Brand audit - Keeping your brand focused and strong

diagram of branding strategy and touch points

As a brand strategy is pushed out by a company, it often adapts to business, competitive and manufacturing pressures that can potentially change or corrupt the desired perception of the brand. A brand audit takes inventory of the state of the brand from mostly external sources in order to identify and fix issues that may be diminishing its strength.

A brand audit is an evaluative exercise that can be performed to ensure that everything relating to the brand is in line with the company's brand strategy and that negative issues affecting the brands' perception are dealt with before they become problems.

Why do a brand audit?

A brand audit helps a business identify its state-of-being in the minds of its customers, general public and stakeholders. It helps identify concerns and determine a strategy for building a favourable position and strengthening a positive brand perception.

Goals of a brand audit

The purpose of an audit is to ensure brand integrity (products, services, messaging, internal processes, identity, and promotion, etc.) and to deal with potential negative (alleviate) or positive (capitalise) issues that may be affecting the reputation the brand.

  1. Provide a benchmark for improving brand strength
  2. Identify and assess the true position of the brand with respect to key competitors, based on the perceptions of customers and shareholders.
  3. Identify and re-evaluated strength/weakness/opportunity/threat (SWOT) data for broad use and in identifying a most beneficial market position
  4. Determine the relative positioning of key competitors and identify potential to move into desirable market space
  5. Provide data that will help develop, adapt or modify key messaging to claim company’s desired position
  6. Provide data that will assist in the development an optimized external/internal branding and communications plan

Complexity of a brand audit

A brand audits can be performed at a corporate or product line level. It can simple, or complex. The requirements will be dictated by the size and uniqueness of a company and may be restricted by budgets.

An in-depth audit might include every internal and external detail of a company from product concept development to product support - from business cards and collateral right through to customer thank you letters. It can include employee, customer, prospect and stakeholder surveys and it can even include a competitive analysis.

At its very simplest application, a brand audit may only include a review and evaluation of all the company's marketing materials and a verbal survey of sales personnel who may be hearing about issues directly from the customer.

Taking stock

A complete brand audit will look a company's internal and external variables as a brand health check and in order to identify and repair issues.

  • Positive & negative stakeholder perception
  • Contradictory messaging inconstancies
  • Visual brand issues
  • Reputation
  • Internal process issues and how they affect brand perception
  • New opportunities
  • Competitive threats

What about assumptions

Within the general operations of a company, problems that affect the brand are usually fairly obvious, and assumptions can be made as to what the problems are and how they should be fixed. However, there is a competitive component that should also be considered which is not as obvious.

External perception of a brand comes via an interaction with the brand, and although we can make assumptions as to what the customer wants or how they are experiencing the brand, the customer is our only real authority. Understanding the customer experience helps us determine strengths and weaknesses.

Some companies with huge brand issues ignore audits. Not getting to the root of the problems, they proceeded to re-brand in hopes to wipe the slate clean and repair the damaged brand. Unfortunately, many of these companies end up falling into the same rut they're trying to avoid. In most cases a successful re-brand is more than just a fresh coat of paint, it requires that all the issues that may be causing brand confusion, or negative perception be addressed and fixed before re-brand implementation.

The audit process

The process determines variables that can be used to measure a company’s performance and sets the groundwork for evaluation and analysis that will point out areas of negative brand issues. Once problem areas have been identified, they can be included in an updated brand strategy and addressed within marketing and communications planning.

  1. Review of mission, vision, position (all key messages)
  2. Interviews/surveys with customers, prospects, stakeholders, competitors, analysts, vendors, media, board members & employees, etc.
  3. Measurement strategies to convert rating into meaningful information
  4. Review of all tactics and collateral materials in terms of message consistency, market appeal, effectiveness and quality.
  5. May include a revised market analysis
  6. May include a revised competitive analysis

What's next?

There will always be issues that are affecting the performance of a brand. No matter how big or small, they should be prioritized and fixed as quickly as possible. These fixes will typically be included in a marketing plan.

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