It’s interesting when you think about which brands we use and why. This is without even realising if they’re the best bang for their buck or are as “effective” as we think. This comes down to perceived quality.

It’s relatively safe to say that we all have some unexplained bias towards certain brands, regardless of all the shiny alternatives. It’s almost as if it’s a matter of sheer belief.

This is what the top marketing eggheads call perceived quality.

It’s as effective in the marketing field as it is interesting. That is, the reasons that consumers prefer some brands over others are not always totally clear.

But to get a better picture of a product’s perceived quality and how it can sway even the most stubborn of potential buyers, we’ll have to give it a proper definition first. Let’s start with the basics.

What Is Perceived Quality - What Influences a Brand's Perceived Quality?

What Is Perceived Quality?

Perceived quality is the consumer’s overall dedication and satisfaction with a product or a service, specifically with regards to its supposed function or its overall image.

So, going along that train of thought, one can say that perceived quality is an intangible measure of the overall quality of a product and its craftsmanship, almost purely based on the belief that it is the best in its niche to the consumer even if there is no rational basis for this.

So you’ll see the vast majority of people worldwide drinking Coke or Pepsi, regardless of how good the alternatives might be.

What Is Perceived Quality - What Influences a Brand's Perceived Quality?

Similarly, different car brands have different reputations for quality. These are often decades old and might bear no relationship to their quality in the present day. Some people just prefer the brand of car that their parents drove.

So many seemingly random factors can drive consumers to a brand. As an interested marketeer, it’d do you well to learn how to properly pull those strings if you want your brand or business to skyrocket.

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Importance of Perceived Quality

Perceived quality is important for several reasons, particularly in the context of marketing and business success. With a heightened sense of perceived quality, brands can benefit tenfold. 

Check out some of the reasons why it is so important below. 

Consumer Decision Making

Perceived quality is a significant factor influencing consumer purchase decisions. When customers perceive a product or service as high quality, they are more likely to purchase it, potentially leading to increased sales and market share for a business.

Brand Image and Reputation

Superior quality contributes positively to a brand’s image and reputation. Over time, this can help to attract new customers, retain existing ones, and differentiate the business from its competitors.

A New Generation of Consumers

Another benefit of prolonged perceived quality in a brand is that it has the potential to attract a whole new generation of consumers. If, for example, you’re using the product that your mother used to clean or cook with, it creates a sense of nostalgia and emotional connection to the product. 

Price Premium

If customers perceive a product or service as high quality, they are often willing to pay a premium price, quality over quantity. This allows businesses to achieve higher profit margins potentially.

Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

Perceived quality can also impact customer satisfaction and loyalty. Customers who perceive that they are receiving high-quality products or services are more likely to be satisfied and become repeat customers, resulting in higher customer retention rates.

Reduced Marketing Costs

When a product or service is perceived as high quality, customers may be more likely to recommend it to others, leading to word-of-mouth marketing. This can reduce the need for extensive promotional activities, lowering marketing costs. 

Even big brands such as Apple benefit from this. Everyone knows that Apple is a good product; it boasts a high perception of quality, resulting in its marketing budgets costing much less than their competitors like Samsung. 

Competitive Advantage

High-perceived quality can offer businesses a competitive advantage. It can be a key differentiator that sets a company apart from its competitors, particularly in industries where product offerings are similar.

Given these reasons, businesses often strive to improve the perceived quality of their products or services as a strategic move to enhance their market performance and customer relationships.

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The Mystery Behind the Magic of Perceived Quality in a Product

Anyone who’s anyone who was in the marketing industry knows that a force akin to perceived quality is nothing to scoff at, even for a second. The image of the product is often a massive influence on overall ROI for most of the major brands out there.

It only makes sense to assume that if a person could stop and pick up a product under your banner without much thought as to whether or not to buy it, it’s because they see it as the be-all-end-all for their purposes.

It’s subjective

More often than not, quality is more a subjective matter than it is an objective one. A brand could have every right to boast its overall quality and manufacturing, backed with empirical evidence widely available for all to see.

But it can’t complain if the consumer slides by it and goes for competitive products that may be inferior in manufacturing quality in a second’s notice.

We can never accurately gauge a consumer’s thoughts on whether or not something is good. Indeed, perceived quality is an intangible metric that brands benefit from.

A product or service’s objective quality pales compared to subjective quality. Moods, character type, random conditions, and many other aspects that every consumer has ultimately govern perceived quality.

Brands Can Flip Their Perceived Quality

It’s interesting to note a few things in the same realm of perceived quality.

Brands can always flip the perceived quality of their products from red to green at a moment’s notice. Branding activities are any company’s greatest weapon to implement how people feel about a brand successfully. 

