Whoever said, “All advertising is good advertising“Lied.
The only truth is that bad advertising can draw attention to your brand and expand your reach.
However, the first impression (and any impression) thereafter can last.
So if your brand is associated with negative traits and concepts, it can be difficult to change that perception.
Learn what makes a brand association and how to build a positive one.
What is brand association?
Brand association refers to the qualities, characteristics, emotions or concepts associated with a company. It’s usually what comes to mind when a consumer thinks about the brand, and it may not accurately reflect the company.
Several factors influence brand association, including:
- Brand identity and messages
- Brand values such as logo and colors
- Customer experience
- Product and service quality
- Word of mouth
- Social media presence
You’ll find that most of these factors are controlled by the brand itself, which is great news. That means brands play a key role in consumer perception.
It also means you have the potential to change them if the association with your brand isn’t particularly positive.
Examples of brand associations
Here are some common examples of brand associations.
Charmin – bears, soft toilet paper
Google – Search, answers, information
Wikipedia – Information, biography
Anima iris – Luxury, black excellence
canvas – Graphic design, simple, templates
Barbancourt rum – Quality, haïti, classic
As you can see, most of the associations are a mix of services or products that the company can offer along with certain features and concepts. The hope is that the associations with your brand are both right and positive.
If you find it doesn’t, you may need to do consumer research and work to create a stronger message around your brand.
Brand Association Card
A brand association card is a visual representation of the attributes and concepts associated with your brand. You can also use it to identify threats and opportunities, and how you are doing against competitors.
With a brand association card, you can quickly identify the words associated with and closest to your brands based on proximity to the inner circle.
For example, the above picture shows Nike in the middle. It shows that the two biggest associations with the brand are: “Adidas”, a competitor, and “Shoes”.
You then have the term “comfortable”, which is more closely associated with Nike than the word “durable”.
This can be a good start to determining where your brand currently stands in the eyes of consumers and making changes to your branding and marketing strategy.
If Nike wants consumers to see it as a long-lasting brand, rather than one that makes comfortable clothes and shoes, it can use this information, along with targeted campaigns, to create messages about the concept.
If it’s unclear what consumers associate with your brand, conduct a survey.
First of all, you need a pool of respondents who are familiar with your brand. This can involve consumers at every stage of the buyer’s journey from lead to customer.
Then ask your respondents to include the terms they associate with your brand. You can collect these answers through open-ended questions as well as list questions. You can then ask your respondents to rank the terms based on proximity to your brand.
Alternatively, if you already have a list of positive, neutral, and negative attributes related to your brand, you can use that to build your survey questions and involve your competitors.
After you’ve collected, cleaned up, and analyzed your data, you can create a brand association map to visually represent your associations.
How to Build a Positive Brand Association
- Have a robust branding strategy.
- Review all customer touchpoints.
- Look at your partnerships.
- Identify threats to your brand.
- Have a crisis management plan.
1. Have a robust branding strategy.
Your branding strategy is an important pillar in building a positive brand association.
First of all, you want to have a strong brand identity. This means that you know your mission, values, personality, unique brand positioning and voice. If there isn’t much clarity about it, you can leave consumers to make their own guesses which may not be accurate or inexpensive.
Your brand identity then affects your brand values, namely your logo and brand colors which tell a story about your brand.
Then you have your messages that should highlight the value you offer, communicate the benefits of your brand, and differentiate you from your competitors.
In addition, you have your brand voice that you use to communicate with your audience and make the impression you make. This is one of the more specific factors that will affect your brand association.
If your brand voice is friendly, warm, and young, it will carry over to the concepts, feelings, and characteristics of your audience that are associated with your business.
2. Review all customer touchpoints.
Think about how you will interact with your target audience.
Online this includes social media, your website, email, chat, and even business reviews websites.
How you maintain your community can play a huge role in how they see you. The same applies to addressing dissatisfied customers who express their concerns on social media or ask questions.
Offline, this looks like phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and in-store interactions.
To make sure that your brand is doing its best, make sure you have adequate training in relation to customer interactions.
The better your customer service and relationship management, the more reputation you will leave behind – this then leads to positive brand associations.
3. Look at your partnerships.
The brands and influencers you work with also reflect your brand.
Today’s consumers expect brands to get louder on social and political issues. This also means speaking out loud when employees or external partners display behaviors that are considered socially unacceptable.
Because of this, brands often split up with celebrities and well-known personalities with whom they have run ongoing marketing campaigns.
So be selective about who you work with.
4. Identify threats to your brand.
Now that you’ve strengthened your branding strategy, there is still more to be done.
You need to be proactive in identifying and neutralizing threats to your brand. This can be done on both a small and a large scale.
On a small scale, this may look like a response to a negative review on Yelp. On a large scale, this can be in response to reports of discrimination in your company.
Social monitoring and listening will help keep an eye on the ball and make sure you have a plan if a threat to your brand arises.
5. Have a crisis management plan.
You have identified a threat to your brand. What now?
If the threat is major, you will likely need to refer to your crisis management plan.
In the event of a crisis, every minute counts. You want to control the narrative to make sure your brand isn’t seriously damaged and doesn’t face long-term backlash.
With that in mind, develop a plan early on with actionable steps to address the issues, resolve them quickly, and mend relationships.
Building a positive brand association is a never-ending process as your business grows and evolves. The good news is that you are the biggest influencer of your brand association.