Brand audits are a very useful tool for brand strategists or business leaders who want to assess the effectiveness and perception of their brand.
A brand audit is essentially a checkup on the state of a brand. It assesses a brand’s strengths and weaknesses and where it sits in relation to competitors.
As a professional brand builder, knowing the brand audit process can help you uncover opportunities for your own brand or your clients.
This guide explains what a brand audit is, why they’re so important and a step-by-step process of conducting them.
What Is A Brand Audit [+ How It Gets You Clients]
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What Is A Brand Audit?
In reality, you could just as easily replace the word “audit” with “assessment,” “analysis,” or any other word from this semantic field.
The point is that a brand audit is a concerted effort to step back and get a holistic view of a brand’s performance.
Its purpose is to find areas for improvement in the brand strategy through a classic SWOT-type analysis.
Generally speaking, it assesses three categories:
Internal branding — the mission statements, brand values, and company culture
External branding — the logo, advertising and marketing materials, public relations, website, social media accounts, email marketing, and content marketing
Customer experience — the customer journey, sales process, support, and customer service policies
If asked to do a brand audit, you’ll need to measure performance in these areas in relation to competitor brands.
The critical point of this analysis is to identify areas to possibly steal a march on other brands within the competitive marketplace.
After a successful brand audit, brand strategists or brand managers will benefit from a comprehensive understanding of all brand elements. They’ll then present these findings in a brand audit report that will recommend new marketing strategies to improve brand performance.
When To Do A Brand Audit
A brand audit can be a rather large undertaking, but the rewards are there.
A brand audit provides valuable insights for several situations.
In fact, you shouldn’t make any significant brand strategy moves without the audit of any existing brand.
So, when is a brand audit needed?
When considering rebranding or a brand refresh
If you need proof for a rebrand
During a rebrand to determine direction
When expanding into a new market
When you need to find an angle to differentiate a brand
When shifting the target audience
If undergoing a merger or acquisition
It’s not rocket science.
And when we break it down to the bare bones, it’s simply about understanding the situation and environment before planning the next moves.
No military strategist would go into a new battle without a comprehensive assessment of the situation from available strengths to competitors’ weaknesses and how to use both to optimal effect.
The analogy works for business brand decisions, too.
As gatekeepers of the brand, you wouldn’t want to make brand decisions without evidence to help you make well-informed choices.
That evidence could be used to convince decision-makers to make the adjustments needed whether it’s a simple redesign of the identity or an entire rebrand,
Brand audit insights help you better understand your target audience or new market, or help you see a market gap.
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Why Are Brand Audits Effective?
Brand audits are effective as they offer a tonne of tangible benefits for a business.
Once again, effective branding is all about gathering information and utilizing that information to formulate a plan of brand expression.
Gathering information from various sources helps you evaluate your brand identity, brand values, and internal company culture, too.
The clearer the picture you can build of your brand’s strategy from positioning to internal branding, the easier it is to communicate effective messaging to influence consumers.
Let’s examine the benefits and goals of a brand audit in more detail.
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Consistency is critical to any brand strategy to ensure that the core messaging runs through all marketing channels.
A comprehensive brand audit will reveal any instances of mixed messaging likely to confuse the target audience.
Like any good doctor, a brand strategist can identify a harmful aspect in the body of a brand, isolate it, and look to remedy the situation.
Find A Competitive Advantage
A successful brand should translate to a successful, profitable business, right?
Of the many interconnected elements of a successful brand, the ability to find a competitive advantage can be transformative.
The brand audit process provides the opportunity for strategists to reassess the market landscape, look through another lens and find a more effective competitive advantage.
Audits often provide brands with a fresh perspective to appeal to the target market by initiating an action plan to offer a value proposition based on genuine differentiation, whether based on pricing, customer experience, or another element.
Increase Customer Acquisition and Conversion Rates
There’s a trickle-down effect at play here.
The clearer idea you can build for your brand, the easier it is to make that consistent across the board to all stakeholders.
Let’s follow this logic to its conclusion.
The more clarity you have on your brand position and the brand promise, the easier it is to create brand messages and marketing materials to target customers.
These communication tools can enhance both the acquisition of new customers and customer loyalty.
Of course, no brand audit guarantees success.
Yet, armed with clarity on all aspects of your brand, it’s easier to shift the brand into a position more conducive to customer satisfaction.
Assess Brand Value & Brand Equity
The value of a company considers brand equity.
That is, the value of the willingness of the market to choose your brand over your competitors.
A comprehensive brand audit gives you a better picture of your brand’s worth.
As is a running theme here, with a firmer grasp on your brand equity based on its strengths and weaknesses, you can then target areas where there’s an opportunity to increase brand equity and, as a result, the value of the business.
How To Conduct A Brand Audit In 5 Steps
Okay, so we’ve established the potential benefits of a brand audit.
However, those benefits are only within reach if you can do a brand audit well.
It all amounts to a pointless exercise if you bungle the basics of the process.
A brand audit is fundamentally based on a bucketload of questions that need answering. Quality answers depend on a systematic process.
So, let’s keep it simple and go through the brand audit process step-by-step along with the metrics you’ll need to track.
#1. Create A Framework
The first step is general stocktaking.
Take time to review some of the core principles of the business and brand.
Review your mission and strategic objectives. Reexamine your target customers and buyer personas and the core tenets of your marketing plan as it stands, and create a general snapshot view of the competitive landscape.