This is why premium soft drinks use heavier plastic in their bottles, even when there is no rational reason to do so.

By refining aspects such as customer service, guides, overall product improvements or discounts, brands can easily manipulate the populace to grab their stuff.

A decision to extend warranties on automobiles or electronics, discounts on various after-purchase services such as maintenance and product servicing, or even slashing the price for a limited time can dramatically improve perceived quality.

Perceived quality infographic
Customers often only consider the front line of your brand relations, but the back-end support still makes a difference indirectly. Image credit: Promoter.io

Factors of Perceived Quality (Perceived Quality Attributes)

It’s not all just senseless splurging and sporadic sales, though.

Typically, your common garden-variety consumer still has a few conditions when spending money on a product.

Performance

Performance is a key governing aspect regarding perceived quality and how fast a customer will reach for any brand over the vast selection of other, potentially better products.

Any sensible consumer will want to get the most out of whatever they’re buying. They have a need and need it filled. So, a brand’s job is to ensure that whatever they offer boasts the most performance a consumer can get.

Features

Secondly, you should be going for appealing and worthwhile features.

An adequate and appealing assortment of features can significantly boost consumer trust and perceived quality, almost more than anything else.

Conformity with Specifications

Are you getting what’s advertised? Nothing undermines perceived quality like false advertisement. Indeed, conformity with specifications plays a massive role in fortifying perceived quality.

A scrupulous consumer wants to ensure they’re getting what they’re seeing.

Reliability

The user experience you as a consumer will have with any product or service should always remain consistent. You don’t want to notice a sudden drop in quality, nor do you want defective products ruining your brand image.

The customer is always right. And they’re, more or less, ever vigilant. The perceived quality of any product or service relies on its constant reliability over time in the consumers’ hands.

So you can see how this can seriously affect perceived quality, which ultimately is a vague metric for overall product quality when you think about it.

Durability

Durability, no doubt, is one of the quicker gauges for perceived quality, in addition to overall quality. Suppose a product, regardless of its nature or application, can withstand continuous or exceptionally strenuous use. In that case, you can bet your absolute bottom dollar that its customers will be as numerous as they are dedicated to the brand responsible.

It’s always a good quality to boast and an even greater quality to have. One should always expect consumers to put their product or service through the wringer regarding various applications. 

Serviceability

Brands have been increasingly ensuring that their products and services always have a ready and able support and customer service system.

You do not want angry consumers. Not only will you lose customers who are well within their right to complain, they’ll spread the word. Like wildfire, you’ll see your consumer base dwindle quickly.

So, having adequate serviceability has a massive impact on perceived quality—especially that of the good princess.

Fit and Finish

You’ll not doubt that you went to get something from the store at some point in your life and spotted something with an appealing package or an assortment of attractive colours.

Even if it’s something that’s ultimately inferior or serves you no purpose for whatever you think it offers, you’ll probably have picked it up. People like pretty things, plain and simple.

So, adding an element of appeal and panache when presenting your wares will bump up the perceived quality people will give your brand. And the princess will no doubt give you a boon or four.

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Psychology and Perceived Quality of a Brand

Let’s put the mind of the consumer on centre stage. There’s a thing or two you could learn about how simple psychology can impact the perceived quality of any product.

In a previous point in this article, lowering prices was referenced. Although, if your head’s still in the game, you’ll notice we said “for a limited time.” Consider furniture brands which seem to be permanently on end-of-season sales.

This is because people generally assume that if a product in a sea of similar products is on offer for a lower price, it implies that it may be a budget option. People don’t like cheap products, more often than not.

Playing with this concept in various ways is how brands can sometimes strategically boost their sales and revenue.

You can find many brands dropping limited editions of things they usually offer, only with a slightly different and perhaps more attractive appearance and with a jarringly higher price tag.

Perceived quality rational and emotional factors
Your brain makes both rational and emotional judgements about products. Image credit: LytronDesign

Perceived Quality and Customer Experience

But with luxury goods, brand owners put a lot of resources and planning into the experience leading up to a sale. The most obvious example is automotive companies and how their dealerships tend to their customers’ user satisfaction with the pre-process.

Posh, stylish surroundings and fixtures, exceptional service at a whim, refined or sophisticated music playing in the background and other similar trappings create an atmosphere of comfort, trust and massive perceived quality.

The potential new driver of a shiny new sports car glides along the floor from the dealership door to the car door much more smoothly when enticed to put the money down.

It should be obvious that the perceived quality of a product is a personal and subjective gauge of how good something is. Smart brands know how to work this to their advantage.

There are a few trimmings here and a couple of neon streaks there, and you can guide your consumers along a path from the door to the register with relative ease. It’s no big secret that companies put a lot of effort into playing with perceived quality for the betterment of the brand.

