“Products are made in a factory but brands are created in the mind.” -Walter Landor

   There are many thoughts that go into a person determining why they are going to shop from a certain brand. Details such as personal experience, the company’s public image, and even political stances can influence where a person shops. These factors all make up what is often referred to as brand association. It is perhaps one of the strongest influences involved in a purchase decision.

What is brand association?

Brand association refers to the mental connection that a person makes between a brand and a concept, image, emotion, or object. This could be a positive or negative association that may not accurately represent the company as a whole.

Some basic examples of brand association are the Nike Swoosh when thinking about Nike products, Elon Musk when thinking about Tesla, the gecko from the Geico commercials, the bright red that is associated with Coca-Cola, and the list goes on. 

What contributes to brand association?

There are several different factors that influence brand association. Some of those factors include:

        • Reputation
        • Advertising
        • Word of mouth
        • Social media presence
        • Brand identity (logo, colors, font, etc.)
        • Product quality
        • Price
        • Customer experience

It is essential to note that most of these factors are controlled by the brand themselves. That being said, a brand plays a key role in establishing how consumers perceive them. So if your brand seems to have negative associations, you can start to make changes to shift it to a more positive light.

What can you do to build positive brand associations?

1. Create a strong branding strategy.

Having a brand strategy that reflects your brand identity is necessary for a positive brand association. Your brand identity should show your mission, values, voice, unique brand positioning, and personality. These factors can help consumers determine whether they trust and feel comfortable with your brand.

Your brand’s messaging can help you highlight what makes you different from your competitors, the benefits of your brand, and the value that you offer. This is not to be confused with your brand voice which is how you communicate with your audience and is one way that you can make an impression on them.

Using all these factors together can help the consumer relate their emotions to your company. For example, if you have an identity that they agree with, a message that is unique and clear, and a voice that is positive and inviting, your audience will recall this with your company.

2. Evaluate the customer experience.

The experience that a customer has with your company is something that they will remember and constantly recall. Both offline and online interactions contribute to how a consumer will perceive your brand. Keep in mind how you interact with people through social media and emails or how you present yourself in meetings or on phone conversations.

Your employees play an important role in brand association. They often have a direct line of connection to your consumers through customer service. Be it with in-store interactions or an employee responding to unsatisfied customers, these factors will show your brand in a positive or negative way.

3. Look for partnerships.

Partnerships are a unique way to bring awareness to your brand and to magnify the image of your brand. Partnering with celebrities or influencers can bring the attention of their fan bases to your brand. There is a risk, however, of having to cut ties with the partner if they do or say something that is socially unacceptable.

There is also the opportunity of associating your business with other brands. This is a great way to emphasize and build your brand. Work on partnering with a company that could be considered a reflection of your brand and that would help add value to your brand association and positioning.

An excellent partnership opportunity that could be explored is builders working with realtors. This partnership can help not only bring attention to your company but it also allows more of a direct relationship to be made.

4. Determine the threats to your brand.

You may deal with a variety of threats to your brand and the best way to combat those threats is to know what could arise. Threats to your brand can range from a negative review online to a public scandal within your company.

Using listening tools to monitor social media can help identify and plan for potential threats. The way that you respond to these threats will speak volumes about your brand to your audience.

Brand Association Tip 5 image: A hand stopping a chain reaction of blocks falling over.

5. Develop a crisis management plan.

After identifying a threat, it is important in being proactive in creating a response. Developing a crisis management plan can help deal with large-scale threats. For example, if your product starts to malfunction and results in severe or life-threatening injuries, it is vital to have a response plan already outlined.

Every second counts when you are responding to an issue. Waiting to respond could rest in a negative narrative being placed on your company. Having this crisis management plan already outlined with potential responses and actions can help repair relations and save your image.

   Brand association as a whole is a process that will continue on as your company grows and expands. It is important to consider what other people think about your company and how they perceive you. Take a look at what consumers currently associate with your brand and make a list of what you want your brand to be associated with. You play a large part in building the narrative of how consumers view your brand so with everything you do, keep in mind how it would reflect on your brand.