Imagine stepping into a bustling café, drawn in by the irresistible aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
Your eyes scan the surroundings, taking in the sleek, minimalist decor, the friendly baristas, and the well-crafted logo adorning the menu board.
Without even realizing it, you’ve formed an impression of this place—an impression that shapes your expectations and influences your decision to return.
In the modern business landscape, this intangible yet powerful force that guides our perceptions is known as brand image.
It encompasses the collective thoughts, feelings, and associations people have toward a brand.
From the way a company presents itself visually to the way it communicates its values and delivers its products or services, brand image plays a pivotal role in shaping consumer decisions.
In this article, I invite you to explore the captivating world of brand image and discover why it holds immense importance in today’s competitive market.
We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a section to jump to that topic):
What is Brand Image?
What is a brand image in marketing? Brand image is the perception of you, your company, or your organization in the minds of your target audience.
Notice how it’s the “perception” of your company and not the reality?
Difference Between Perception and Reality
Reality to a user is what is in their mind.
Have you ever heard your voice on a tape recorder and thought you sounded weird? Odds are you perceived your voice to sound different than how it truly sounds in reality.
Or what about seeing yourself on camera and thinking you look different? Odds are you perceived yourself as looking differently because you often see a mirror image of yourself.
Understanding the difference between perception and reality is crucial for anyone interested in creating a strong brand image.
Understanding the difference between perception and reality is crucial for anyone interested in creating a strong brand image.
Perception can be created, protected, and enhanced, but reality can’t.
Once you understand this, you will understand that you can have an influence on your brand image.
When discussing brand image, it’s also important to discuss the topic of “brand.”
What is a Brand?
A brand consists of two parts, a company’s brand image, and its positioning strategy.
I dive more in-depth into a brand in our Personal Branding Guide.
We’re discussing the first part of a brand in this guide, so what is the second half — positioning.
What is Positioning?
Positioning is the process of creating an image of your product or service that fills an unfilled need for your target audience.
Think of it using the analogy of a lock and key.
You want to position your product or service as the key and your target audience’s unfilled need is the lock.
I dive more in-depth into positioning in my Positioning Strategy Guide.
Now that we’ve covered how brand image is one component in an organization’s overall “brand” along with positioning, let’s go back to discussing brand image.
Why is Brand Image Important?
Having a strong brand image can give you an edge over your competition.
If your business or organization has a strong brand image, then the marketplace will want to buy from you, people will want to work with/for you, and other businesses will want to do business with you.
Psychology Behind Having a Strong Brand Image
Before we dive into how to create, protect, and enhance your brand image, it’s worth understanding the fundamentals of how our brains work to understand how having a strong brand image ties into fundamental psychology.
I am not a psychologist and these are only basic psychology themes.
1. The Human Brain Enjoys Simplicity
The human brain enjoys simplicity. The brain likes to be on autopilot and take shortcuts for many things to reserve space for more important things such as emergencies or dangers.
The brain protects us in this sense.
By having a strong brand image, your brand will be a simple choice (in terms of a purchase decision) — a no-brainer because the brand/image has already been built.
2. The Human Brain Works off Belief Systems and Can Tune In or Out
The human brain develops a belief system to make sense of the world.
Belief systems can be influenced by race, gender, religion, political views, culture, and life experiences.
Belief systems also filter out information that clashes or is incompatible with current beliefs.
This breeds familiarity, with the brain seeking out information that is familiar and comforting.
The brain can also tune in or out. Here is an example.
Have you ever been in a crowded room tuning out all of the sound around you and all of a sudden heard your name being called and you perk up and focus on that voice?
That was your brain tuning-in to the fact that you heard your name.
By having a strong corporate image, your company or organization can influence an individual’s belief system or be compatible with it while also aligning with people’s “tune-in filters.”
3. The Human Brain is Designed to Forget
Going back to the idea of simplicity, the human brain is designed to forget things and remember what’s important.
How is memory formed? Through repetition.
Having a strong corporate image makes it easier for people to remember you, your company, or your organization.
How to Create a Brand Image?
If you’re asking yourself, “How do I create a brand image?” It can be broken down into 4 steps. Here are the elements of a brand image.
