[Blind Taste] The Importance of Brand Perception

A brand is built by the company but also by the customers, who should no longer be considered as simple receivers nor as passive actors. They play an important role in the meaning of a brand.

A company builds its brand identity around different key perspectives highlighted by Aaker which are the brand as a product, as an organization, as a person and as a symbol. The company will choose the key elements of the brand’s identity in accordance to the way they want to be perceived by the customers. However, in the real life the way customers actually see the brand is sometimes completely different from the brand identity. Also, the ideal case is when the brand identity matches the brand image, which means the strategy of the brand was in line with the consumer’s’ idea. One way used a lot by brands to determine if there are some differences in perception is to conduct a blind taste test. That’s what we decided to do for our three 3 brands (Evian, Contrex and Smartwater). Our main objective was to determine if any of them succeed in delivering an “ideal brand” where the brand identity corresponds to the brand image?

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When analyzing a brand, it’s interesting to determine beforehand the positioning of this brand within its market. Also, do not hesitate to firstly take a look at our article “Brand Positioning – Brand Identity Premise

Before conducting the blind taste test, let’s analyze the brand identity of each of our 3 brands.

CONTREX

Contrex is positioned on the very specific segment of diet water. The brand aims to provide to its main target, women, a slimness partner who can follow them all day long. According to Aaker’s Brand Personality dimensions, Contrex is a brand with sincerity which create excitement. In fact, the brand main strategy is to create a community around its consumers in order to provide them with a shared and funnier experience. Also, Contrex carries a very feminine, bright and dynamic image. The brand put a lot of its efforts in promoting its image especially across the social medias such as Facebook and Instagram but also through two TV ads called “Ma Contrex Experience” in 2011 and 2012, which encountered a great success on YouTube.

One more aspect Contrex has been playing on is the taste of the water, which is strong due to the high level of magnesium and calcium. The aim of the brand by making the taste of the water very pronounced was to give it a unique personality in the mouth, which the consumer could related to the ‘slimness effect’. Is it working? Let’s discover it during the blind taste test.

We also developed the brand strategy of Contrex in a previous article titled “Contrex – A Unique Differentiation Strategy“. Do not hesitate to check it, if you are interesting in this brand.

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SMARTWATER GLACEAU

Smartwater is bottled water brand which inspired by the clouds. It is defined as “the water with all the answers”. Because it is unaffected by water sources, Smartwater just filters out impurities of water through the simple process, but the product is electrolyte-enhanced which gives it a competitive advantage over tap water. Its main competitors are its own cross brands. Which gives the company the gains in the marketplace.

The most important feature of Smartwater is its distinct fresh taste. The brand target young audience, both men and women with disposal incomes in the market. The target audience is a group of people who are concerned with a healthy lifestyle and very active. Additionally, Due to its modern design, it can also attract the attention of consumers when they select the bottled water on the shelves in the market.

Smartwater frequently appeared in the fashion week that was held in the hands of many stars. You can find it in the bags of celebrities. The strategy of Smartwater is aim to align the product with an aspirational lifestyle image. Company used many celebrity endorsements to attract younger people to participate this trendy. At the same time, it used remainder advertising to keep the brand pure in the minds of customers.

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EVIAN

Evian is a prestigious brand in bottled water market with focusing on providing mineral water. It is the spring water from the Alps in France. The slogan of Evian is “naturally pure and mineral-balanced water supports your body’s youth”. And its price usually much higher than other bottled water brands. So it mainly targets healthy conscious people who have higher discretionary incomes and it even sells for babies. In addition, Evian bottles have four different sizes with limited edition packaging in order to concern about the environmental issues. So it can be also an eco-friendly option for customers.

According to Aaker’s Brand Personality dimensions, Evian is a sophisticated brand with sincerity because of its upper class targeting. the strategy of Evian is differentiated that make it have premium status in bottled water market based on its unique brand communication. Evian chooses the leaders as the celebrity endorsement which can match with Evian brand personality. Its famous global advertising campaign “Live Young” gains more popularity especially using the babies image. It have launched in many social networks around the world. The advertising of Evian named “Roller Babies ” had more than 600 million times of click rate after launching within a week.

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The three brands have built very different identity, which must help them to differentiate themselves. But is it really the case? Does the brand identity of each brand correspond to the perception of their consumers?

Now that we have seen these 3 brand identity and how they want to give this image, we decided to conduct a blind test in order to see how effective these brands strategies are. The idea is to understand the perceived quality of these water and if the taste of the water is part of the brand image.

blind-tesFor this test, we focused on Contrex and Evian, and we added a couple of other brands in order to have more relevant results. The respondent had to test 5 different waters: Contrex, Evian, Vittel, Cristaline and tap water. Unfortunately we could not test Smartwater as it is not sell in France. However you can find in this article another blind taste made by other persons who tested Smartwarter with other brands among which Evian.

The blind test was in 2 rounds. A first round where we asked the testers to rank the 5 waters from the best to the worst in taste, and a second round where we showed them which brands are present here and they will have to match the water they blindly test to a brand.

The results for the first round were stunning. First, the sample of Vittel has been selected as the best one by 78% of respondent, Evian arrived second and far behind with 16%. None of the respondent selected Contrex as the best in taste.

Second, and really surprising as well, the sample chosen the most as the second best (40%) was…tap water! Followed by Evian (22%), Contrex (18%) and Cristaline (18%).

We note that the tap water sample is as well the one selected the most as the worst one, by 38% of respondent.

In terms of pure product perceived value, we can say that Evian and Contrex are not doing as well as expected, but this could as well signify that the products are really close to each other in terms of quality, except for Vittel which is the only one outstanding the others.

The results of the second round are interesting as well.

First of all, absolutely none of the brand were clearly identified by the respondent. The most recognized has been Contrex with 18% of people matching it correctly. This extremely low rate show clearly that these waters are not building their brand on the product itself. Customers are lost and cannot identify a brand thanks to its taste, and this is were building a brand image become key.

If respondents were not able to match the right glass to the right brand, there is still a really interesting things we identified. As we saw previously, Vittel has been blindly recognized as the best water, but actually, 64% of people matched the Vittel glass to the brand of Evian! For the respondents, the one they identified as the best one had to be Evian!

Evian’s will is to be seen as the best water on the market, and its actual perceived value seems to be coherent with that. Thus we can say that Evian is an “ideal brand”. Its brand identity fits with the brand image. What the blind test tells us as well, is that this ideal brand has not been build on the product itself, then it have to be thanks to its branding strategy.

Blind tests always show that brand image matters more than brand content to improve your product reputation. Even when we are talking about a cheap product which taste seems not to change a lot like water. Communicating with babies, like Evian does, gives the brand a comforting image which makes people more trustful with their product and makes the brand the most favorite one.

Blind ranking test:

BRAND/RANKING 1 2 3 4 5
Contrex 0 2 2 2 2
Cristaline 0 2 6 0 2
Evian 2 2 2 4 0
Vittel 8 0 0 0 2
Tap Water 0 4 0 2 4

Artcile co-written by: A.Gormand-Couturier, N. Li, C. Nicolin and O. Oswald

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