just the thing for that. With Attest, you get access to 125 million people in 58 countries, so you’ll always reach your target group—no matter how niche. And with our easy-to-use brand tracker, you make sure you ask the right questions that will help you discover your brand’s perception.
The Experts’ Guide to Brand Tracking
How to look at the impact of things like audience reach, panel diversity, and survey design to help you decide whether your current brand tracker is up to scratch.
Alexandra joined Attest in 2018, with a strong background in market research. In the Customer Research Team, Alexandra takes a leading role in supporting brands to uncover consumer insights and explore new opportunities for growth.