Knowing how your business is perceived by your customers, employees, the public, and other stakeholders is a huge and often overlooked part of being successful. The brand is your promise, your reputation, and your first impression to prospects, partners, and other stakeholders. It is the ideology you want your company to follow. It helps position you in the marketplace. It’s all this and more.
Consider this quote by Dan Pallota “Brand is much more than a name or a logo. Brand is everything, and everything is brand.”
You want a solid brand? You have to look at everything in your organization. We’ve outlined the process and some recommended steps below. The rest is up to you.
What exactly is a brand audit and why is it important?
A brand audit is performed to review and diagnose everything about your organization, including internal, external, and system components. (Don’t worry we have a checklist for you at the end of the article.) Yes, pretty much everything you do is part of your brand. That’s why the audit is so important.
Just as your products and services change over time, your brand also requires your attention. Is your brand the strong foundation for helping your company reach its goals? Are you connecting with customers in your target market as you hoped? Are you receiving the kind of attention from stakeholders that you’ve envisioned? Are you feeling like your brand needs to be refreshed or totally changed?
Once you finish a brand audit, you will have a clearer understanding about what to change, how to change it, and what your position is in the marketplace.
When should you do brand audit?
Ideally, a brand audit would be done before a rebranding effort, but it can be performed whenever the need arises. There is no rule of thumb for when you should perform a brand audit. However, if you are reading this and thinking it might be a good idea, then we suggest you do it now. (By the way, just because you do an audit doesn’t mean you have to completely rebrand. See what the audit reveals first.)
How do I perform a brand audit?
Can you perform your own brand audit? Yes! Providing you’re willing to put the time and effort into it without overlooking the most important component…OBJECTIVITY! If you know you’re not an objective person regarding your business, then it’s probably best you hire a professional for a fresh perspective.
A brand audit requires you look at all the branding elements of the company and perform a critical analysis with recommendations. You need to know how to determine if a brand is a good one or not. An optimal brand is:
- Consistent and portrayed with pride
- Evokes positive emotions in customers, employees, and stakeholders
- A direct reflection of the company’s core values
- Woven into all aspects of the company
First, you will want to look at how you are positioned in the marketplace. Can you describe your market? What is the ‘flavor’ of your brand? What are the brand’s values and are they easily identifiable to others?
Now you want to make sure your brand is consistent. Is your company’s language consistent with its themes and ideas in your materials? Is your logo unique and easy to recognize? Are you consistent with colors, type of print, and stated and implied messages?
Quick exercise: Collect various company materials including brochures, business cards, printed ads, etc. Spread them out and assess them for similarities. Do they look like they’re from the same company following the same theme?
A brand audit also includes assessing your social media and content marketing effectiveness Are you maximizing outreach? Do your symbols and logos coordinate? Is it accurately reflecting your brand? You may want to interview others to get feedback on your social media channels and suggestions for improvements.
You’ll want to get your customer’s perspective as part of your audit. Ask what their past experiences have been like with your product or service. What influenced them to make their purchase? What do they value? What other brands do they use or consider using in conjunction with your brand? Does the brand meet their expectations? Is your brand message clear and not confusing? Does it deliver on its promises? What are the lifestyle characteristics of the customers who use your brand?
A brand audit should also include the perspectives of other audiences. A comprehensive audit looks at both internal and external audiences as well because they are a large component of your brand and influence your brand’s presentation and perception. Internal audiences include employees, sales force, and management. Does your company’s culture match your brand’s message? Does your mission? Vision? If you were to interview various people in your company, would they describe your brand similarly? If everyone isn’t on the same page, you’ll want to identify ways you can gain cohesiveness to your brand.
External audiences include current and previous customers, investors, competitors, community leaders, and other stakeholders. For example, looking at your competitors will reveal how your brand stacks up against theirs.
After you perform your brand audit, you should determine with whom and how you will share this information. Do you have a leadership team or are you the only one managing the branding initiatives? What about other partners, sub-contractors, and referral sources?
Now that you’ve take an objective look at your brand from the inside-out, you need to bridge the gap between your ‘current’ brand and your ideal ‘future’ brand. If you believe extensive changes to your brand are necessary, you may want to hire a branding consultant to help with the process.
Think of ways you can grow your brand to better serve the business. Some parts may only require small changes such as changing designs, colors, and themes to coordinate, while others such as educational workshops to train employees on brand and culture, may require more thought and expense. The expense of performing a brand audit and making the necessary changes to breathe new life into your brand is not only justifiable, it is necessary to maintain, or jumpstart, your company’s forward momentum.
SWOT Your Brand: Focus Areas for Data Collection
WHAT: A brand audit focuses on evaluating your organization’s brand, how it’s managed, and the strength and consistency of your brand.
WHO: Multi-disciplinary team or brand audit consultant
HOW: Data collection includes:
⧠ Formal and informal documents
⧠ Internal and external communications
⧠ Interviews with founder, owner, employees at all levels, partners, vendors, industry analysts/experts, and customers
⧠ Secondary sources
⧠ Business plan including budget
⧠ Marketing plan
⧠ Media plan
⧠ Social media plan
⧠ Creative briefs
⧠ Brand awareness
⧠ Brand perception
⧠ Brand positioning
⧠ Brand personality
⧠ Brand preference
⧠ Brand accessibility
⧠ Brand differentiation
⧠ Brand loyalty
⧠ Brand association
⧠ Brand emotional connection
⧠ Brand usage
⧠ Brand imagery
⧠ Brand promise
⧠ Produce/service concept testing
⧠ Logo recall/recognition testing
⧠ Press kit
⧠ Press releases
⧠ Annual reports
⧠ Sales collateral materials
⧠ Advertising and promotion
⧠ Business cards
⧠ Training materials
⧠ 30 second elevator pitch
⧠ Tag line
⧠ Telephone: greeting, voice mail
⧠ Social media channels
⧠ Customer service
⧠ Human resources
⧠ The customer: current, prospective, past
⧠ Business partners
⧠ Industry analysts/experts
⧠ The press: trade, consumer, business
⧠ Shareholders and investors
⧠ Others you identify as being important
Human Resource System
⧠ Organization mission and vision statements
⧠ Organization values
⧠ Organization objectives
⧠ Departmental objectives
⧠ Overall recruiting criteria
⧠ Job descriptions
⧠ Employee orientation
⧠ Executive biographies