Today we’re going to talk about brand audits. You may have heard the term “brand audit” and thought it sounds like a complex process and something only the big brands do. Well… Yes and no. The big brands do, of course, and their processes might be complex, but:
1: They most likely have an internal team or they hire a team to do the audit
2: You are probably not running a big multi-national corporation, so you don’t need it to be big and complex
But what is a brand audit?
To put it simply: It’s like a health check for your brand!
A brand audit is a closer look at your brand to gain an understanding of where it stands right now, and to identify any problem areas that need to be fixed. Performing a brand audit gives you valuable insight into your brand’s current strengths and weaknesses, and will help you create a strategic road map for the next step of your branding journey!
It may sound daunting, but it needn’t be a massive undertaking! The scope of a brand audit can range from a simple check of your visual assets to make sure they are cohesive and aligned with your brand values, all the way to a comprehensive look at your brand’s inner core, external communication, customer satisfaction – and everything in between!
Let’s take a look at some reasons why you might want to do a brand audit.
- want to assess your visual identity to make sure it’s cohesive and in line with your brand personality?
- are rebranding your business and want to make sure your new brand aligns more with your vision and values?
- want to find out how your brand is perceived in the market?
- feel like your business is stagnating and you want to take action to reach the next big milestone?
- feel like your brand is failing to engage your audience, and you want to fix it?
- have never done a brand audit before, or your business has evolved since the last one?
So as you can see, there are plenty of reasons why you might consider doing a brand audit.
That’s all well and good, but Petchy, where do I even start?!
First, let’s split this audit thingymabob into three more easier to digest chunks:
Internal branding — this is the inner core of your brand, and that’s why I am mentioning this first. This chunk includes your brand values, your mission, your vision, your company culture, your brand personality. If this piece of the puzzle is all jumbled up, you’ll struggle to get the rest lined up.
External branding — these are the more tangible things, that most people will feel familiar with: your logo, print and online advertising, marketing materials, your website, your social media presence, your email marketing… the things that people actually see.
Customer experience — this could be anything from your sales process, your onboarding process, customer support, refund policies… all the different points of contact you have with the people you serve.
And the clue here is they are all interlinked. What you’re looking for when doing a brand audit, is not just how each individual piece of your brand works, but how they are working together. They need to work together.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a really spot on, beautiful visual brand identity that perfectly communicates your brand values, if your service is crap. You can have the best company mission and vision, the most heartfelt values… but if your external marketing doesn’t reflect that, how will people know?
These three parts of your brand all need to be in alignment. So as you are assessing each part of your brand, you need to keep the bigger picture in mind.
Let’s start with the internal branding
- Do you have a clearly defined vision and mission? If you’re not sure what these are; your mission statement defines what your brand is currently doing, while your vision statement is basically the ultimate goal of what you’d like to accomplish. In short: your vision is your why and your mission is how – the things you are doing every day to achieve your vision.
- Have you defined your brand’s core values? These are important, because they act as guidelines for how your brand behaves.
- Do you have clear goals for your brand? Do they align with your mission and vision – as in: will your goals help you get to where you want to be?
- Does your brand have a unique personality?
- Are you showing up consistently, to increase brand recognition and trust?
- Have you defined your ideal client(s)? Who are they?
- Do you know your key competitors, and their strengths/weaknesses and have you thought about where your brand sits in comparison to your competitors – your positioning?
- Do you have a wow-factor? Also known as a USP = unique selling point… what is it about you that makes you so special that people should choose you over your competitors?
Next up: your external brand
The point of auditing your external brand assets is mainly to make sure that
- Your brand looks cohesive so you are constantly building brand recognition and trust. It’s a lot easier to trust someone who shows up in the same way every time, because then you know what to expect. It feels safe.
- That your external brand is accurately representing your internal brand – visually and verbally. Cohesiveness doesn’t mean a thing if you’re communicating the wrong things.
Let’s break it down:
- The easy one first: do you have a logo?
- If you do, do you have a cohesive brand identity to support your logo? Colour palette, typography, design elements, brand images?
- Do you have brand identity guidelines to ensure correct and consistent application of your brand identity?
- Does your logo/brand identity evoke the desired associations, and is it representative of your brand’s vision and core values that you have defined?
