When Wordle went viral, it was owned by Josh Wardle – a software engineer who created a guessing game for his word-game loving partner. What started as a game for just the two of them soon caught on among their friends, and within months, over 300,000 people were playing the game every day.
Wordle’s stratospheric success meant that it was quickly bought by the New York Times (NYT) – and just as quickly, public perception of the game began to shift. Twitter was awash with complaints that the game was now too complex, that the words were too hard to guess within just six attempts.
Yet a check of the source code behind the game revealed that in truth – the NYT had only removed six words from the initial list Wardle enabled when he first developed the game. By eliminating words such as ‘agora’ and ‘pupal’ from the pool of potential answers, the NYT has technically made the game slightly easier – so why are users complaining about complexity, and what can B2B marketers learn from this?
Brand perception is everything
The NYT is seen by many as a prestigious, high-brow newspaper. And it’s arguably this image that has prompted Wordle players’ frustrations, rather than the limited changes the NYT made to the game’s answers. Just knowing that the game had switched hands from the developer that created it to a national newspaper that regularly covers complex political and cultural affairs was enough to persuade players that they were facing a much tougher challenge than they had been days previously. That’s the power of brand perception.
Brand perception is a combination of your audience’s feelings, experiences with and thoughts about your brand – it’s what they believe your brand represents, rather than what your business says it represents. For this reason, it can be tricky to control – but the good news is that, as marketers, we can take steps to ensure that our customers’ perception of our brand aligns with our own. Here’s how:
1. Measure brand perception
You know where you’re aiming to position your brand – but does your audience see your brand in the same way? It’s impossible to know unless you ask them, so it’s a good idea to regularly carry out surveys of your target audience to determine what people think of your business and how it compares to its competitors. By asking questions like ‘How would you describe our brand to your colleague?’ and ‘What would make you choose our brand over [competitor’s brand]?’, you should be able to get a clear picture of your general brand perception.
Talking to your customers – both current customers and those who have stopped using your product or service recently – can also help you to get a better understanding of how people see your brand. Long-term customers can tell you why they have stayed loyal to your brand for so long, which may reveal some long-held beliefs about your brand, while new customers can enlighten you as to why they chose to work with your business today. The answers you get from these two groups may therefore be totally different. By checking in with recently lost customers, you may also be able to garner some constructive feedback on what made them switch to a competitor, giving you some practical areas for improvement you can address.
2. Investigate your interactions
Once you have a clear understanding of what your audience thinks about your business, it’s time to investigate why they might hold these views. To do this, you need to review your interactions with customers and prospects across all channels, keeping your audience feedback in mind as you do.
If your audience told you that your brand doesn’t seem as pioneering as its competitors. For example, consider how you might be lagging behind in your interactions with your audience. Is your business much less present on social media than others in your industry? Or are you simply not shouting about your most innovative products and services enough when you’re talking to your audience? By evaluating your day-to-day interactions through the eyes of your customers, you should be able to identify which elements you need to change in order to shift brand perception.
3. Move your messaging forward
Now that you have pinpointed the issues and interactions you need to address, it’s time to start creating content to adjust public perception of your brand in these areas. Start by putting together the core messages you want to communicate to your audience. If they see your brand as stuck in the past, for instance, your messaging needs to portray how your organisation stays at the forefront of its industry and how you can provide your customers with the latest products and services.
A quick caveat: it’s crucial that no matter how aspirational your business may be, your messaging reflects your brand today. So if you want customers to see your brand as innovative, but you need to change some of your processes before you can be at the cutting edge of your industry, be honest. It’s much better to outline how your business is evolving to meet your audience’s needs than to put across messages that don’t truly represent what your brand can deliver today – this could cause you to lose your audience.
4. Create credible content
When you’re ready to get your refined brand messages out there, it’s important to consider how you can do so with authority. Of course you need to ensure that your website, social media and customer service teams are all giving your customers and prospects a good perception of your brand – but without credible content to back these messages up, your audience may not be entirely convinced of their authenticity.
So start thinking about how you can use external voices to back up your messages, because what these people have to say about your brand is likely to hold far more weight with your audience. Can you partner with a subject matter expert, for example, to bring your brand to a wider audience and align your business with an authoritative voice? You may also strive to secure features in key industry titles to get those updated brand messages across and carve out a clear position in your industry. And be sure to include customer testimonials, case studies and industry awards to provide extra credibility in your brand-owned content where appropriate.
Altering your audience’s view of your business isn’t always easy. But if you’re looking to build a strong brand, it’s important to ensure that what you think your business stands for aligns with what your audience believes that your brand represents. So take some time to talk to your customers and potential prospects to find out how your brand is really seen within the market. The answers may surprise you, but if they do, there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure you’re on the same page as your audience.