Ideally, your brand identity exists to support your business objectives. But in a world with constantly shifting demands, companies are often so busy servicing their client base that they lose sight of assessing and re-aligning their business objectives with operations and marketing.
When companies lack a clear brand identity or their brand foundation is not integrated operationally, a disconnect can arise between what a company wants to express through its brand and what it’s actually expressing.
A brand audit can help you regain focus and strengthen your corporate strategy by allowing you to compare and contrast where your company is now, versus where you want to be in the future. It also helps identify ways — both big and small — to improve how you do business. Whether you’re feeling the pressure of increased competition or redirecting your business toward new products and services, an audit will help you better position your company so that you can transform challenges into opportunities and create a more compelling and holistic brand impression. Take the following steps to complete your next brand audit.
Define your brand audit objectives
Decide what you want to accomplish with your audit. What are your success criteria? Do you want to identify customer perceptions of your brand/company? Or, gain insight on employee engagement and company perception?
Typically brand audits can cover a variety of purposes, so you must first decide what you want this audit to do for you and what insight you would like to gain. Audits can:
Help assess your brand.
An audit can reveal how your brand is being expressed across all communication channels. It may look internally at how your HR department is communicating with prospective employees, or externally at how you’re interacting with customers on your website or social media.Your brand should be expressed in a consistent way across channels. This means ensuring that your visual identity (graphics, photography) and tone of voice are consistent and support the message and image you want to portray. Looking at all touch points where your brand appears can quickly help you to determine how consistent you are being and what impression people have when they engage with your company.
Focus on one particular area of your business.
Audits allow you to review how the decisions you make have a holistic impact on your company and your services. If you are facing a particular challenge such as negative feedback on your customer service, an audit can help gain insight into the causes behind the issue and how it affects perceptions of your brand. Armed with this info, you’re in a better position to develop effective solutions.
Gain the power of perspective
An audit empowers your decisions with clear insight and data, allowing you to step back and have a fresh perspective.
While you can conduct a brand audit internally on your own, the real insight comes through engaging an outside consultant. They provide a third-party perspective that is unbiased and can help you to see your company in a new light.
Create your brand audit framework
Once you’ve defined why you’re doing an audit, what you hope to gain from it and who you want involved, you can create an audit framework that describes what you’ll be assessing.
A brand audit may include:
Are your core values, vision/mission/manifesto still valid? Do they represent who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow?
How are your logo and visual identity system (graphics) being used across touch points? Do you have a defined photography style and is it consistent throughout your print and online work?
Messaging and tone of voice
How is your brand expressed verbally? Do you have a consistent tone of voice? What is your overall brand message and story? How does your targeted messaging ladder back to your overall message? How does your messaging help to support your brand position in the marketplace?
Other brand assets
Are there other assets you need to assess and review? A brand ambassador, spokesperson or “mascot”/brand character? All the elements that make up your brand and are associated with your company’s visual and verbal expression need to be reviewed.
Do your employees understand your brand? Are your internal processes and procedures aligned with who you say you are and what you say you value? For example, are employees’ performance reviews based on how they are living those values at work? How are your employees expressing your brand externally with customers?
Align your brand strategy
Once you have the results and insight from your audit, you can then compare and contrast it against your business and marketing strategies. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Where can I address the challenges that have come up in my business and marketing plan?
- Where can I take advantage and execute on untapped opportunities?
- Who within my organization is best equipped to support me in what I need to accomplish? Tasking department heads/leaders within your company to execute against the challenges and opportunities from your audit empowers everyone to work as a single team, with a confirmed goal.
Execute with insight
Once your audit findings have been integrated into your overall business and marketing plans, create a clear roadmap for success by providing success criteria and a timeline for your teams.
Define what success looks like for you and establish regular touch points to monitor the progress of your action items. This will help keep your goals top of mind and ensure the insight you’ve gained from your audit empowers your company to its fullest potential.
Have you conducted a brand audit? What insights did you gain from assessing your brand?