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Mitja Tuškej17. 1. 2014

Brand perception became reality

“Sadly, brand perception became reality”. I borrowed this statement imbued with pain from Mark Selby, Nokia’s Ex-Vice President of Multimedia who was in charge, among other things, of communication with other industries and the academic sphere. In a 2010 interview he said:

"Today, brand perception became reality but sadly, reality is rarely perception. Because of that, our perception in the public’s eye was what was supposedly happening in the company. We knew that the real situation was different.”

Brand is a collection of perceptions

Mark Selby explicitly exposed the processes which were the main subject of many academics, namely that a brand has no objective existence because its core is a collection of perceptions that consumers form and store in their heads. This is a fact proven several times also in the academic sphere by authors who research into:

  • brand and corporate identity (David Aaker, Kevin Lane Keller, Jean-Noël Kapferer, John Balmer, Lynn B. Upshaw),
  • brand values and personality (Jeniffer Aaker, de Chernatony and McDonald),
  • brand positioning (Al Ries, Jack Trout),
  • relationship marketing (Susan Forunier, Kent Weritme, Jack Trout) etc.

Although it is fact in the theory, but the awareness that brand only exists in the minds of consumers is sadly not always present in the consciousness of brand management experts who lead the decision making process in firms. All who do not realize that brand has nothing to do with their own perceptions and that they are not authorized to determine what their brand is, are in a great danger of taking the inside-out approach to brand, where one assumes that it is the company who defines the brand.

How brands are usually managed?

The question is how do brand managers generally act in the decision making processes? They create briefs based on company brand incite, maybe back them up with some research, send them to agencies and let them create their brand more or less intuitively. Unfortunately more often than not, their final decision what to do with the brand is based on their own or collective intuitive judgment.

Basically, that means they decide mainly on the basis of likability, which definitely should not be the deciding factor. But if it is, our brand just drifts along the competitive world of branding like a sailboat with fixed sails. It depends mainly on the wind and the crew to jump into the water and try to change the course on which the brand sailboat is on. In the end, the wind will always win and, in a strong wind gust, will tip the sailboat and the crew into the deadly waves of the sea of the competitive economy.

How brands should be managed?

The reality we have enjoyed so far is not the real one anymore. As a matter of fact, it never has been. Why? Because, like Susan Fournier said, brand is only and simply a collection of perceptions held in the mind of the consumer. Therefore, we have to acknowledge the fact that we might have damaged our brand with our biased and one-sided thinking. Actual and the only proper reality bases on consumers’ perception of the brand and it should definitely no longer derive from beliefs of its makers or owners.

Therefore, it is crucial for every brand manager to realize what the perception of his/her brand on the market is. Besides, he or she should also know what the perception of other competitive brands is, compared to his/her own brand. Without knowing what the perceived brand core is, in  comparison to the competitive brand cores, it is hard for the brand manager to steer their brand into the successful future in the competitive market.

Read more about brand perception study in the following posts:

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