Is your business not getting the leads you want? Are you watching your competitors overtake you? Do you want to evaluate how your brand is perceived by your audience? If so, you should consider conducting a brand audit to find where you are falling short and how you can improve.
Successful companies conduct brand audits at least once a year. It’s an exercise that requires time and effort but it is the cornerstone of a robust marketing strategy that aligns with all stakeholders’ expectations.
What is a brand audit?
A brand audit is a complete evaluation of a brand’s current state in its marketplace. Combining internal and external research and analysis, it highlights a brand’s effectiveness in achieving business objectives. This information then allows for review of existing marketing strategies to improve current performance.
What to audit?
Overall a brand audit focuses on:
> Market performance. How has your market evolved since you last researched it?
> Competitivity. Where does your brand stand against your competition?
> Customer expectations. What are your customers wants and needs? Do your offerings align with them?
> Brand perception. How is your brand perceived by your stakeholders? Where can you improve customer experience?
> Brand alignment. Are your brand assets and touchpoints vehiculating an authentic and resonating image of your business?
> Gap analysis. What key issues have been identified when auditing the above components and what are your recommendations to solve them?
How to conduct a brand audit?
There are many different ways to conduct a brand audit, there is no single magic format. Regardless of the form you are using to achieve this exercise, the objectives remain the same. The overall audit process should always be structured in the following way: collecting information, analysing it and making recommendations. To help guide you through the process, here is an outline of the major areas you should explore when performing your audit.
The Yah Way of a brand audit
Stage 1. Gather information
A. Survey your audience
We recommend you get started on your audit with questioning your audience as this is the longest part of the exercise. For better results, you need to get a quality sample of respondents consisting of both customers and prospects.
The easiest way to do this is to conduct a survey. Then, if you want to further refine some of the key points you would like to analyse, you can organise interviews. Questions should be orientated around what your target market’s needs and wants are but also around the way they perceive your brand and offerings.
Here are some example questions.
- What do you find most unique about our product?
- What feature(s) would you like to be provided in our product range?
- Is our pricing range satisfactory?
- What would you improve in our sales and marketing approach to get a better customer experience?
- What do you like most about products offered by competitors?
- What are your first impressions when seeing our logo?
- Is our written material compelling?
- What information would you like to get on our industry?
B. Question your internal stakeholders
Either through a workshop or a survey, gather insights from your internal stakeholders on where they think your brand should be and how they would improve its management. The main goal is to refine your brand attributes whilst integrating your collaborator’s vision and suggestions for improvement. Considering everyone’s visions and ideas will go a long way towards achieving staff and partner’s retention and loyalty as they will feel empowered and more closely connected to success.
The data collection should be structured around two main study areas; brand attributes and goals. Make sure that your internal stakeholders express the ideal of where they think the brand should be in the future, not where the brand is currently at.
- Culture. How should your community perceive you?
- Users. How would you describe your customers?
- Voice. How should you sound to others?
- Benefit. How should people feel after interacting with your brand?
- Value. What impacts should you have on people?
- X-factor. What makes your brand radically different?
- Revenue. How will you make money? E.g. Create a new product, open an online store, develop partnerships with complementary businesses.
- Awareness. How will people hear about you? E.g. Ads in specialised magazines, ongoing content distribution on social media platforms, networking.
- Efficiency. How can you systemise and simplify? E.g. Create style-guide, use task management system, set-up analytics tools.
Once the audit is completed, it is always good to organise an internal meeting to thank everyone for their input and present them the outcome of their common efforts.
C. Evaluate your market
This third step’s objective is to conduct market research to identify opportunities and threats to your brand. If your business is operating in different sectors, you should break down the research into separate analyses of each sector.
a. Analyse the macro-environmental factors ‘PESTLE’ relevant to your industry and the location of your operations to determine which external factors may impact your brand:
b. Evaluate the size and growth of your market to see if it is in growth or in decline.
c. Look for potential new market opportunities that would allow you to launch or extend your brand to new emerging markets.
D. Assess your competitive landscape
A lot of marketers will advise you to focus on your customers instead of your competitors but studying your competition is actually a key requirement in the identification of your audience’s:
- needs and wants that are not addressed by anyone in the marketplace,
- needs and wants that you solely address.