Customer experience infographic
Perceived quality is highly tied up with the experience your customers have of your brand. Image credit: GoSurvey

Levelling the Playing Field

So, we’ve more or less established that perceived quality can generally be used as a metric for the overall quality of a brand’s product line. But is that enough to create a strong brand?

The short answer is no.

The longer answer is that smart brand managers and marketing pros utilise the perceptions of quality as part of a wider brand strategy.

A lot of resources go into shaping the quality of products to people’s needs and preferences.

Here are the three main levers you can pull to achieve this.

Communication

Transparency is a wonderful thing. Brand owners achieve this by conveying all relevant product information smoothly and clearly.

Putting adequate effort into advertisements is also crucial. You want your brand’s image on as many platforms as possible to achieve the appropriate air time it deserves.

More exposure means more sales. It’s no wonder that companies pour massive amounts of resources into advertisement and sales promotion. Adding a personal touch is just as formidable as well.

Communicating with the consumer about the product or the service on offer bolsters overall customer satisfaction and is also a good opportunity for both parties to learn.

The company gets to understand its consumer, and the consumer gets a better, more appealing idea of what they’re about to buy, along with many other handy dandy techniques that brand owners use as their bread and butter.

Modesty

It’s one thing to convey all the positive aspects that your product might offer, but it’s another thing to start blowing hot air at your customers.

Your product should speak for itself through and through. Painting a less believable picture of a product can only detract from the overall user experience the consumer will have.

As previously mentioned, perceived quality is an intangible aspect almost purely governed by the mind. So it does no service to your brand image to pump it up when it can already do that without the need for boasting.

It’ll give off the impression that it may be an inferior product or a less-than-valuable service that relies mostly on good marketing and not actual quality. You’re aiming to match your actual quality with perceived quality.

Brands like Apple, Audi and British Airways are great examples of this. They have a high perceived quality because they offer quality to their customers.

Sensibility

It’s just as important to make the right marketing and sales decisions as any other techniques a brand can employ to improve its image.

For example, ensuring that the pricing is reasonable and not intimidating is a good strategy in any situation. Ironing out any issues about your warranty strategy is also a great idea.

People generally enjoy knowing that help is available if something goes wrong.

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Perceived Quality Model

The perceived quality model is a framework used in marketing and consumer behaviour studies to understand how consumers perceive and evaluate the quality of products or services. 

It emphasises that quality is not an inherent attribute of a product or service but rather something that the consumer subjectively perceives. The model suggests that perceived quality is influenced by a variety of factors, including:

Intrinsic Cues

These are the inherent physical characteristics of the product, such as colour, size, flavour, material, etc. For instance, consumers may perceive a product as higher quality if made from a high-quality material. 

However, it’s important to avoid ‘gimmick’ materials that don’t add value to the product because when consumers cop on, it will only devalue the product, making it appear cheap. 

Extrinsic Cues

These elements are not directly related to the physical product, like brand name, price, advertising, and packaging. A well-known brand name or higher price might lead consumers to perceive the product as being of higher quality.

Personal Factors

Individual preferences, needs, past experiences, and expectations also play a major role in perceived quality. Consumers may perceive the quality of the same product differently based on these factors.

Situational Factors

The context or environment in which the product is used or purchased can also impact perceived quality. For instance, a product may be perceived as higher quality if purchased in a high-end store versus a discount store.

By understanding the factors that influence perceived quality, businesses can better strategize their marketing efforts to positively influence consumers’ perceptions and increase the perceived value of their products or services.

Perceived Quality Example: How Apple Built Its One-of-A-Kind Brand Image

Let’s consider the example of Apple’s iPhone to demonstrate perceived quality. Apple has successfully positioned its iPhone as a high-quality, premium product. Various factors drive this perception:

Intrinsic Cues: The iPhone’s sleek design, high-resolution display, camera quality, performance, and innovative features contribute to its perceived intrinsic quality.

Extrinsic Cues: The Apple brand is a strong perceived quality driver. The brand’s reputation for innovation, cutting-edge technology, and customer service all enhance the perceived quality of its products. Furthermore, the iPhone’s premium price and attractive packaging also contribute to this perception.

Personal Factors: For many people, using an iPhone meets their personal needs or preferences, whether that’s the user-friendly interface, the integration with other Apple devices, or the status symbol that the brand represents. These personal factors can enhance the perceived quality of the iPhone.

Situational Factors: The environment in which the iPhone is purchased can also impact perceived quality. For instance, buying an iPhone from an Apple Store, with its modern design and knowledgeable staff, can enhance its perceived quality.

Given these factors, many people perceive the iPhone as a high-quality product, even though other smartphones in the market have similar or even superior technical specifications. 

