Saying that competition is stiff these days is an absolute understatement, especially in the digital world.
Having a killer catalog of products and services to your credit just isn’t enough to keep you ahead of the pack anymore.
Your closest competition has that going for them, as well, so there’s really only one way to set yourself apart: cultivate a brand that’s unlike anything else out there right now.
But great brands are living things, meaning they need to change and adapt with the times to stay relevant.
What worked for your branding campaign last year might not work as well this year or next year, either, so it’s essential to audit your brand regularly to make sure everything’s working as it should.
Here’s what you need to know to get started on our brand audit.
What is a Brand Audit?
A brand audit is a detailed process designed to ascertain how well your customers think your brand is doing.
Although the details of what’s involved will vary from one business to another, a brand audit will typically investigate all the factors that make a brand in the first place.
Examples include but may not be limited to:
- Overall brand awareness and marketplace position.
- Storytelling and other aspects of visual marketing.
- Ideal customer and general target audience.
- Effectiveness and innovation in the current product catalog.
- Overall user experience and satisfaction level.
- Ongoing marketing strategies and their alignment with long-term goals.
The purpose of the audit is to fully assess the health of your current branding campaign.
It will reveal what’s working and show you what strategies you should stick with. But it will uncover weaknesses and roadblocks that may be stopping your brand from reaching its full potential, as well.
What is the Value of a Brand Audit?
Even very successful companies could always be doing a bit better when it comes to branding. Companies grow, times change, and a target audience’s tastes evolve.
A brand audit helps you figure out what’s working with your branding strategy and what could use some improvement.
Among other things, your brand audit will help you:
- Accurately assess your brand’s current strengths and weaknesses.
- Learn how your target demographic (and the general public) really perceive your brand.
- Figure out how to better align your brand and product catalog with your clientele’s expectations.
- Discover where your brand stands in the grand scheme of the market and how you can improve on it.
Think of a brand audit as a health checkup for your ongoing branding strategy.
Performing one on a regular basis (whether you think you need it or not) is a great way to make sure your current campaign is on track.
It’s also the best way to catch potential issues early before they have a chance to become big problems.
Of course, you can and should conduct additional audits when and if you feel your brand isn’t meeting expectations, as well.
When Should You Do a Brand Audit?
While there are no hard and fast rules as to when a company should perform a brand audit, it’s a good idea to do one at least once a year, even if you’re relatively sure there are no issues.
You may also want to consider one under conditions like the following, as they’re signs you either already have developing problems or could run into some soon.
The market is changing
The world and society are constantly in flux.
And as people’s needs and priorities change, so will the market, so businesses need to stay ahead of the game if they’re going to remain relevant.
Pay special attention to market changes that directly affect the relevancy of your key offerings.
For example, consider the impact the rise of streaming technology has had on the home media industry over the years.
Netflix stayed ahead of the game by changing its offerings to fit the times, eventually evolving from lending physical DVDs through the mail to offering one of the world’s most popular streaming services.
On the other hand, Blockbuster, formerly one of Netflix’s biggest competitors, eventually went out of business because they failed to do the same thing.
Brand audits can help you make sure your company becomes a Netflix and not a Blockbuster in the face of shifting market trends.
Your competitors are evolving
Staying on top of market trends and changing consumer expectations is only part of what it means to run a successful brand.
You also need to stay ahead of your competition, so it’s essential to keep an eye on what other companies in your market are up to.
If one or more of your competitors have changed up their offerings lately or come up with something that could be a game-changer, it’s an excellent time to reassess your own brand.
Taking the right corrective actions at the right time can help you keep up, and a prompt brand audit enables you to make it happen.
You’ve recently changed your catalog
Sooner or later, every company switches up its offerings to better meet its business goals, and yours surely isn’t any different.
You add new products to your catalog while retiring old ones. You branch out into other markets or reach out to new demographics, and that’s all great. But you need to make sure your brand evolves along with everything else you’re putting out there.
A brand audit can help you determine whether your brand is still in step with your company’s public image and current catalog.
If it’s not, you can make appropriate changes before the discrepancies start to hurt your bottom line.
Your efforts aren’t meeting expectations
Sometimes despite your best efforts, you just don’t see the results you hoped for.
For example, maybe a marketing campaign you expected to be successful underperformed. Perhaps your sales margins are looking a little thin, your web traffic has dropped, or your emails aren’t seeing the open rates you expected.
