Ever notice how even the strongest brands change over time?
Big-name brands like Pepsi, Nike, Target, Microsoft, etc. all understand that regular evaluations of their businesses’ identities are essential. By auditing their brands’ strengths and weaknesses, they are helping to ensure their best-fit audiences receive messaging that’s continually relevant and engaging.
A brand audit can help to understand how customers currently feel about your brand, as well as how effectively you’re communicating key messages. It can shine light on new opportunities, pinpoint challenges, and steer big-picture decisions for a company of any size.
The format of your audit will vary depending on the size of your company, what you want to accomplish, and the resources you have at your fingertips. While an agency may have the means to perform extensive surveys and research, for example, a small business may opt for a less-comprehensive overview that can be performed quickly and internally.
A brand audit is essentially a checkup.
Regardless, a brand audit should analyze your business’s voice, its reputation, its strengths and its possible weaknesses.
Brand audits may be performed regularly (ex: quarterly or annually), or when your business goes through a monumental change, like new leadership or acquisition. If your business is experiencing a dip in sales, or new competitors are entering the market, those are also great times to get a grasp on your brand’s competitive edge, and make changes to the ways you’re building relationships with your clients and customers.
Take a look at your mission statement, your vision, your values...do they still resonate? Have there been changes to your big-picture? Are you delivering on your brand promise?
Whether you strive to deliver the speediest, the most innovative, or the highest-quality services, your special offer should be clear to both your internal team and your customer base.
You should also be able to quickly and easily articulate what makes your brand unique. Think in terms of 30-seconds: in that short amount of time, can you clearly state what you offer and how you solve your customers’ pain points? If not, you may want to spend time dialing in your talking points highlighting what makes you, you.
As a brand evolves, so do its marketing materials. This means that some collateral may get updated over time (brochures, websites, online ads, posters), while other pieces get left behind.
Take up a collection of all your marketing materials, and see what needs to be updated or phased out. Some questions to ask:
As you go through your materials, feel free to reference our guide to visual branding: How To Build A Successful Visual Brand Identity
Know your numbers. While we all may have ideas about what we think is important to our customers, a cold-hard look at your analytics can tell you so much more. Even using free tools such as Google Analytics and Google My Business Insights can lend a wealth of information concerning how your customers interact with your business both online and offline.
Questions to ask yourself when viewing your data:
Comparing and contrasting is a great way to solidify where you stand in your marketplace. By understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, you can better recognize and master your brand characteristics.
Analyze what your competition is doing that you believe is working and not working. Where do you stand among the ranks in your marketplace, and why? What is their competitive edge, compared to yours? Why might customers choose one over the other?
You may also want to look outside of your direct market for inspiration. Even if a business isn’t directly competing with you for customers, they may have methods to glean and learn from. Reach out regionally, and even nationally, and you may discover new ideas for engaging with your customers, such as offering additional services, joining new associations, building partnerships and more.
One of the main traits of a strong brand is the ability to relate to (and resonate with) your audience. And a great way to get to know your audience is by actively listening and asking questions.
Think about all the people who interact with your business: your customers, your employees, your suppliers, and your partners. How can you get information directly from them regarding their impressions of your brand? Some options include:
Make a list of what you’d like to ask and know, and then tally your results to find trends and discrepancies. Were the answers what you predicted? Were there any surprises? Is your brand identity consistent internally (your staff and stakeholders) and externally (your customers and leads)?
If you’re ready to meld all of the above and embark on your own brand audit, we’ve put together an easy checklist-style place to start. Below are the marketing assets to gather and assess when launching a brand audit on your own. Get them together, and ask yourself if the following are updated, current, and accurately reflecting your brand.
Files & Brand Guidelines
Once you’ve collected all the information from your audit, it’s time to develop your action plan. Don’t let your audit and insights grow stale—now it’s up to you to use your newfound knowledge to grow, build and enhance your brand.
You might start with tackling your major problem areas, or prioritizing easy-wins where you’re most likely to see a quick return. Either way, setting goals and tracking progress based on your findings is an essential wrap-up step to ensure your audit has purpose and value.
Once you have a plan-of-action, we’re here for your marketing and sales needs. Our creative agency can help you to unearth new ideas, build up your marketing portfolio, and create promotional materials that communicate your brand’s one-of-a-kind message. If you decide a complete rebrand is in order, we can help with that too.
Contact us to learn more about putting your audit to good use, and reaping the returns of a clear, effective and memorable business brand.
Sarah is Director of Marketing at Harvest Media. She loves working with business owners and key decision makers who have a vision for the future and want to take their marketing strategy and business growth to the next level.