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Branding / Nov 17, 2021
Breaking Down a Brand Audit
You go to your primary care provider for recurring check-ups and physicals. You take your car in for routine maintenance and upkeep. You, hopefully, go regularly to your dentist to have your teeth checked out, too. When it comes to things that are ever-evolving—your health, the wear and tear on your brakes, etc.—it’s imperative that you are consistently inspecting them to see how they’re holding up and where changes need to be made, if any. The same is true for your brand. This can, and should, be done by performing routine brand audits.
What is a brand audit?
A brand audit is essentially a way to define the strengths and weaknesses of your company’s overall brand strategy and give you actionable takeaways for improving your performance. By taking a long, hard look at your position in the marketplace—and the elements of your brand that lend themselves to that ranking—you allow yourself to spot holes in your brand blueprint that could ultimately be affecting conversions, customer loyalty, and the overall perception of your brand.
Conducting a comprehensive brand audit gives you valuable information about the overall health of your brand. Some of this information may include:
- The expectations and impressions of your target audience and customers
- How your brand ranks among competitors in the space
- Where there are gaps and room for improvement within your brand strategy
- Which platforms are most effective for connecting with your ideal customers
- Which of your efforts are the most fruitful versus low performers
When you audit your brand, you’re essentially taking off the rose-colored glasses and looking at your efforts through a more critical lens. You have to be ready to identify what’s working and what’s not, and then take action to capitalize on the good and make changes to course-correct the bad.
Why should you conduct a brand audit?
If you’re like most people, you have worked tirelessly to get your brand to where it is—and that’s nothing to shake a stick at. You have scrutinized every aspect of your strategy, from choosing brand colors to picking a tagline to mapping out the flow of your homepage. But making those decisions is not a means to an end—it’s a process that should be continuous and evolving for as long as your brand is alive. And despite how the saying goes, when it comes to brand positioning, ignorance is certainly not bliss. Building a brand is not a “set it and forget it” kinda gig. You must be constantly monitoring your performance and making sure the choices you made are adequately serving your brand. For example, if you installed a pop-up banner on your website with the goal of converting site visitors into leads, that should be only the beginning of that initiative. Not only is it bad practice to be unaware of its performance due to the fact that you can’t then make changes to make it more effective, it’s also not a good look to the stakeholders and those invested in the success of your campaigns.
So, of all the tools available to you to measure the effectiveness of your methods, why a brand audit? At first glance, it may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. You are collecting and analyzing large amounts of data—both on- and offline—some of which is difficult to quantify and track success or failure. However, knowledge = power. The more you know about how your brand is performing, the better equipped you are to pivot where things aren’t flourishing and capitalize on the parts you’ve already gotten right.
Once an effective brand audit is completed, what’s left are the answers to questions that keep marketers and business owners up at night—where do we rank among our competition? Where are we wasting efforts? What’s the best way to engage with our target audience? How can we best delight our customers? All this and more is examined under a microscope with a successful brand audit.
What is evaluated by a brand audit?
So you’re convinced, it’s time for your company to engage in a brand audit. Where to start? In most cases, you’re going to want to dissect the following components of your brand:
- Your brand values. What does your company stand for? What are the qualities you want your brand to exude, and how are you communicating that to the world? People are more likely to do business with brands that they feel reflect their own ideals and beliefs, so it’s crucial to your success that you make sure that you’re not only loud about what those are, but also that you are living them in every aspect of your brand’s experience.
- Your social media. It’s not just about vanity metrics like how many followers you have or how many likes you get. This step is to find out how effective your efforts are on your chosen social media platforms. Do you have the right kind of followers? Are you posting content that your audience wants to see and engage with? What are your competitors posting, and how are people responding to it? Are you inserting yourself into the conversations that you want your brand to be a part of? Are there platforms that don’t serve your brand that you can eliminate from your strategy? Going through your social media with a fine-toothed comb will arm you with the information needed to harness the full potential of the available platforms.
- Your SEO performance. While this does include the obvious—like where you rank for branded and non-branded keywords on search engines—this leg of the audit should go deeper than that. You should take a look at the demographics of your website traffic. Do the people coming to your site align with your target audience? If not, determine what changes you can make to attract them. How are people finding your site? If they’re making their way into your corner of the universe by searching for terms that don’t apply to your offering, you need to adjust your strategy. Two other important metrics to examine are your bounce rate and conversion rate. If people are leaving your site after landing on your homepage, or navigating your website and not taking the desired action to convert, what can you do to encourage them to stick around and turn into leads or customers?
- Your overall design. While it’s important to remain visually consistent, sometimes changes need to be made to better represent your brand. One effective way to inspect this part of the brand audit is by comparing the components of your design to the framework set by your brand archetype. For example, if you’re an Explorer brand, it is unlikely that using colors like pale pink in your branding are conveying the right message. Is the imagery you use helping to establish the essence of your brand? Are your fonts lending themselves to your voice and tone? There are many elements that go into this section of the audit, but refining the visual aspects of your brand goes a long way in creating a consistent perception of your company.
- Your communication strategy. It only makes sense that if you are evaluating your brand performance, you should take into consideration the ways in which you are communicating with your audience. If you’re sending emails, what are the commonalities in your best-performing campaigns? Are there certain subject line characteristics that lead to better open rates, or certain CTA verbiage that gives you better conversion rates? Are you missing opportunities to interact with your customers and further establish brand loyalty? All this and more should be taken into account.
- Your website. In an increasingly digital world, having a usable, intuitive website is critical. Taking a look at where visitors drop-off can tell you a lot about where there are gaps in your site’s journey. Why are people adding items to their carts and not checking out? What actions are visitors taking that lead to conversions vs. the pages that lead to them leaving your site? It is unlikely that your company will require an entire site overhaul following a brand audit, but it should point out small changes that can be made to drastically improve your site’s performance.
- Your content strategy. What areas would you like your company to be considered an expert on? Do you have content that answers the questions that your audience is asking? Have you created content that can be repurposed? And where does your content rank in comparison to your competitors? And of course, like we always say, you should never get caught in the trap of creating content just for content’s sake. You create content with a goal in mind for the reader. Does your current content lead the reader to a next logical step? Content and conversions should be married in your mind, and you should never consider one without the other.
- Your competition. Last but certainly not least, how do you stack up against companies offering similar products or services in your space? What differentiates you from the rest of the noise, and are you properly promoting that to your audience? It is imperative to have a grasp on what your competitors are doing and how you measure up against them. In order to beat the competition, you have to know and understand them.
Executing a brand audit takes time and resources, but the payoff can entirely change the game for your brand. And we’ve got even better news—you don’t have to do it alone. Here at The Brand Leader, we’ve conducted countless audits on brands of all sizes, industries, and maturity levels. From start-ups with no discernable marketing department to industry giants with large teams of dedicated branding specialists, there is always something to be learned from a comprehensive brand audit. (The healthiest brands perform audits every six months to a year!) Trends change constantly—you have to make sure that your brand is changing with them, not getting left in the dust. We would love the opportunity to review your brand with you and provide you with specific, actionable recommendations for improving your stance in the marketplace. If you’re interested in leveling up, let’s chat.