“You never know just how you look through other people’s eyes,” as Gibby Haynes sang, and it’s as true for brands as it is for people.

I’ve worked with some companies who had researched their brand image, and were shocked to find just how different the market perception of them was compared to how they saw themselves.

There were striking differences in how they understood their business compared to how it was perceived by their customers and targets.

This was not all bad. It wasn’t so much that there was a negative, or even a wrong view, of the brands in question, but instead a skewed perception. Often they were known for one particular product offering that in their own minds was not the core of their business, and the market was simply unaware of their capacities.

Sometimes companies that thought they were undercutting their competitors on pricing, were actually perceived as being ‘expensive’, others who prided themselves on their German-made precision engineering were perceived as being ‘cheap’.

Can any company afford not to do a ‘brand health check’ to discover the truth?

If you are going ahead with this activity, some key questions to ask are:

Recognition rate – how many of your target customers know of you, and how many of them name one of your competitors, when asked to think about suppliers of a particular product or service.

Associated image – what do your customers think of when they think of your brand?

Associated products – what products do they think of when they think of you? Do they even know all the things you do?

Comparative opinion – how do they view you compared to your nearest competitor, how do you compare on price, quality, service or any other factor?

It goes without saying you need to engage a third party to do some of this – your customers aren’t going to give you an honest answer if they know it’s you calling. Instead a research company needs to put together an independently designed survey to get you the answers you need.

Good or bad, it’s better to know the truth.

Only once you have a clear picture of how you are seen can you determine how to fix it.