Does Your Target Audience Know Your Brand?

Here is a short exercise I often share with my clients about brands:

1. Quickly. Think of a car. What image comes to mind?

2. Quickly. Think of an airline. What company comes to mind?

3. Quickly. Think of a Realtor. Who comes to mind?

Whatever answer came to mind is the company that owns your mindshare. The brands that own the largest real estate (mindshare) in your head are the ones that have been most successful in infiltrating your subconscious mind. Now I am no brain research expert, but there have been thousands of studies done that explain how people make purchasing decisions. Advertising agencies and marketing firms spend approximately 6.8 billion dollars annually on market research.  They use the information to analyze buying behaviors. Have you ever had a musical tune stuck in your head from a commercial?  That’s branding. Have you ever bought something just based on the logo?  That’s branding. Have you bought brand name shoes, accessories or clothes because they were popular? That’s branding.

Perception Realities and Truths

It’s important to understand how your target audience perceives your brand because their perception is their reality and one’s reality is what they believe to be true. Whether their reality is right or wrong, good or bad is irrelevant because you can’t control what your customers will believe to be true or false. In other words, you cannot control what or how your customers think. However, you can influence their thoughts or perceptions of you, your products, services, and your company. It is from their perceptions and thoughts that they will base their reality and formulate what they believe to be true or false about your brand and your business.

Is Your Perception your Reality?

To make the point of perception clear, here is an example.  Ever heard of a guy name Ralph Lauren? He is known for his famous Polo clothing brand. What most people don’t know is that his real name was Ralph Lifshitz. Well, when Ralph was a young man, he had aspirations of becoming a gazillionaire. Understanding the psychology of perceptions and realities, he knew that he’d have a hard time convincing the world to buy anything with the word Lifshitz on it. So, he legally changed his name to Lauren. Well, Lifshitz’s dreams came true. As of 2010, Forbes estimates his wealth at 4.6 billion, which would make him the 173rd richest person in the world. Did changing his name attribute to his overwhelming business success? I think not.  It takes a lot more than a name change to grow a successful business, but I think it certainly helped him along the way.  One thing is blatantly clear about Ralph Lauren. He understood the power of perceptions.  He built an empire from images and ads of affluent lifestyles. Even though his target audience did not represent the super affluent that were portrayed in his Polo ads, they nevertheless perceived a strong a connection with them. Now, I am not here to promote manipulative advertising or disingenuous marketing. We all know that most ads are designed to exploit human insecurities. The point I am making is that if you are crystal clear on the message you are sending to your target audience, then you have a much better chance of building a successful business. Ralph Lauren was clear about his brand. He wasn’t selling clothes in his ads. He was selling a lifestyle that people aspired to live.  In other words, he was really good at influencing the perceptions of his target audience.

What Motivates Your Target Audience To Buy?

A few years ago, when I started using Twitter, I kept getting the #Follow Friday hashtag on Twitter as the person who is sweet, inspiring, and nice. Well, that was fine, but the problem with that was that no one was thinking of me as the person they looked to for business advice.  As the owner of an online business training company, that was not good. I then realized that I hadn’t really been paying attention to how I was being perceived on Twitter. I just assumed that everyone who was following me on Twitter knew I had an online business training company because it said so on my bio. What that experience taught me was that I needed to change the type of content I was posting on Twitter. I then began to post less of the inspirational and uplifting quotes I loved to share and more useful small business and entrepreneurial related information. Within six weeks, I began to see  much different commentaries for the #Follow Friday hash tag under my name @BrendaHorton. The comments were more in alignment with my online business training company. I knew that my changes were effective when a Hewlett Packard representative contacted me on behalf of their small business division to discuss a product they were launching for the small business community.

At the risk of oversimplifying the psychology behind marketing and brands, I hope you found my explanations relevant and useful to your small business. Do you know how your target audience perceives you? Is your company the first name that pops into the mind of your target audience when they are thinking of buying what they need in your industry?  How can you improve upon your brand?  What are your thoughts on brands, perceptions, and realities?  Please leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you. If this is your first time stopping by, be sure to subscribe to my blog.  I write a blog post about once a week on business tips and strategies.

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