Posted by Lorraine Carter on October 02 2014 @ 14:25
Have your sales hit a slump? Are hot new brands drawing your customers away? If your brand seems to have lost its shine, it may be time for a brand audit or brand health check.
Brand audits are effectively a health check for your brand. These comprehensive, honest evaluations look at the overall effectiveness of a brand and its current position in the market compared with the competition, as well as pinpointing inconsistencies and weakness, and identifying potential areas for improvement.
With a thorough and properly executed brand audit you can halt brand deterioration and refresh or revitalize your brand, giving it a new lease of life and effectively stopping the rot to grow your bottom line.
When Should You Perform a Brand Audit?
While a brand audit can provide you with valuable insight into your brand’s performance at any point, there are certain times when it makes more sense to have a brand audit done. One is at the peak of your brand’s evolution.
Brands typically follow a lifecycle that’s similar to most living things: they begin new and full of potential, enter a growth phase, and eventually reach maturity. At this point, you may begin to see market slippage as your brand loses relevance, or your customers move on to newer brands. Regular brand audits that are timed against your brand’s lifecycle can actually help you identify the signs that your brand is about to plateau, allowing you to refresh or revitalize before you begin to lose sales.
Another common time when a brand audit not only makes sense, but can actually be pivotal to success, is prior to a planned rebranding campaign. There are a number of reasons your organisation may be undergoing a rebrand, and a thorough brand audit is a crucial part of any effective rebranding strategy.
Why Do You Need a Brand Audit?
Having a brand audit done at the peak of your brand lifecycle and prior to a rebrand are proactive strategies for preserving and developing your brand. There are also several circumstances that can merit a reactive brand audit—one intended to diagnose issues and problem areas, and turn around a flagging brand.
Brand audits can help you:
- Determine the actual position of your brand in the marketplace, and develop effective strategies to elevate your market position
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your brand, so you can address weak points and capitalize on your strengths for more effective brand differentiation
- Discover the actual expectations of your target markets and align your brand more thoroughly with its intended audience
- Gain a clear perspective on market perceptions of your brand, and make any necessary adjustments to strengthen your brand platform and customer experience
- Address internal issues and repair your brand positioning within the company, in order to strengthen employee morale, productivity, and empowerment
A strong and consistent brand makes more money, both through increased sales and decreased market spend as the power of your brand drives more word of mouth, greater customer engagement, and increased brand loyalty.
Comprehensive brand audits allow you to strengthen your brand and make it the best it can be, illuminating new growth opportunities and new ways to create resonance with your audiences.
What Does A Brand Audit Involve?
There are several factors that define the depth and extent of an effective brand audit. These include the size of both the brand and the organisation itself, the power of the brand relative to the industry and market, the required timescale to complete the brand audit, and the available budget.
In any event, the first step to a brand audit is to clearly define the objectives of the audit. You may simply want to perform a health check for your brand and gain an accurate measure of your market standing, or you may be in the early stages of a rebrand and require an extensive brand audit. The brand audit’s objectives must be absolutely clear from the start in order to develop an effective strategy for analysis and measured against the desired deliverables.
The actual elements of a brand audit vary according to the objectives and the factors mentioned above. These elements may include:
- Internal elements: Positioning, brand values, culture, voice, USP, product or service positioning etc.
- External elements: Logo and other branded design elements, all brand collateral, website, packaging, social media, SEO, advertising and public relations, content marketing, sponsorships and CSR, videos, testimonials, customer experience etc.
- System elements: Corporate brand standards, brand style guides, customer service systems, sales processes, touch points, HR policies, internal systems etc.
Additionally, a comprehensive brand audit will involve strategy reviews, market research, communications reviews, customer research, and employee and HR research.
Internal Brand Audit Support: Getting Employees On Board
Without internal support, a brand audit that is carried out for the purposes of revitalising, refreshing, or salvaging a brand will fail. An essential component of a brand audit is ensuring that both your management and employees understand the reasons for the audit.
It’s critically important to get their full support and commitment on board, not to mention help get them excited about the upcoming changes. Employees who embrace your brand can become powerful brand ambassadors, allowing you to maintain brand consistency and cultivate a loyal customer base.
Some strategies for engaging employees in a brand audit include:
- Communicate: Employees who aren’t aware that a brand audit is being conducted can’t contribute to the cause. Inform your employees early and often about the process, and invite them to ask questions and offer suggestions.
- Solicit Input: Your employees are an excellent source of information about customer perceptions of your brand, as well as the business itself. Actively solicit employee input on how they view the brand’s strengths and weaknesses, what changes they would make if they could, and how they see customers responding (or not responding) to the brand.
- Reward Participation: Employees who “live the brand” are powerful assets—and the more you have, the more effective your brand will be. Watch for employees who embrace the brand audit and strive to reflect changes, and reward them by publicly acknowledging their contributions, or even offering bonuses. This can also encourage others to engage in the process.
Enlisting Your Customers For Your Brand Audit
Public perceptions of your brand are a vital part of a brand audit, and may even be the main reason for performing one. The best way to learn what your target audience thinks about your brand is to ask them directly.
Online polls can be a simple and effective way to gauge customer sentiment about your brand. These one-question checks are quick for viewers to complete, they can be promoted easily online, and they can offer an honest starting point for more in-depth elements of your brand audit. If you have a Facebook page for your brand, you can run the Facebook Poll App and gain instant feedback from your fans.
For a more comprehensive customer view, you can create an online survey with several questions and multiple answers. Online surveys offer greater potential for detailed data and analytics from a wide sampling of your target audience, and can help you further refine your brand audit objectives.
Finally, hiring mystery shoppers is an effective and candid way to gain customer perspective on your brand. Mystery shoppers can engage with your brand at every touch point, and offer a detailed picture of the way customers actually view your brand from the outside—a perspective that is virtually impossible to gain internally.
We have found when conducting brand audits for clients using our Auditing Analysis Accelerator™ system that a combination of all these elements, together with face-to-face interviews, field and desk research produce very insightful and valuable information, often throw up unanticipated surprises which can have a significant impact on the brand strategy going forward.
ROI: What You Can Get Out Of A Brand Audit
Brand audits show you how your target audience truly perceives your brand, how your brand is actually performing, and how you compare to the competition. A well planned and executed brand audit will benefit your business in myriad ways:
- Gain insight into your brand portfolio and brand architecture
- Evaluate and refocus your brand positioning to improve engagement with your target audience
- Align your brand collateral with your brand mission, values, and differentiation to strengthen the perception of your brand
- Boost internal brand awareness and drive employee brand engagement
- Refocus and improve your brand management and marketing communications
- Provide direction for your brand into the future to maintain relevancy, consistency, and growth
As the success of a brand audit depends on honest, detached assessment, working with an experienced external brand agency is the most effective strategy to ensure a true picture of your current brand positioning, and to best identify areas for improvement to revitalise your brand.
What do you think?
• Has your organisation undergone a brand audit in the past?
• How could a brand audit help you identify potential reasons for business decline?
• If your sales are stagnating, what areas would you focus on for a brand audit?
• How would you measure the ROI of a brand audit? How many potential new customers would you need to justify the investment?
• What areas of your brand positioning may be slumped and in need of a brand audit?
• Would you consider a brand audit to identify potential loss of relevance and proactively refresh your brand to avoid declining sales?
Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!