1. Create a Mission Statement
The first step is to create a mission statement.
If you don’t know what you do/what you stand for, how would you expect others to know?
Elements of a strong mission statement include making it clear what you do, identifying the target audience, and focusing on what makes you stand out from the rest.
At Imaginated.com, our mission statement is to, “Inspire personal brands in business, artistry, and mind through educational content in the form of blogs, guides, downloadable content, case studies, and videos.”
2. Create Brand Identity Tools
The second step in creating a strong brand image is to create brand identity tools.
These tools include:
- Font styles
All of these tools have to work in harmony with your mission statement as well.
For example, if you are a company dedicated to selling the best vegan meats on the market, you wouldn’t find a spokesperson who is a butcher or you wouldn’t name it Animal Hunter Incorporated.
3. Identify Your Publics and Target Audience and Nurture
The third step is to identify your publics and target audience and then nurture them.
If you don’t know who your target audience is, then you can’t create a personal branding strategy that is targeted or focused.
Once you know who your target audience is, you will also want to “enlist” and “train” them.
What I mean by this is that everyone in your publics and target audience is a potential customer or referral source.
If you teach them your mission (by having a strong mission statement along with complementary identity tools), they will spread the positive word about your company when they go to parties, hang out with friends, chat on online communities, post in forums, etc.
It’s better to focus on 100 people that love your company as opposed to 1,000 who just sort of like your company because those 100 people that love you will back you and tell all their friends due to network effects.
4. Use Promotion Strategies
The fourth step is to use promotion strategies (this guide is tailored to photographers but applies to all) with your publics and target audience.
If you make them feel connected to your company/organization, they will feel a part of the brand rather than against it, which will help your overall brand.
Promotion strategies can include blogging, press releases, creating social media posts, and sending out emails to your email list.
If you want to get more advanced with your promotion strategies, then researching fields and tactics such as SEO, PPC, or other digital marketing strategies such as these will be beneficial.
Check out my SEO Strategy Guide where I dive into how to use SEO as a Photographer (which applies to others as well).
Once you create these promotions, it will also create positive publicity for your business, which ties us into our next topic — how to enhance a brand image.
How to Enhance a Brand Image?
Enhancing a brand image involves publicizing the company’s successes to an audience.
Publicizing these successes will act as social proof that you and your brand are doing well and that your business is good to either work at or do business with.
You can promote these successes through promotional vehicles such as ads, newsletters, on your website, blogs, press releases, any social media channel, etc.
Just be sure not to go too overboard with it because you would not want to annoy your target audience.
How to Protect a Brand Image?
Once you create a strong brand image, you will also need to know how to protect it.
Who are you protecting it from exactly? The competition.
There are 2 protection strategies that may or may not be needed. Only when you come across these 2 scenarios is when you will need to implement them.
1. Rumor Protection Strategy
As your brand grows and becomes more successful, the higher the chance of competitors wanting to knock you down by spreading false rumors.
This can come in the form of someone invalidating your credibility, calling you a fake, etc.
If the company or you as an individual is faced with a rumor then you will want to:
- Not address the rumor
- Promote the opposite while still not addressing the rumor
- Provide proof to support the opposite.
Here is an example.
Let’s say you own a company/organization that has a podcast on the topic of Gardening and you are now big enough that you are starting to get some attention from bigger competitors.
Let’s also say that a Gardening podcast bigger than yours is saying that you have no expertise or credibility within the gardening space and starts spreading that rumor on its own podcast.
Here is how you would address it:
- You do not publicize the rumor. You would not want to deny it because denying is publicizing as well.
- Promote that you spent years studying gardening or your parents taught you everything about gardening and show off some gardening pictures (without addressing rumor).
- Provide proof in the form of a picture of your current garden or another form of proof.
Rumors suck, but they could happen, so it’s best to know what to do in case it does happen to your company or organization.
If handled well, your company will come out on top while also making the competitor who created the rumor look bad.
A win for your company, and a loss for the competition.
2. Trust Protection Strategy
Nobody and no company is perfect, sometimes mistakes are made.
But how you or the company handles those mistakes makes all the difference in terms of building or losing trust.
