strategic brand audit
If you’ve never done a Brand Audit for your organization, now is the time to do it. And if it’s been a year or more since your last one, now is the time to revisit it.
Keeping your Brand Audit current is essential for the health of your brand, and your organization. Why? Because your brand is one of your business assets that is most critical to your organization’s success.
Download your Strategic Brand Audit guide
Why is your brand so critical?
Your brand is the relationship customers have with your company. It encompasses everything that customers associate with your organization. Your brand is your organization’s soul. It defines what your organization stands for – its values, its character, its personality as an organization – and, most importantly, the experience it promises to customers.
These are the reasons customers will choose your company over competitors, even if competitors charge less for their offerings or produce arguably better offerings.
Customers choose which organizations to support and buy from based on:
- how those organizations behave in general, and in particular, how they treat their customers
- what they say (and how they say it)
- how they look – everything from logo to websites to product packaging to retail decor to how their team dresses
- the values they stand for — ethical, moral, social, political
- if those organizations truly deliver on all of their promises.
In short, customers choose to support and buy from organizations that make them feel good – and thereby make them want to align and connect with these brands.
The importance of delivering this “feel good” experience cannot be overestimated. Done right, your brand can be your organization’s biggest differentiator and its secret weapon. All other things being equal among competitors, the stronger brand will always win.
That’s why its so important that you build and maintain a spectacular brand for your organization. That’s also why you must frequently revisit your brand to make sure it’s keeping customers feeling good and keeping your organization differentiated from the competition. That’s the purpose of the Brand Audit.
What is a Brand Audit?
Your Brand Audit is a strategic review of your organization’s mission, offerings, ability to deliver on its promises, and customers’ perceptions of your organization. The process involves a questionnaire or guide to follow, which will help you assess:
- Your organization’s mission – why it exists
- Your organization’s offering(s) — products and services
- Your target customers, comprehensively described
- Your current brand and how it is perceived
- Your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
- Your S.W.O.T. analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – how well are you able to fulfill your mission and deliver a great product and brand experience to your customers?
- How to evolve your brand to make customers feel good about it and to differentiate from competitors
- Brand positioning – your unique value proposition to customers
- Values – what your brand stands for
- Personality – just like people, brands have their own unique personalities which can endear them to their customers. This includes the brand’s voice: what style and tone does your brand take in its messaging that is congruent with its personality?
- Attributes – what kind of “person” is your brand — physically, intellectually and emotionally (and perhaps even spiritually in some cases)
- What your brand ISN’T – you can’t be all things to all people. What you don’t focus on is as important as what you do.
- Your brand’s compelling story – this is your customers’ reason to believe and to make your brand their own.
- What you want people to think, and feel, when they experience your brand
- Your CULTURE – this is the internal manifestation of your brand. Does your company culture support delivering a consistent brand experience to your customers? How can you inspire your employees to keep providing this? (If not, you may want to also perform a Culture Audit, which we’ll discuss in another blog post.)
Your Whole-Company Strategy
As you can see, your Brand Audit takes a look at a whole lot more than what is traditionally considered the elements of brand – logo, colors, typefaces, etc. Those are merely branding elements (think of these as just the “clothes and makeup” of your brand). Your Brand Audit takes a look at your entire company strategy in support of delivering a great experience to customers (and doing so profitably!). Everything is considered, from whom you are serving to what you’re offering them and how well you can deliver. That’s the Brand 360˚ approach.
We like to think of a company’s brand as one of the legs of a three-legged stool for your whole company strategy: Operations, Finance and Brand. Without any one of these legs, the stool will tumble. Brand is that important, and that all-encompassing.
How to get started with your first Brand Audit
Step 1: Invite your key stakeholders
These are the people in your organization who are most invested in your brand — your CMO or VP/Director(s) of marketing, your CEO, your VP of Sales, your VP of Customer Service, and perhaps your COO and CFO. This isn’t a rigid list; your organization may be structured any number of ways. Just be sure to invite those who have the most responsibility and accountability for defining and maintaining your winning brand strategy, and who will represent this to the rest of the company (that’s why at some point, you really should involve your CEO or company owner).
Step 2: Download your free Strategic Brand Audit Guide from BRANDVIVO.
Step 3: Get a skilled and unbiased facilitator
Ideally, you’ll want an impartial third party from the outside, who is not saddled with institutional legacy, and who is also skilled at guiding and facilitating organizations through a Brand Audit, to lead you through this process. (This is one of the services BRANDVIVO provides. Please contact us if you’re interested to learn more.)
Step 4: Ban “sacred cows”
Let go of your cherished beliefs. Nothing is off the table when it comes to this process. You need to take an unfiltered, hyper-critical eye to how you’re doing things today so you can brainstorm how you should be doing it instead.
Step 5: Make the time
If this is your first ever Brand Audit, you’ll need to set aside time to conduct four-to-six meetings, each two-to-three hours in length, to allow for deep discussion that leads to breakthrough discovery. Anything less is shortchanging the process and wasting time.
If you are revisiting a past Brand Audit, you can probably accomplish this in one or two meetings.
Your Brand Audit will deliver the following actionable results:
Brand Audit summary — a concise write up of all of the conclusions from the Brand Audit process to guide your next action items.
This will include:
- Mission statement
- Precise definition of your brand
- Key message statements — the three-to-six sentences that collectively tell your whole brand story in the most concise way. This is the foundation of your “elevator pitch.”
- Action Items — implementing the brand defined in the Brand Audit
- Brand book — the definitive guide to your new brand, including the bullets above
- Branding guidelines book — how to visually represent your brand
- Action plan for reforming the company in its new brand, as well as creating and maintaining the new brand experience for customers, including and not limited to:
- visual identity
- marketing communications
- customer service
- actual delivery of your product/service to customers
This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road — when you’ll accomplish your Brand Audit Action Items and steward your brand for complete consistency of experience at all times, across all customer touch-points. This is critical! The only way to build and keep customer trust in your brand is to look, act and message the same way, everywhere, all the time.
The yearly Brand Audit revisit
The results of your first Brand Audit will be based on the assumptions you made and conclusions you reached at the culmination of that process, which you’ll then act upon in your implementation of the brand. Periodically, you’ll want to stop and check to see if your conclusions have been on target or if they need adjusting. That’s when you’ll revisit your Brand Audit for a sanity check. We recommend doing this at least once a year, and ideally every six months. It may also be a good idea to bring your facilitator back in to help you with this.
As mentioned above, the revisit should only take one or two meetings — unless, your conclusions were so off target, or, the market has changed so much, that a new Brand Audit is needed. Your business results will help you determine that. Many companies have implemented brand and product strategies only to do a massive pivot a year or two in after realizing that a different strategy was required, and perhaps, even a different mission!
Get a jumpstart. Download your free Brand Audit Guide. BRANDVIVO has prepared this guide to help you perform a complete Brand Audit. Feel free to download it and share it with your colleagues.
Please contact us if you’d like help with running your Brand Audit. We’d be pleased to be considered. Email us at email@example.com.