Dear readers, we have gathered here today to talk about brand image and its connection with sales performance of your company, but also yourself. The topic of brand equity will also be briefly covered, so that a clear distinction can be made. Beware, though, this post will include scholar thoughts and theories, so take a sip of your coffee or tea, sit back and read on for an instant upgrade of your skillset.
The importance of the concept of brand image was recognized immediately as incredibly important by both academics and practitioners, i.e. economists and marketers, since the first time the term was coined and used mid 50s, together with brand equity.
What’s the difference between brand image and brand equity?
Brand image and brand equity always exist side-by-side, tightly related, but the connection can be simply explained by saying that brand image is the key driver of brand equity. For marketers, whatever the marketing strategies of their company may be, their main purpose is to influence the perception of consumers and their attitude toward a brand, establish the brand image in consumers’ minds and stimulate their actual purchasing behaviour of the brand. All of this consequently increases sales, maximizes market share and develops brand equity.
However, when it comes to the concept of brand image, the academics still haven’t agreed upon it completely, but most studies mention two views as most prominent. One on hand, some researchers consider that the consumers’ subjective perception (attitude, assessment, satisfaction, etc.) of the brand is the key to brand equity and that it should be measured as the potential a brand has to be bought by a consumer. On the other hand, however, others believe that brand equity should be evaluated in terms of market share, market value and company’s cash flow.
Additional theories take financial performance and non-financial performance as the measure of brand equity, where financial performance is described as brand premium and market share, while non-financial performance relates to brand awareness, brand reputation, brand loyalty and brand association.
Why is brand image important?
Brand image is an essential part of brand management. In theory, all products and services could be demonstrated with functional, symbolic or experimental elements, through which brand image is created. In layman’s terms, you basically explain the value your brand offers through marketing activities.
It’s interesting that there exist more than a dozen definitions of brand image, so we really have to list at least a few:
- A blanket definition from Herzog (1963) says that brand image is the consumers’ general perception and impression of a brand.
- A definition based on meanings and messages from Noth (1988) says that brand image is the symbolic meaning embedded in the product or service.
- A definition based on personification from Martineau (1957) says that brand image reflects consumers’ characteristics and they purchase the brand to express themselves.
- A definition based on cognitive or psychological elements from Bullmore (1984) says that brand image is the consumer’s general perception and opinion of brand’s total attributes.
How does brand image affect my company’s sales?
Brand image enables consumers education and can impact consumer behaviour. If your marketing activities enable your company to reach this level and create a positive brand image, you will as a consequence be able to affect and change your consumers’ buying habits.
With the expansion of brands in the market, consumers are more and more often making their purchasing decisions based on the brand image, rather than on the product itself. For example, why were people still buying iPhones and Apple’s bumpy battery cases in 2016, after the launch of Moto Z and their seamless integration of “Mods”, where there was a slim and sleek battery that snapped on seamlessly and elegantly, via magnets, on the back of the device? Because the iPhone is what you should buy and there’s no need to think about it. That’s how strong its brand image is.
Another takeaway from this is that brand image can be an important driving force of customer loyalty, together with customer satisfaction. If we stick to the iPhone example, think about how likely the customers are to switch to the new generation one from the previous one (the answer is very likely). Finally, keep in mind that brand image and brand awareness are the basis and sources of brand equity and brand equity is your market share, value and cash-flow. So you want and need all of those to grow.
How does brand image affect me, as a sales rep?
It’s rather simple – you just need to be aware of the image that is being aimed at by the brand you’re selling (or that they’ve already successfully set and built) and adjust your pitching and overall language and approach accordingly. If you just joined a new company, you should talk to the marketing team or any other sales reps present and find out what the company stands for, what sets them apart, what their audience is and what they’re aiming to develop and instill as their brand image, it they haven’t built one already. Don’t forget that the attitude of a company doesn’t necessarily have to be in agreement with the brand images they are creating (think of the Coca-Cola Company and their Coke Zero, Fanta and Schweppes brands – all different brand images and target audiences).
As long as you keep in mind what your brand’s image is, understanding your target audience and customer persona should come natural. But never generalize too much, as you’ll most likely need to adjust to each of your customers slightly differently. For example, Casio G-Shock, Tsovet, Rolex and Urwerk are all brands of watches and they all have different customer bases, but a watch enthusiast may be equally interested in all of them.
Don’t over generalize, but understand what people will expect to hear from you based on the brand’s image even before they pick up the phone or before you start writing your first email. (Oh, and while we’re on the subject of first emails – you might want to check out our guide to Cold emailing and prospecting with a CRM!)