When you or the company do make a mistake and the word gets out, here is how you should address it:
- Admit and apologize, this establishes trust
- Limit the scope of the mistake
- Propose a solution that is believable to resolve the mistake so it won’t reoccur
Here is an example of this trust protection strategy in real life when people found out somebody was putting poison in Tylenol capsules:
- Tylenol admitted that this is indeed happening
- Tylenol limited the scope by pulling its 31 million bottles off the shelf for the time being
- A solution was proposed by Johnson & Johnson (Tylenol’s parent company) to develop new product protection methods such as the new tamper-proof packaging:
After the incident, sadly the tragedies that resulted in the Tylenol poisoning can’t be undone, however, trust was built with Tylenol because they took these steps.
Turning a negative transactional situation into a positive one is an opportunity that every company or individual must take in order to keep trust with their target audience.
If a broken relationship is fixed, then the relationship will be even stronger after that.
In terms of a company, this means a stronger brand image, more brand awareness, and more profit.
- Brand Strategy and Identity Development
- Graphic Design Software
- Website and Content Management Systems
- Social Media Management Tools
- Analytics and Tracking Tools
- Define Your Brand Identity: Start by defining your brand's identity, which encompasses its mission, values, personality, and target audience. Clearly articulate what sets your brand apart from competitors and what value you aim to provide to your customers. Conduct market research and gather insights to understand your target audience's preferences, needs, and aspirations, which will help shape your brand's image.
- Develop a Consistent Visual Identity: Craft a visual identity that aligns with your brand's personality and resonates with your target audience. This includes creating a distinctive logo, selecting appropriate colors, typography, and imagery that evoke the desired emotions and reflect your brand's essence. Ensure consistency across all brand touchpoints, including your website, social media profiles, packaging, and marketing materials.
- Craft a Compelling Brand Story: Tell your brand's story in a way that connects emotionally with your audience. Communicate your brand's purpose, origin, and values in a compelling and authentic manner. Show how your brand addresses customers' pain points, solves problems, or enhances their lives. Develop a consistent and engaging brand narrative that resonates with your target audience, reinforcing your brand image and building a strong connection.
- Deliver a Consistent Customer Experience: Create a seamless and consistent customer experience across all interactions with your brand. From the moment customers encounter your brand to their post-purchase experience, ensure that every touchpoint reflects your brand's values, tone, and level of service. This includes factors like website usability, packaging design, customer support, and even employee interactions. Consistency in delivering a positive and memorable customer experience helps reinforce your brand image.
- Build Relationships and Engage with Your Audience: Establish meaningful connections with your target audience by actively engaging with them. Leverage social media platforms, blogs, email marketing, and other communication channels to interact with customers, share valuable content, and listen to their feedback. Build a community around your brand, foster conversations, and demonstrate that you genuinely care about your customers. This engagement and relationship-building further solidifies your brand image and creates brand advocates.
This was an in-depth guide looking at how to create a strong brand image that every creator should know when it comes to growing traffic and brand awareness of their business.
Build and protect what’s yours.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you identify a brand image?
To identify a brand image, you can examine the consistent visual elements such as logos, color schemes, and typography that the brand uses across its communication channels. Additionally, analyzing the brand’s messaging, values, and the emotional associations it evokes among consumers will provide insights into its identity and the perception it aims to create.
What makes a good brand image?
A good brand image is characterized by consistency and authenticity. Consistency ensures that the brand’s visual identity, messaging, and customer experience align across all touchpoints, creating a cohesive and recognizable presence. Authenticity, on the other hand, involves staying true to the brand’s values and promises, building trust and emotional connections with consumers.
What are the 4 components of brand image?
The four components of brand image are perception, personality, values, and positioning. Perception refers to how the brand is perceived by consumers, personality reflects the brand’s distinct character and traits, values represent the principles and beliefs the brand stands for, and positioning refers to the brand’s position in the minds of consumers in relation to competitors. These components work together to shape the overall image and influence consumer attitudes and behaviors towards the brand.
Nate Torres is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and photographer and writes mostly on those topics. Nate runs his own professional photography business and photography blog called Nate Torres Photography. Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. He is also a photography speaker and author on Photofocus.