This illustrates the power of perceived quality and how it doesn’t always align with objective measures of quality or, in other words, decisions made with the heart and not the head. 

Measure Perceived Quality

So, now that you know what perceived quality is, how do you determine what it is for your branded product/service? One method is using a perceived quality questionnaire to gain audience insights. 

Designing a questionnaire to assess perceived product quality will depend on the specific product or service you are evaluating, but there are general areas you may want to consider. 

Here are some broad categories and sample questions that you might include in a perceived product quality questionnaire:

Product Features:

  • How would you rate the functionality of the product?
  • Does the product have all the features you expect?
  • How would you rate the product’s design and aesthetics?

Product Performance:

  • How would you rate the product’s performance?
  • Does the product perform consistently?
  • Does the product perform as expected under different conditions?

Product Reliability/Durability:

  • How reliable do you find the product?
  • Does the product last as long as you expect?
  • Have you experienced any issues or defects with the product?

Perceived Value:

  • Do you believe the product is good value for the price?
  • Compared to similar products in the market, how would you rate the product’s value for money?

Overall Satisfaction:

  • Are you satisfied with the product overall?
  • Would you buy the product again?
  • Would you recommend the product to others?

Brand Perception:

  • How do you perceive the brand behind the product?
  • Does the brand reputation influence your perception of the product’s quality?

These questions are typically rated on a Likert scale, where 1 could indicate “Strongly Disagree”, and 5 could indicate “Strongly Agree”, or similar wording. Always include an option for respondents who may not have an opinion or the question may not apply to them.

This is a basic outline; you must tailor the questionnaire to suit your product/service and target demographic. It’s always good to pilot-test the questionnaire to ensure the questions are clear and effectively capture the information you need.

How to Improve Perceived Quality?

Improving the perceived quality of your product or service involves a strategic approach with multiple different tactics. It also isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and you need to pay close attention to tailoring it to suit your brand. 

Check out some of these suggestions for improving your brand’s perceived quality and value. 

Enhance product quality

This is the most straightforward way. If you improve the actual quality of your product or service, the perceived quality should also increase. You can enhance quality by paying attention to materials, design, functionality, and durability.

Strengthen your Brand

A strong brand can be associated with high quality. To strengthen your brand, consistently deliver a great experience to customers, engage in positive marketing and advertising efforts, and build a good reputation in your industry.

Listen to What People Are Saying

This might sound obvious, but listening to what customers say about your product/service is an incredibly valuable tool. Be sure to check out platforms such as Google Reviews and Trust Pilot to gain a sense of the perceived quality of your brand. This will provide strategic insights into what you need to work on and what’s working well. 

Leverage Reviews and Testimonials

Positive reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers can boost the perceived quality of your product or service. Encourage customers to leave reviews and showcase testimonials prominently on your marketing materials.

Price Appropriately

Pricing can affect perceived quality. If a product or service is priced too low, people may assume it’s low quality. However, pricing too high might also deter potential customers. So, it’s crucial to find a price that reflects the quality of your product without alienating your target market.

Improve Customer Service

Good customer service can significantly improve the perceived quality of your product or service. Ensuring prompt responses to inquiries, providing effective solutions to problems, and making your customers feel valued can all contribute to positive perceptions of quality.

Upgrade Packaging

The way your product is presented can significantly affect its perceived quality. High-quality, attractive, and sustainable packaging can make your product stand out and reflect its quality. It’s also worth remembering that sometimes, less is more; including too many taglines, text, and illustrations can deflect attention away from the product. 

Educate Your Customers

Sometimes, customers may not perceive the quality of your product or service simply because they don’t understand its features, benefits, or usage properly. In such cases, educating them about these aspects can help improve perceived quality.

This is where content marketing can come into play. Create videos, blogs and how-to guides for your showcasing product; for example, if you own a cleaning product, a video demonstration of how to use it will convince audiences of its value. 

Consistency

Ensure that every aspect of your product or service is consistent. This includes branding, product quality, service delivery, and customer service. Consistency reassures customers and can enhance perceived quality.

Remember that enhancing perceived quality is a continuous process that involves regular feedback, monitoring, and improvements. Don’t be afraid to make changes if you aren’t seeing results!

What Is Perceived Quality? Key Takeaways

It should be more obvious now that any brand’s financial performance is directly and strongly linked to its perceived quality. They feed into each other, in addition to boosting each other continuously.

It’s not a strange concept that an intangible measurement such as perceived quality has this much of an impact on a brand’s very identity. This is based on what the customer generally wants, according to their personalities, characters and various preferences.

The key takeaway for brands is to try and position themselves as a consumer, thinking about the subjective experience of your brand as opposed to the external value. It is an intangible marketing concept, but it is not unattainable for brands to achieve.

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