The best approach to adopt here is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and determine what their alternatives are and what would attract them to you instead of someone else. The main goal is to determine strengths and opportunities based on differentiating points and unaddressed desired attributes by your audience.
a. Drawing upon the results of your audience’s survey on their wants and needs, identify what is not addressed by your competition that you could offer. The final list of items will represent opportunities you should address.
b. Outline your competitors’ offerings and make a comparison with yours. That will allow you to identify what unique features you offer.
c. Present your findings in a diagram called the 3-Circle Model. It will enable you to make brand strategy implications apparent for reviewing your positioning and Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in the next stage of the audit.
Stage 2. Analyse the data
A. Review your customer profiles
One of the biggest mistakes brands make is to target everyone. Unless you are operating in a monopoly market structure, you must focus your marketing efforts on specific segments of the market to gain a competitive edge.
If you already have customer profiles, the main goal of this step is to conduct a gap analysis and update your customer profiles based on the findings of Stage 1 and analytics you may have for your online platforms. If you did not previously work with customer profiles, you now have all the information required to do it.
Each customer profile should be broken down in the following sub-profiles:
> Geographic profile. Where are the customers from this segment located? This information will be very useful when targeting ads or dropping promo flyers in mailboxes for example.
> Demographic profile. What are their personal characteristics? You will be looking at characteristics such as their age, gender, qualifications, income level and marital status. This data is key when developing creative design or setting parameters for your digital campaigns.
> Psychographic profile. What are their personalities and lifestyle? Knowing the character traits and interests of your target market will save you a lot of money when running ads on social media platforms and specialist magazines.
> Behavioral profile. What are their desired product benefits? Are they sensible to price? How loyal are they to brands? This information helps you determine buying patterns and what changes may affect these patterns. As for an example, if brand loyalty is high, there is a greater chance that your customers won’t mind price increases.
B. Assess your brand assets
Your brand assets are all the elements that constitute your brand identity. From your positioning to your key messaging and visual elements, the objective for this step is to evaluate the effectiveness and relevance of your existing brand assets according to the findings you made in the previous steps of the audit.
The list of brand assets your should analyse is as follows:
- Company positioning (if multiple product and/or service ranges, assess the positioning of each relevant category);
- Corporate culture and values;
- USP or brand promise;
- Brand voice and tone;
- Logo design, typography, colour palette;
- Graphic imagery.
C. Analyse your touchpoints
The easiest way to analyse your touchpoints is to first make an inventory of them all using what is called a Brand Touchpoint Wheel. This diagram is a visual representation of the various ways in which customers come in contact with the brand and how different stakeholder groups impact them. It is important for a brand to know what all possible touchpoints are around so that managers can map a response to as many situations as possible.
Once your Brand Touchpoint Wheel is complete, analyse each element to see if it’s consistently representing the brand and is effective. For this, round-up samples of all the touchpoints and answer the following questions.
- Is the logo usage following the brand guidelines?
- Is the typo following the brand guidelines?
- Are the colours following the brand guidelines?
- Is the visual content in alignment with the brand identity?
- Is the USP clearly stated?
- Are your corporate culture and values accurately reflected?
- Are the brand voice and tone vehiculated properly?
- Is the touchpoint performing well?
Stage 3. Make an action plan for improvement
A. Summarise your findings in a SWOT analysis
Now that you have gathered all the information required, you need to present it in a way that will allow you to form a plan of action for improvement. For this, we recommend you organise the key findings in a SWOT analysis – highlighting how you can leverage strengths and opportunities but also reduce weaknesses and threats you identified in the audit.
B. Define the overall strategy for improvement
The SWOT analysis will ultimately lead you to make a choice between three major options:
- Keep your brand identity the way it is and slightly review your marketing mix and touchpoints.
- Overhaul your marketing mix, brand identity and touchpoints.
- Refresh your marketing mix, brand identity and touchpoints.
Most businesses would opt for the third option as it is a good compromise to maintain brand recognition whilst adapting to your changing environment. However, if you are a new business and realise that your brand identity is off, you should definitely consider developing a brand new identity from scratch.
C. Make an action plan
Based on the strategy you decide to adopt, develop an action plan outlining all initiatives required for improvement. Next to each initiative, define market segment(s) (if relevant), timeline, budget and KPIs so you can present the plan for approval and seamlessly implement it.
When executing the plan, make sure to monitor progress based on the set KPIs and market evolutions. Successful marketing strategies must evolve to meet changes in market trends.
You are now fully equipped to perform a brand audit for your business. However, keep in mind that it is really hard to read the label of a bottle from the inside out. Having an external team of experts to support you through the process could go a long way for your business.
Our Yah team of marketing strategists has over 30 years of experience in conducting brand audits. So, if you would like to get more information on performing a brand audit or on how we could assist you, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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