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Meet Your New Favorite Secret Brand Weapon: Signals

Signals connect the dots between the perceptions you want to own in the marketplace


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per·cep·tion /pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ 

noun

  1. the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
    • the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses.
    • a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.

We use perceptions as a filter every day, in almost every interaction. We develop perceptions about people because of how they present themselves, how they speak, even where we encounter them. (“Mark’s my doctor.” “Really? I had no idea he was a doctor. Mark’s my gym buddy.”) The same is true of brands. We make judgments about brands based on how they look, what they say, and what they do. Sometimes these perceptions align with the brand’s goals. Sometimes they do not.

Even major brands can undermine their own goals when they get out of perceptual alignment — by saying, showing or doing things that create consumer confusion or mistrust. H&M undermined perceptions of inclusivity with their “monkey shirt” scandal and necessitated a public apology for offenses caused.

But it’s not just advertising missteps that can undermine your brand perceptions. The actions and attitudes or your employees and partners have a huge impact on the way your company is perceived, too. Brand-perception fallout from the 2017 incident in which a passenger was dragged off a plane continues to dog United Airlines (not “Friendly”). Facebook has permanently lost the trust of many users following the data privacy fiasco of 2018.

Consumer perceptions have a huge influence on buying decisions. With more choice and less consumer trust in almost every market category, vigilantly managing your brand’s perceptions is more important than ever before.  

Managing Your Brand’s Perceptions

Managing your brand’s perceptions with insight and intentionality will shape a consistent and compelling total brand experience for your brand. And knowing what perceptions you want to own in whose hearts and minds matters: If you’re selling skateboards, speaking in a way that resonates with senior citizens is likely to do your brand more harm than good.

In order to identify and manage the perceptions companies want to own, there is a tool called ‘signals.’ Signals connect the dots between the perceptions you want to own in the marketplace and what you show, how you speak, how you act, and how you live out your brand so that everything you do resonates in the minds and captures the hearts of your target consumers — the ones you have and the ones you want.

Learning to Make Great Brand Decisions

Think of signals as “brand-colored glasses.” Signals are not mood boards, but the disciplined identification of how the brand looks, sounds, and behaves. Alongside your business strategy, they guide decisions in all corners of your organization so that you’re always able to reinforce the ideas that are yours to own in all you show, say, and do — automatically, at a glance. Your signals can be applied in unique combinations across all of your brand products, services, experiences, and touch-points to shape a distinctive, ownable and powerfully resonant brand experience. They bring your brand story to life, guide your visual and verbal brand expression, and a provide a host of decision-making tools designed to transform strategy into action.

Using signals, perception management is made simple by turning brand strategy into day-to-day informed decision making: “Does our office layout support our brand dimension of ‘creative collaboration?’” “Does our color palette communicate ‘fresh, bold thinking found here’”? “Does this headline signal ‘success through speed and agility?’” If the answer is no, you need to get your brand’s signals into alignment with the perceptions that you want to own. The consequence of not managing your brand’s perceptions is not being noticed — or worse, being rejected — by the audiences who matter most to you.

Consider what perceptions you want to own. Are you clear on what they are? If you are, are you signaling them effectively in all you show, say, and do? Get started today on managing your brand’s perceptions — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

(This sponsored content was provided by SIGNAL.csk.)

Cheryl Farr is the founder of SIGNAL.csk, a Denver-based brand consultancy and strategic creative firm. She is a brand innovator, public speaker, a former lifestyle and travel writer, mid-century modernist, passionate traveler, New York Giants fan and Instagram voice of her shih tzu, Harry Carson

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