(Tip: talk to actual people to get real data here. Literally ask them “how does my brand make you feel?” You may think your brand is evoking a certain feeling – but what if your assumption is wrong? Then you’re building a brand blindfolded.)
- Does your logo/brand identity resonate with your audience? Again: ask real people!
- Take a look at your written content too. Does your tone of voice reflect your brand’s values and personality?
- Do you have a clear message, and are you consistently communicating it across all touchpoints?
- Does your brand tell a story that evokes feelings and engages your target audience?
If you only wanted to do the most basic of audits, here’s what you can do: quickly round up all your branded collateral; business cards, website, brochure, social media graphics… the lot! Does it all look like it’s from the same company?
And finally: your customer experience
It may be a cliché, but “living the brand” is a real thing. If your customers don’t get the experience they expect when they interact with your brand, then I don’t care how pretty your logo is or how ethical you say you are. If it’s only skin deep, it shows!
If you say that one of your core values is respect, and then you yell at a client down the phone… or you keep ghosting scheduled meetings, missing deadlines… Does that align? If you’re presenting yourself as the queen of streamlining business procedures, and your own onboarding process leaves new clients baffled… Does that align? If you say you’re committed to excellent customer service, but you ignore a complaint or try to place the blame elsewhere… Does that align?
You get my drift.
For this part of a brand audit, you really can’t get away without asking your customers – or the people you want to have as customers. Ask them how their experience with your brand was. How did they feel during and after working with you? Ask them how you could do better. Look at the responses you get and put them up against your values and your goals. Does it align, or do you need to adjust something?
If someone is unhappy with their experience, why is that? Is it because you’ve not delivered as promised and you need to fix something about your product or service? Is it because they are totally in opposition to your brand values – in which case: do you need to be communicating those values more clearly, or maybe redefining who your ideal client is and adjusting your messaging accordingly? And I’ll talk more about that in a sec…
Because now you’ve gathered information on all three parts of your branding, it’s time to take a step back and connect the dots. Do they all line up? Are some dots out of alignment, or even completely missing? What dot(s) need to move in order for everything to line up again?
I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep repeating it: you will never be for everyone. Selling feminist t-shirts to a misogynist will never work. Your values and theirs are too out of sync, so something needs to be tweaked.
Hint: most often it’s not your brand values that need changing – unless they no longer feel like something you can stand behind or that is important to you.
One thing to remember is that there are no right or wrong answers. A brand audit is not an exam: it’s just a tool to help you gather information and get a clear overview of your brand – so you can make strategic decisions about the way forward. It’s your call to decide what needs to be tweaked in order to make the dots line up for your brand.
If your clients aren’t happy, is it because you’re providing a crap service, or is it because you’ve attracted the wrong clients in the first place? Do you need to change your product, or just sell it to a different kind of customer? Do you need to create standard operating procedures for your VA or your customer service team so they all know how they’re expected to deal with incoming inquiries and complaints?
If you’re attracting the wrong clients, why is that? Is it because you’re not clear on your values and your brand’s core and so you’re sending out mixed messages – or is it because your colour palette or your brand story resonates with the wrong people? Is it because your target audience was wrong in the first place?
Some of the things you identify in a brand audit can be easy to fix, others go deeper and require more in-depth work. Sometimes a simple logo tweak, making sure you’re using the same (and right!) fonts and colours is all it takes to appear more consistent and trustworthy. Sometimes you have to go back to the very core and get clear on who you are as a brand before you can move forward. And then maybe other things need to be changed as a result of that.
To sum up:
- A brand audit is like a health check for your brand
- It doesn’t have to be a huge, massive task
- It is not a magic fix, it’s merely a way to identify any areas that could or should be improved
- It’s a tool to help you align all the dots
If you’re eager to get started, you should grab my Brand it! checklist. It will help you take a closer look at all of your brand’s elements and determine whether it’s all looking stellar, or if it’s time to shake things up a little. And yeah, it’s free – so there’s really no need to procrastinate. Grab a cuppa (or a mojito or whatever floats your boat!) and get to work on that amazing brand of yours!
As always, feel free to reach out if you’re stuck! And if you share images on Instagram, remember to tag me so I can cheer you on.
Pssst! If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss the next one! I’d also be super grateful if you’d share my podcast with a biz friend or two, or leave me a review