Many entrepreneurs work hard to develop the branding for their new business, thinking critically about every message, every visual component and every emotional trigger that might impact the effectiveness of their brand. Then, once their startup launches, they never think about their brand again.
In truth, entrepreneurs are right to worry about their branding at the start of their business journey. Branding is outrageously influential on the trajectory of a company, to the extent that seemingly small branding decisions could be responsible for business success or business failure. However, the impact of a brand does not cease after a startup has launched. In truth, business leaders should continue to review and revise their brand strategy year after year.
But, how does a business leader know what elements of their brand to preserve and which to revise? The answer, of course, is a brand audit — and here’s everything you need to know about it.
What Is a Brand Audit?
Just as you might audit your finances to search for fraud or audit your internal processes to identify inefficiencies, you can audit your brand to find weaknesses in your brand strategy. Typically, brand audits help organizations understand how their brands are positioned in their markets; audits tend to provide a broader picture of the brand, helping marketers and business leaders develop stronger and longer-term brand strategies. Often, brand audits evaluate three discrete components of the brand:
External branding, or the branding elements seen by customers, such as logos, websites, social media presence, email campaigns, print advertisements, commercials and the like.
Internal branding, or the branding elements seen and understood by employees, such as brand standards, content strategies, brand goals, target profiles and more.
Customer experience, or how customers interact with the brand, which might include customer service contact or content engagement.
What Are the Benefits of a Brand Audit?
Brand analysis in general, and a brand audit specifically, will give business leaders invaluable visibility over their brand. Understanding how a brand is currently performing and how it has performed in the past allows leaders to make better decisions for their brand’s future. This means that brand audits can:
Improve the customer experience by identifying weaknesses and building upon strengths.
Increase brand loyalty by delivering brand messages that resonate with target audience members.
Identify growth opportunities by assessing employee and customer perceptions.
When Should You Conduct a Brand Audit?
In truth, you should utilize brand analysis tools continuously to watch your brand for signs of weakness and areas of potential improvement. However, if you do not have the capacity to manage branding in this way, you should maintain a regular schedule for brand auditing, taking the time to review your brand at least once per year. Then, if you have any suspicions that your brand is underperforming, you should engage in a brand audit immediately to prevent any undue damage that could be more difficult to fix down the road.
How Should You Perform a Brand Audit?
Different brand auditors maintain different methods for conducting their audits. If you have the available resources, you might consider hiring a professional auditor to review your current brand strategy, which will give you access to their experience-driven third-party insights. However, you can launch an audit yourself, without any costly experts. Here are the basic steps for an effective brand audit:
Select a framework. You need to know what you are trying to measure with your brand audit before you begin, so you can target your research appropriately.
Review your external marketing. Are your logos, colors and messages to consumers consistent in visual identity and tone?
Survey your customers. Customer feedback is exceedingly valuable. You can gather feedback from customers through email surveys, focus groups or social media polls.
Assess your website and social media data. Your website and social profiles are excellent sources of information about brand performance as web analytics will track how visitors interact with your pages.
Survey your employees. You need to know if your workers lack clarity and passion for your brand. Employee surveys can reveal what your staff thinks and feels about your current brand strategy.
Conduct competitive research. Your competitors’ brands can impact market perception of your own, so you should have a good sense of competing brand strategies.
By auditing your brand on a regular basis, you gain unparalleled insights into its strengths and weaknesses. Using the information gleaned from your brand audits, you can develop brand strategies that continue to propel your organization toward success.