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Build Positive Brand Association

In this post, I share with you seven ways to build a positive brand association.

In business, your brand is one of the most critical components to success. Not only is your brand an important business asset, but it also sets the foundations for growth. There are several ways to improve your brand trust and brand loyalty. However, and especially if your brand is still in its infancy stages, having the right brand association strategy is crucial.

What is brand association?

When you think of Nike, what’s the first word that comes to mind? Performance? Or the words “Do it”? Achievement? The first word that comes to mind is what’s called brand association.

Brand association is what people and your target audience associate your brand with.

Think of Apple. What do they want people to associate them with? Simplicity, sleek design, modern? All the traits and attributes you think of are all brand associations.

In technical jargon, a brand association is a mental or psychological connection between a brand and a concept or an idea.

What impacts brand association?

There are several factors that affect the brand association. These include:

  • Overall brand strategy
  • Brand identity (colours, logo, typography, etc.)
  • Tone of voice
  • Product quality
  • Product positioning
  • Price
  • Customer experience
  • Employee Experience
  • Word of mouth
  • Reputation
  • Content Marketing
  • Advertising

The interesting point is most of these factors are within your control. This means that if your current brand association is not where it needs to be, you can start to make changes and take charge of your brand.

Brand Association Map

A brand association map is a visual representation of what your brand represents in the eyes of consumers and the target audience. It demonstrates all the attributes and perceptions people have about your brand.

Whilst formulating your overall marketing strategy, it’s important to revisit your brand association map and determine if you need to make changes or put specific emphasis on certain associations.

A brand association map also helps you understand your brand positioning compared to the competition. This allows you to identify opportunities and risks which can help you create a more effective marketing strategy.

In a brand association map, you essentially have 4 categories to plot.

  • Competitors
  • Products
  • Related Concepts
  • Brand Attributes

For example, here’s a simplified brand association map for Apple. It’s a rough mockup I just came up with. If you were to actually fully plot it, it would be a lot more sophisticated than this. This is just for demonstration purposes.

Brand Association Map

Brand Association Map

Note that the closer the item is to the centre, the closer it’s associated in the mind of the consumer. To create an accurate brand association map, you’ll need to survey and do quantitative research to really find out the full picture. However, a great starting point is looking at social media and other media types to gather what people are saying about your brand.

We are in the age of consumer control. Brands have less control than they did 20 years ago. This poses a threat and risk for brands that want to identify and manage threats.

For example, if one buyer posts a negative piece of content featuring your brand and it goes viral, your brand association can be significantly and negatively impacted. This means that you need to proactively and frequently assess your BAM (Brand Association Map) in order to make quick adjustments to respond to threats and gaps.

6 Ways To Improve Brand Association

1. Create the right branding strategy

Back in the day, I read a book called As a Man Thinketh and one of the main concepts it talks about is, you become and attract what you think about.

You’re probably thinking about what that has to do with a branding strategy. Well, your branding strategy is essentially what you think about yourself as a business and what you want to communicate to the world.

It’s important to leave nothing to chance. Surely, people and consumers will form their own ideas and opinions, but it all starts with what you think of your brand and how you see it.

So, As a Brand Thinketh, is the primary approach to your branding strategy. Think about the traits, attributes and feelings you want people to associate your brand with. Ask yourself this, what are the most important things we want people to remember us for?

Once you’ve identified all the brand associations you want to build, you need to think about how that translates into a brand identity. This includes your mission, values, personality, brand assets, tone of voice, and essentially how your organisation acts and communicates internally and externally.

2. Improve your customer experience

Over 90% of people research a brand or a business before making a purchase decision. Even if your branding is on point, if your current and past clients have not had a great experience with your brand, your marketing efforts will have little impact.

Word of mouth remains one of the most important factors in marketing today. And so, customer experience in it of itself is a key driver of growth.

To improve your customer experience, you first need to understand how good it is. You need to measure how your customer experience compares to others. From there, you can identify gaps and bottlenecks and pinpoint the current customer pain points.

There are several ways to measure customer experience. You can conduct online surveys, speak personally to existing customers, read online reviews, check social media comments.

The next step is to implement product and process improvements to address the issues you’ve identified.

3. Expand your partnerships

Brand partnerships can tremendously help your brand association especially if the partner has a stronger brand or is associated with certain attributes you currently aren’t.

When considering brand partnerships, it’s important to ask yourself, what will this brand partnership really add to our brand? What associations does this brand have that we can benefit from?

Brand partnerships don’t have to be purely business-focused. Associating your business with other brands that contribute to the community is a great strategy to build your brand. Consider all the not-for-profit organisations. Partnering with them can add tremendous value to your brand association.

Equally important, you should focus on building business partnerships that strengthen your value proposition and brand positioning.

A brand partnership can take many forms. It can be a referral partnership, a short-term initiative, or a long-term partnership.

4. Work with influencers

Influencers can be a great asset to your brand. Because influencers are not employees in your company and are potential customers, leveraging their voice can be very powerful. However, the drawback is that you have less control over what they say.

If for example, you launched a new product and you sent it several influencers to share what they think of it. You can’t really dictate what they say. If they have negative feedback, it can backfire on your brand. And so, it’s important to leverage influencer marketing when your products have matured and you’re confident about their quality.

Similar to brand partnerships, you can work with influencers in ways that are not sales-focused. For example, if an influencer is raising money for a specific cause, working with them can help build new brand associations.

When working with influencers, it’s important to identify their personal brands and how they fit your brand association map. Will they help strengthen a current gap in your brand association map? Can their personal brand damage yours in any way?

5. Improve your employee experience

Regardless of the size of your organisation, your employee experience is a critical factor in your brand association. What your employees think of your organisation impacts what others think of your brand. And whilst winning awards like “Best Company To Work For” are great, you don’t need to pursue them to have a great employee experience.

To improve employee experience, your organisation should put more emphasis on internal communication, diversity and inclusion. Empowering your employees and listening to them will not only help your organisation move forward, but it will also massively impact your brand in the long-term.

If your business is a place people to work at, more people will want to do business with you and buy your products.

6. Identify threats to your brand

Strengthening your brand strategy is a great starting point. But what’s equally important is identifying potential threats.

Threats are events you didn’t see coming that are negatively impacting your brand. Threats can come from any direction. It could be a competitor launching a comparative ad and positioning you in a negative way. It could be a negative online review. It could be an unsuccessful product launch. And so on.

You need to be proactive about identifying and dealing with brand threats.

There are several online monitoring and social media listening tools that can help you instantly identify threats to your brand.

7. Have a crisis management plan

Once you’ve identified a threat, you need to have a quick and effective action plan.

Large-scale threats will require a crisis management plan. For example, a new self-driving Tesla car model has crashed and injured people on the road. That’s a major threat to the brand.

When a crisis happens, every second count. You’ll need to have crisis management experts on your team to handle and advise on crisis events. The rule of thumb is, the longer it takes to respond to the crisis, the bigger the damage it can do to your brand. You need to deal with crisis events and have an action plan that addresses all the threats in the short-term and long term.

Author avatar
Rani Arsanios
Founder and Director of SAVV Digital, Rani has spent over 15 years working and consulting brands and business globally on how to improve and optimise their sales and marketing capabilities.

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