Sometimes you just need another set of eyes, a fresh perspective. “Do these pants make my butt look big?” “Is there something in my teeth?” You need somebody else to point out your blind spots, even if it’s with the audible blast of a horn. It’s not always comfortable, but more often than not, it’s beneficial. It’s indicative of a good friend. They care enough to tell you what others won’t. Otherwise you’re left standing in the forest and stubbing your toe on the trees that seem to come out of nowhere because you never noticed them.
That’s the idea behind a brand audit: A friendly outsider with branding experience offers a valuable third-party opinion to help you understand how potential customers see you.
Below are glimpses of the conversations you’ll need to be ready to have for the audit to be effective.
A COMPANY OVERVIEW ESTABLISHES THE PROPER CONTEXT FOR A BRAND AUDIT
We have to get to know you before we can help you
Fresh perspective means having to provide some background information. Auditors do preparatory research ahead of time, but they can only learn so much without an insider’s help.
Show up to a brand audit ready to discuss the company’s history, even if you weren’t there for all of it. A company’s story reveals a lot about the intent and values that serve as its foundation. Talk about the who, when, why, and how it was founded and how it has moved forward since the beginning. Describe the structure of the company. Is it the parent company of multiple subsidiaries? A startup? Part of a merger?
Before entering a brand audit, you should have a clear understanding of the company’s purpose. As Simon Sinek says, “Know your why.” This goes hand in hand with being able to clearly articulate the company’s values.
Be ready to talk about your industry as a whole. You may need to educate us about what your company does and who else does it in order for them to have a better grasp of the context in which you operate.
Any worthwhile audit will address a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You may have heard it referenced as a SWOT analysis.
Finally, be ready to finish the following statement: Our products work best for _________.
BRAND GOALS INDICATE THE DIRECTION YOU’RE MOVING AND WITH WHAT KIND OF MOMENTUM
If you don’t know where you’re going, we don’t know how to get you there.
With the background information and context set, it’s time to talk about what you’d like to see your company do in the future. Don’t enter a brand audit for the heck of it; have goals in mind. What would you like the next phase of company history to be? What goals do you have? How will you communicate and reach those goals? (By now, you may be wondering how this biography of your company plays into branding. It does. Just wait for the magic and respect the process.)
YOUR BRAND PROMISE IS THE GROUNDWORK FOR YOUR COMPANY’S REPUTATION
What do you want your company’s senior superlative to be?
A brand promise is more than an icon that represents your company visually. It is the reputation of that symbol. Your brand promise isn’t something framed as a mission statement in a conference room at headquarters and forgotten. In reality, the higher purpose of your brand is revealed, over time, through the actions your company chooses to take. It can’t just be stated; it must be lived out, reflecting the very character of your business.
Going back to Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “What you do proves what you believe.” You can create a logo and a tagline that say something amazingly magnetic and endearing, but if you don’t follow those sentiments with action, you’re setting yourself up for failure and a less-than-desirable company reputation. You have to ask yourself, “What moods do I want to be associated with my brand? Frustration? Disappointment? Innovation? Excitement? Swagger?”
YOUR BRAND’S CURRENT POSITIONING WITHIN THE INDUSTRY IMPACTS MESSAGING, GOALS, AND REPUTATION
This isn’t middle school. Celebrate what makes you different.
The brand audit discussion will look at your competitors as well as your target market with the goal of identifying your company’s specific niche. Conversation will center around what distinguishes you within the industry and how you’re different from your competitors. This will also be the point of the audit when we’ll collaborate to identify possible verticals, some of which you may already be addressing and some of which you aren’t.
These distinctions and audiences, in large part, determine your messaging. We’ll talk more about that shortly.
A BRAND PERSONALITY IS THE PERSONIFICATION OF YOUR COMPANY AND HOW IT INTERACTS WITH THE WORLD
What are your brand’s Myers-Briggs letters and Enneagram numbers?
It can be easy to get so focused on what your brand does that you neglect to understand who your brand is. Personalities don’t change with time, trends, or technologies. They are lasting and timeless.
Think about Apple’s brand personality: laid back and innovative.
Coca Cola’s brand personality: a well-liked Pollyanna.
Nike’s brand personality (despite some brand promise challenges over the years) has remained constant: determined, competitive, and motivational.
If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have? How do you want customers to think about your organization? With a series of strategic questions, we’ll help you uncover the brand personality that’s been there all along.
BRAND MESSAGING. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY TO THE WORLD?
What would the headline of your online dating profile say?
Brand messaging introduces your brand goals and brand promise to the world via your brand personality. The message needs to be clear and represent you well. It also needs to be properly understood by your target audience. If you talk over their head or with condescension, you’ll be wasting your proverbial breath.
Your brand message needs to be consistent. Every department, every employee, every marketing arm needs to be saying the same thing or it creates confusion — an identity crisis, if you will. That’s why it’s important to establish acceptable and agreed-upon taglines and language guidelines.
The tone of all messaging needs to remain consistent as well. If your brand personality is professional and corporate, don’t try to be quippy. On the other hand, if your brand personality is witty and “common man”, don’t confuse potential customers by using formal language.
At the end of a brand audit, you should have a style guide or brands and standards. Of course, the brands and standards should also address creative elements.
YOUR BRAND WILL BE RECOGNIZED BY THE IMAGES, COLORS, TYPEFACE, AND OTHER CREATIVE ELEMENTS ASSOCIATED WITH IT
If somebody wanted a tattoo of your brand, would they know what to get?
A branding guide (a.k.a. the brands and standards) should include the following deliverables at the end of your brand audit:
- Brief company overview as we understand it
- A description of the brand audit process (for those who weren’t at the audit but will be reading the document)
- Your brand goals
- A concise list of distinguishing factors
- Verticals/target audience and specific messaging for each
- Brand promise
- Brand personality
- Narrative (includes themes, taglines, metaphors, potential headlines, etc.)
- Language guidelines (tone, specific word usage, how the brand is to be referenced, etc.)
- Creative guidelines
- Logo and usage
- Moodboard (includes colors, typeface, and image style)
- Samples of design assets (optional)
WHAT TO BRING TO A BRAND AUDIT
Information auditors will need in order to do an adequate evaluation of your current brand:
- Samples of current messaging and collateral (and platforms: digital, print, radio, TV)
- Demographic data about customers (What segments of your target market are more likely to purchase your product?)
- Past marketing campaigns and results (samples of collateral and numbers)
- Links to social media accounts
- List of individuals who could be contacted for secondary interviews (sales staff, customers, customer service reps)
- Customer surveys or customer feedback logs (online reviews, focus group info, etc.)
- List of top 5-10 competitors
- Current brands and standards (if they exist)
Now that you know what’s involved in a brand audit, you can do one of two things: You can try to evaluate your brand from an insider’s perspective, knowing you’ll still have blind spots. Or you can schedule a brand audit with us and get the spinach out of your teeth.