Review your product portfolio and the value propositions they present.
Gather all your marketing assets and assess them for consistency. You’ll check these to see how they build a picture of your brand messaging, your verbal identity, and your visual identity.
A brand’s verbal identity refers to the tone of voice reflected through the linguistic choices of the content and how this portrays the brand to the audience. Visual identity, predictably, does the same but for all the visual aspects of the content.
What do your fonts, imagery, photo use, logos, and other visual elements say about your business and do they communicate the attributes your brand strategy intends?
This review of the fundamentals sets you up nicely for the rest of the process.
#2. Conduct Surveys
Much of the data you collect during a brand audit will be quantitative from your website traffic to your conversion rates.
These numbers are often helpful to demonstrate the brand’s effectiveness in converting prospects into customers.
However, it’s crucial to also focus on the human aspect.
Conduct surveys of your customers to find out how they experience the brand at every touchpoint. It’s challenging to get a feel for the customer experience through stats alone, and anecdotal evidence can often be revealing.
Branding is about building the brand’s perception in the audience’s mind.
Well, there’s no prizes for guessing how you figure out audience perception.
A comprehensive brand audit will also assess the perceptions of employees.
How do they view their brand? If they don’t clearly understand the brand, they can’t serve the business very well as brand representatives.
Here are some sample survey questions:
How would you describe the brand in your own words?
What is the business’ value proposition?
What problem does the business solve for customers?
Is there anything you’d improve about the current brand?
What attributes does our brand communication display?
#3. Review Social Media Data
Analyze the effectiveness of social media marketing using your social media statistics.
What kinds of demographics interact with your brand?
Are these the customers you’re looking to target?
What are they saying about your company?
Are they picking up what you’re putting down?
Checking social media metrics related to engagement and reach can indicate brand awareness through socials.
#4. Dive Into Web Analytics (optional)
Although web analytics don’t give you much of an insight into the mind of your customers and followers, its does give you an insight into their behavior in your environment.
Various metrics can give you insights into the nature of website traffic, whether SEO strategies are in need of optimization, whether content marketing materials are appropriate, and whether ad campaigns are performing, among many other things.
Are visitors sticking around, what’s your bounce rate?
Conversion rates are also integral to a brand audit since this is what affects the bottom line of the business.
Analyzing these metrics will show whether your brand is performing as you’d like online. Are you attracting the right audience to the website? Which types of content are working best? Etc.
#5. Evaluate Competitors
Evaluating competitors is a hefty, all-important step in the brand audit process.
As part of your brand audit, you would compile a list of your closest competitors.
No brand exists in isolation and needs to be seen as part of the broader market. So, even if you feel that your product is relatively niche, look at competitors that are at least similar to your product offering.
Gather any information you can collect on their advertising materials, websites, social media presence, and customer service experiences.
You’ll assess their brand voice, visual and verbal identity much as you did for your brand.
Much of their social data is also available for you to view online, much more accessible than their sales data, for example.
You can also ask your employees as part of their survey how they view your competitors’ brands.
From gathering all this information, you should attempt to evaluate your competitors’ brand position. Try to answer the following questions:
What market segment does each competitor target?
What are their differentiating factors?
What are their value propositions?
Do they have another competitive edge?
What do their customers love about them?
What do their customers not like about them?
By considering these questions, you assess the strategic intentions of each player in the marketplace for your product or service.
What’s their angle?
What are they banking on for brand success?
After you’ve gone through these steps, you will need to create a brand audit report that condenses your findings and presents some recommendations for your future branding activity.
Let’s look more specifically at the contents of your brand audit report.
What is a Brand Audit Report, And What Should it Include?
As with any data-collection exercise, you’ll need to work your findings into a nice, condensed little package.
Otherwise, some of the key decision-makers in the business might not read your insights!
Your brand audit report should list the effective elements of the brand, the elements that could use some fine-tuning, and the elements completely off-target based on the data you’ve gathered.
However, your brand audit report should also do this for your competitors and feature those for comparison.
It would include a plan of action for reshaping your brand to align it with the objective of the business.
Present your findings using the following template:
Verbal Identity (Brand Voice And Language)
These headings can help categorize the different areas of your analysis.
However, a conclusive summary may be the most critical section of a brand audit report.
In this, a good brand strategist will neatly summarize a high-level opinion on the brand’s status.
It will present an illuminating yet concise overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the brand in the context of the competition.
And, remember, the context is critical!
Because, it’s in considering the competitive context that professional brand builders will make recommendations for how to optimize future branding activities to take advantage of gaps in the existing market.
This summary of key takeaways and recommendations should act as a foundational document dictating the next steps of the branding journey, helping you find a unique position for the brand and setting the business up for future success.
Over To You
We have hopefully given you a better idea of what a brand audit is, when to use one, the benefits you can take from one, and how to actually go about doing one.
Brand audits are immensely valuable for brand builders and their clients.
So, whether you’re thinking of rebranding your business or offering your services to other businesses, consider a brand audit.
In delving into all the aspects of your brand and the brands of your competitors, you’ll gain invaluable insights into your brand’s health relative to the market.
That’s why a brand audit is an incredibly worthwhile exercise as you come out of the process armed with actionable insights.
From there, all you’ve got to do is act on them, and you’re on the road to success!
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