Problems like these are signs it might be time for a brand reassessment, and a brand audit can help you figure out where you’re going wrong.
It might be time for a few tweaks or possibly even a rebranding plan.
How Do You Conduct a Brand Audit?
Whether you’re planning a brand audit to get known issues under control or simply want to make sure your current strategy is on point, the basic procedure remains the same.
Keep an open mind, and see the process through to the end, even once you think you’ve spotted the issue. Thorough audits lead to healthy brands with staying power.
1. Consider the purpose of your audit
All brand audits have to start somewhere, and that should be with an honest assessment of why you’re planning an audit.
For example, is this a preventative audit you’re doing just to make sure everything’s on the up and up? Or are you concerned about something specific — like your social media reach or the functionality of your website?
Then create a framework for your audit that includes a list of topics to brainstorm with your team. Decide how you’ll go about addressing each issue and in what order you’ll tackle them.
Remember, if you’re doing a complete audit, you should address:
- The strengths and weaknesses of your products.
- Your competitors and where you rank in comparison.
- The functionality and purpose of your website.
- Your desired niche and target markets.
- What makes your brand different (e.g., pricing or service quality).
- Current and future marketing trends.
2. Set clear goals for your audit
Before you can figure out how well you’re doing in your branding efforts, you need to know what you’re hoping to achieve.
So start by identifying your marketing goals and your priorities moving forward.
- What are your target audience’s primary needs, values, and challenges?
- How aware of your brand is this audience, and how do they perceive your company?
- How well does the public perception of your brand align with your desired perception?
- What’s your company’s market share like right now? Are there any ways you could expand or issues standing in the way of the progress you could be seeing?
Once you’ve answered questions like the above, you can start pinpointing your goals.
Consider the ways in which your brand perception isn’t what you want it to be, as well as how it can be changed.
Think about whether your brand might be ready to expand into additional markets or go after a larger slice of your current one.
Then consider what’s realistic as far as how quickly you can reach those goals.
Which can be accomplished promptly and which will likely take more time? Consider which goals will yield the most significant return on your investment once reached, as well.
3. Touch base with your audience
A brand is really only as strong as its audience says it is, so what others think is a critical factor to consider when performing a brand audit.
Connect with your target audience and start asking questions about your brand. It’s the best way to zero in on any gaps between where you are and where you want to be with your brand identity.
Ensure you’re thorough as far as who you reach out to during this phase of your audit. You’ll want to interview internal stakeholders like company leaders, advisors, and other key staff members.
Then approach your external audience, including your customers, partners, and any influencers involved in your campaign.
4. Go over your data
Over 80 percent of modern consumers research their options online before making a specific purchase, so make sure you look at your web analytics for meaningful insights into your website’s performance.
For example, is your site making the right impression on your target audience? How well are your channels driving traffic to your site, and are you appealing to the customers you really want?
Take a good look at your social data, too. Use the demographics tools on your platform of choice to understand your audience better.
Are your current social media branding efforts attracting the people you want to be attracting? How are all of these numbers aligning with your sales data?
Looking at the numbers attached to your branding efforts and comparing them to what you learn from talking directly to your audience will tell you a lot about your public brand image.
From there, you’ll have an idea of how to highlight your brand’s strengths better and respond to the expectations of your target audience.
5. Come up with a plan and keep track of results
The purpose of a brand audit is to uncover weak spots in your branding campaign and assess whether or not you’re getting the results you want from your current efforts.
The next order of business is to put together a plan of action. Decide how you’ll address each of the problem areas revealed by your audit. Set a timeline complete with milestones for each task.
Finally, carefully monitor your progress the entire time to assess the effectiveness of your action plan. It’s the best way to tell whether your new plan is working as it should be.
Make some tweaks along the way if necessary and continue to keep track of things.
Once your action campaign concludes, you may wish to repeat the initial audit to measure improvement.
Wrap Up: A Strong Branding Campaign is Everything
Although a lot goes into building a successful business, there’s really no substitute for a recognizable brand identity.
Your brand is the heartbeat of your business — the part of what you do that your customers identify with.
Building a solid brand that people can believe in is the key to lasting customer loyalty, and regular brand audits can help you get there.
You’ll also want to consider whether you’ve successfully achieved brand salience.
How readily do your products and services come to mind when your ideal customer is ready to make a purchase?
Find out when you check out our comprehensive guide on brand salience, how to achieve it, and how to measure it!