Cast your mind back to high school, that horribly awkward period in every nascent adult’s life when you’re struggling to define who you are and who you want to be. Do you remember the tension you felt when it seemed your outward persona wasn’t quite vibing with other people? Did you find yourself checking in occasionally to see if some part of your identity could be altered or improved to boost your social status and win new friends?
Yes, high school was terrible, and the process of defining and redefining your identity was difficult and painful. But it was a necessary step on the road to developing a mature, functional persona that helped you achieve your goals in life.
Brand audits are the equivalent process for businesses, sans the squeaky voices and the zit cream. Brand audits allow companies to deeply analyze their brand identity to see what’s working, what’s growing stale, and what’s broken, in an effort to redefine and refresh how they see themselves and how they wish to present themselves to the world.
It’s an important process that every business should engage in because brands that are losing relevancy will also find themselves losing market share.
The Market is a Living Ecosystem
Nothing in business is static because people are constantly changing. Over time preferences shift, needs revolve, and fashions come and go. What was important to consumers five years ago, or even last year might not be particularly pressing anymore. The world is enormously interconnected, and changes in one part of the competitive landscape can cause massive shifts somewhere else, and it’s all very hard to predict.
Your audience is evolving, and you can be certain your competition is morphing to fit the requirements of the new ecosystem. If you aren’t checking occasionally to see if your brand is still resonating with people, you may wake up one day to find yourself following in the ignoble path of the dodo. An annual brand audit is the best way to keep yourself competitive.
What Does a Brand Audit Consist Of?
The purpose of a brand audit is to determine the current state of your brand, both internally and externally, across all of your channels and communications. You’re looking for weaknesses, areas where your brand isn’t performing as well as it used to.
You want to examine how your brand is being experienced by your customers. Does your social data support the idea that they have a favorable or unfavorable impression? Are your marketing messages landing and resonating or are they missing the mark? Is your brand identity translating properly or are people misinterpreting who you are?
Internally, do your employees understand your brand? Are they onboard as brand ambassadors or do they feel disconnected? Does the company still stand behind the brand’s stated values? Are there any disconnects between internal and external messaging?
You need to examine all of your marketing materials, your website, logo and every other piece of brand collateral to make sure your message is being communicated clearly, and to be sure that the message your communicating is what you really want to say. Do people still respond, or has the messaging grown stale and repetitive?
It’s also important to examine what your competition is doing. How are their messages evolving? How are they engaging with their customers? Are they doing anything better than you are, and if so, what can you do to compete?
You need to look at their marketing collateral, SEO efforts, email campaigns, pricing structures, and everything else that differentiates them from you. It’s important to rate your brand on its own and in comparison to the market. Your brand might still be strong, but if the competition has gone in a different direction in response to changing consumer demand, you may need to change course yourself as well.
Standardize Your Process
Without a plan of attack, a brand audit can be overwhelming. With something so nebulous it can be difficult to work out where to start or how to proceed. In order to streamline your process, it’s a good idea to create a list of all the areas a brand audit should focus on, and then use that as a map to guide the process each year.
This has two key benefits. It makes the entire process easier for one. It also grants some consistency to your results year upon year. Because you’re answering the same questions with each audit it’s possible to go back to previous years’ audits to look for patterns. Looking at the current year’s audit may not turn up a problem, but when placed in the context of earlier audits you may begin to notice issues that weren’t obvious before.
Consider a Brand Audit Your Annual Checkup
If performing an audit once a year seems excessive, remember that you’re supposed to get a physical from your doctor annually. It’s not that your doctor is expecting to find anything major. It’s just smart practice to check in with them on a regular basis to examine anything that’s changed and to discuss your health generally. It’s possible that something which was working fine a year ago now needs a bit of a tweak, like a stronger dose of a medication you’re prescribed.
Like an annual physical, an annual brand audit is a smart bit of preventative care. It’s better not to wait until your brand has gone sour enough that it’s badly affecting your bottom line. Instead, you want to catch the initial signs of rot before they start to spread, and ideally before your customers really begin to take notice.
Remember that a brand audit isn’t a rebranding campaign. The latter is a major undertaking. A brand audit is less formal and requires far less effort. That said, it’s possible that the results of a brand audit may call for a rebranding campaign if it’s determined that your brand is running out of steam. But that’s a bridge to cross when you come to it.
An Audit is Better With Friends
A brand audit, that is. A tax audit is horrible no matter how many people you have in your corner. But a brand audit can be a relatively painless, highly illuminating experience when carried out by people that know what they’re doing. If you recognize the value in an annual audit but don’t know where to begin, we can help.
We have the experience to tailor the audit process to your business, focusing on the areas most pertinent to your situation and your brand identity. We’ve seen it all before. We can help you interpret the data to find even subtle brand issues so that you can address them before they grow into bigger problems.
If a brand audit is like a physical, then let us be your brand’s primary care physician. We’ll give it a thorough examination and get it back into tip-top condition. We have the stethoscope, and we know how to use it.