Your brand is the emotional and psychological connection your customers have with your company, product or service. It is their collective perception and impression. Because it is shaped by public perception, your brand is somewhat like living thing. It has a unique personality and characteristics that evolve over time, due to internal and external factors.
Branding is the act of shaping the public's perceptions. You can control the visual and verbal expressions of your brand, but sometimes – without appropriate strategy and action – your brand can become something undesirable. It is important to periodically complete a brand audit in order to track the health of your brand and help you determine what your next steps should be.
What exactly is a brand audit?
A brand audit is a thorough analysis of how your brand is currently performing in relation to its goals, and an examination of your brand’s position in the market compared to its competitors.
If you’re at all confused by the terms surrounding branding, I encourage you to first read our blog post, “What is a brand?”
A brand audit will help you to:
- Establish the performance of your brand
- Discover the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your brand
- Align your strategy more closely with the expectations of your customers
- Understand your place in the market compared to your competition
Now that you understand the importance of a brand audit, we can get started with our five-step brand audit process.
5 Essential Steps to Conducting a Brand Audit
1. Create a detailed brand audit framework
The first step is to look internally, and identify your company’s mission and strategic objectives.
Some internal brand audit questions to ask are:
- What are the goals for your brand?
- Who are your target customers and how do you plan to reach them?
- What’s happening in the landscape your business operates in?
This action helps you take an honest look at your brand. All too often a rebrand becomes a personal journey, where change becomes difficult.
Dissecting the pros and cons of your existing brand allows you and your team to have a honest look at it. You’ll be able to see it in a similar way your stakeholders (often subconsciously) do.
2. Analyze your social media and website data
After creating a framework for your audit, the next step is having an honest look at your social media efforts and data regarding your website’s performance.
Find answers to the following questions:
- What message are you trying to communicate? Does your messaging mirror brand standards?
- How are you engaging with your stakeholders online?
- How are your stakeholders engaging with you?
- Are you reaching the audience you want to be reaching?
- Are you meeting their expectations of your brand?
3. Talk to your customers and potential customers
Your brand is always changing. Therefore, getting regular feedback from your customers is essential in keeping it healthy, alive, and effective.
Though important, it’s a mistake to rely exclusively on implicit data like website and social media numbers when investigating your customers’ perceptions of your brand.
Instead, questioning your customers personally can give you powerful information about their thoughts and feelings.
Some effective questions to ask include:
- If there was one thing you could change about our brand, what would it be?
- What words would you type into Google to find a brand like ours?
- If our brand was a person, what words would you use to describe it?
A key part of the brand audit process is reviewing your current brand assets.
Often times an older brand can get disjointed and applied in inconsistent ways over the years. Evaluating your brand assets gives you the opportunity take an inventory of where your brand identity is applied and the manner in which it is used. You’d be surprised what Sally in accounting has done with your logo over the years!
Taking a step back and reviewing your brand assets as a whole will likely uncover areas worth considering a change. Additionally, introducing a third party may offer a more critical eye.
Brand assets are divided into two separate categories: internal and external.
When looking at your internal brand assets, you need to evaluate your:
- Brand and product/service positioning
- Brand voice
- Brand values
- Unique selling proposition
- Corporate culture
- Intranet activity
Your external brand assets include:
- Brand identity system, including your logo and all supporting graphic materials
- Print materials such as brochures, stationery, business cards, and trade show displays
- Social media
- Public Relations
- Sponsorships & memberships
- Content marketing assets including blogs, white papers, case studies, and videos
5. Examine your competitors
Once you’ve reviewed your own assets, you’ll need to widen your scope to apply the same evaluation to your competitors.
You’ll want to find out how your competitors compare with you in terms of internal and external assets. You probably won’t have access to their internal assets, but get as much information as you can.
Creating a better brand
Conducting an effective brand audit is no easy task. It takes a strong commitment from all company leaders, as well as dedicated time and resources. However, if you do it right, a brand audit will reveal all of the areas that need improvement and lay the foundation for a rebrand – if that's what's needed.
Once you’ve established those parameters you’ll know the best route of attack, and how to proceed in creating a stronger and more engaging brand.