The scary answer is that perception is quite literally EVERYTHING when it comes to branding. You can have the best or most suitable product or service in your sector, but if your target client base doesn’t believe that, and hold that view as a clear perception, you’ll never truly take advantage of that cutting edge.

Two simple case studies illustrate this succinctly:

The Apple iPhone.

The Apple iPhone has been a major force in smartphone market-share since its launch over a decade ago. However, many technology specialists believe that it’s actually an inferior piece of hardware when compared to some of its major rivals in the category (such as Sony, Samsung).

Sure, Apple has also grabbed market-share by essentially owning the cross device space (how many people do you know with an iMac, MacBook, iPad and iPhone?) and also by being the first provider in the category to leverage Apps in a major way, but the perception that is wrapped around the Apple brand is astonishing, and it’s astonishingly powerful.

From the look and feel of every Apple product to the vibe within any Apple Store the world over, and the mass appeal of their advertising, it almost doesn’t seem to matter to Apple’s tribe of loyal consumers that better product options may be available, as their positive perception of the brand is unyielding.


The iconic British luxury-clothing brand was established in 1856 and is widely acknowledged as the company that gave us the trench coat (used by the military during The Great War).

The brand became synonymous with the rich, famous and wealthy and enjoyed a wonderful reputation for many decades. The iconic Burberry Tartan (or check) was the hallmark of quality and sophistication…… until the early 2000’s when the brand (and the Burberry Check in particular) was gate-crashed by counterfeit producers and the ‘chav’ sub-culture in the UK.

Burberry’s brand perception changed catastrophically overnight. The product hadn’t changed, but the perception surrounding it most certainly had. It was a long road back for Burberry, particularly in the UK, but the company eventually wrestled back control of their brand and began to heal it by switching the negative perception.

It’s not always desirable to be perceived as premium, of course. Low cost airlines and inexpensive retail stores such as Primark in the UK and Target in Australia have worked equally as hard to create a powerful perception of value.

So, brand perception is clearly a critical element to the ongoing success of any product, service, organisation or academic institution, and this is something that leaders need to be aware of.