How To Conduct A Successful Brand Audit.
A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
– Jeff Bezos
Businesses conduct a brand audit to analyze and understand how they are performing in relation to their corporate objectives. Gaining key performance insights provides the opportunity to shift and align strategy to meet the expectations of customers and key stakeholders in impactful ways to achieve business goals.
Since a brand audit takes into account the relationship the intangible aspects of a company have with hard data, the terminology and indicators may differ. However, a thorough brand audit should provide critical insights for the following:
• Establish overall brand performance
• Unearth strengths and weaknesses (Internal Branding vs External Branding)
• Establish a clear understanding of market position in relation to the competition
• Understand how your systems and infrastructure support your brand effectiveness
Let’s face it; the reason businesses invest in brand building is because they believe it can help maximize ROI (Building Brand Equity). Companies as big as Apple, Google, and Amazon have created what Warren Buffett calls “a moat” around their business, by deploying brand building tactics. Brand value drives customer loyalty in a way that product benefits can’t do alone while increasing the value of a business.
Below we dive into the nuts and bolts of a brand audit.
CONDUCTING A BRAND AUDIT: OVERALL BRAND PERFORMANCE
What businesses gain from conducting a brand audit is an overall metric of performance.
How inspired are your employees to bring their best efforts to the company day in and out? How are your marketing efforts driving sales and repeat customers? What is the overall community opinion of your business? These are all insights we are trying to attach a number to monitor performance.
Some numbers are clear. Leads, Sales, Life-Time-Value of a customer, etc. But there are a few aspects, such as monitoring employee satisfaction, community opinion that is a little harder to tie a number to.
There is some creative thinking required to develop a clear picture of overall brand performance from a holistic viewpoint.
Tracking employee satisfaction may require monitoring turnover of employees, surveys to rate satisfaction with their current responsibilities and relationships with other team members; Then developing a system for ranking these metrics in a database.
You may wonder why there is so much emphasis on tracking employee satisfaction when conducting a brand audit. It’s simple, as Herb Kelleher (Founder and Former CEO of Southwest Airlines) States “Your people come first, and if you treat them right, they’ll treat the customers right.”
Employees drive performance. They are responsible for developing products and engaging customers. Whether through the ads they create, the sales calls, customer service center, and by many other means they establish themselves as the backbone of the company.
Businesses can understand the strength of their brand, solely based on whether or not employees have bought into the system. The first sign a shift in thinking is required.
CONDUCTING A BRAND AUDIT: UNEARTHING STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES (INTERNAL BRANDING VS EXTERNAL BRANDING)
This is something we have battled with and so have businesses we’ve encountered. During the competitive analysis process, we sometimes get too focused on what other companies are doing, and how to replicate their ideas, that we begin to lose sight of our own unique culture.
Being authentic is an essential aspect of building brand continuity and a culture that drives real success. Being a me-too business, or trying to replicate a culture can be a troubling process. Proper consideration of the true culture that underlies your individual decision making(as a business) needs to be included.
Satisfied employees are vital, but we should not overlook how to monitor the effectiveness of the initiatives and resources they use to engage customers and the community.
Establishing a solid foundation of internal branding is essential to ensure that all businesses activities are in alignment with your mission and objectives. Remember, it is more important to have continuity across a brand than flashy tactics. Continuity creates trust from all stakeholders. Keep these concepts in mind while conducting a brand audit.
Where is your brand currently positioned in the marketplace? Where would you like to be positioned?
Brand Values (Principles):
What are the fundamental brand values that support your business decisions? Are they aligned with your ideal values? Maybe it is time to reinforce these values by sharing them more openly in your workspace, stores, and other places stakeholders frequent.
Culture is built off of brand values. How do you envision people interacting with and within your company? Are they doing this now? If not, why?
Product positioning needs to fit in with the overall corporate position. If you are Nike, creating a company “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” They need to be confident that the positioning of each product aligns with this overall purpose. Shoes, shirts, sports equipment, etc.
What terminology will you use to convey your message? Developing a unique voice is an integral part of building a brand. Do you have one that exists naturally within your organization? Can it be bottled and packaged to your stakeholders?
Unique Selling Proposition:
A unique selling proposition is a bit internal and external. USP is everything we’ve outlined above, wrapped up in a neat little package that outlines the value that you deliver. Think big, but also specific. Here are some great examples:
By conducting a brand audit on the internal branding aspects, you should be able to see if there is continuity in your approach, and how they relate to your external brand building efforts.
Once we have established a clear picture of both, we can compare them with data regarding leads, conversions, life-time-value, and other engagement analytics.
Including the unique selling proposition, external branding is the primary marketing materials that your customers encounter. External branding needs to be included in your brand audit. Depending on your business, you may utilize all of these external brand assets and more, or even a few of them.
What is your logo? Does it reflect the values and message you are trying to convey based on your internal brand? How about your tagline?
When all of these things begin to align, you will see an emotional response from people who engage with your businesses. They will remember your logo, and maybe start using your tagline in their own lives. Think about Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline.
The marketing material you provide to stakeholders and prospective customers should also align with your internal brand message.
One thing we have noticed working with small and medium-sized businesses, is they feel obligated to include everything about their company on each flyer and sales page.
This is distracting and often confusing for customers. Keep it simple, what is the core message and value you are going to deliver, and how can they get in touch? If they need technical data sheets, they will ask. You can go through this together, to answer questions and objections.
Sales collateral is designed to start the conversation. Not close the deal.
Is your brand personality built into your website in a meaningful, engaging way? A cool looking website is one thing? But do visitors spend a lot of time on the site? How many pages do they view on average?
Finally, how many clicks do are required before they are at a point where they are informed enough to make a purchase or contact someone about buying?
A key aspect of a brand audit should be website content. I purposefully put this bit of information in the middle of this article for those that took the time to dive in.
Using keyword research and creating compelling content can be the best long-term approach to driving new business.
Yes, there are some highly competitive industries.
However, many small and medium-size businesses could leverage the right content strategy with a sufficient marketing budget to experience organic traffic to their website on a regular basis, over the long haul.
Social media is good for driving engagement, depending on what kind of business you are building.
We have researched with our clients, and we have found a lot of businesses only drive a fraction of sales through social media. Unless they are one of the few that can really benefit from this approach by investing heavily in research and optimization.
During your brand audit, you should track how much traffic is being driven by social media. It’s a better advertising platform than traditional content marketing (thank Facebook algorithm updates for that!).
Not many businesses realize that close to 70% of people online have purchased something as a result of an email marketing effort.
Think about it; your email contacts have already built some level of trust with your company. The old saying “your best customer is the one you already have” applies here. People who know and trust you are likely to refer and buy more.
If you are running email campaigns, track your data, evaluate and integrate the other aspects of your brand audit and deliver some more tests. I’m sure you’ll see improvement once there is more continuity in your message, and sales funnel.
Videos & Photography:
A picture is worth a thousand words, and video is taking over the internet. Investing in high-quality video and photography can become a key differentiator for businesses.
How can you make your brand work for you in these mediums that stimulate the senses? Experiment with different photos or videos for ads and sales meetings. Track the data, make notes and invest more in the tactics that drive more results.
There are many different aspects to advertising these days. All we would like to say is if you are using traditional methods of advertising, find a way to track the results of these campaigns.
Internet marketing tools provide so much insight into the advertising funnel that needs to be leveraged.
CONDUCTING A BRAND AUDIT: UNDERSTANDING YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE COMPETITION
After reading Tim Ferriss’ book tools of the Titans, one thing has become apparent.
Differentiation and authenticity is key to real success
Invest a certain amount of time focusing on the competition. How do the brands of your direct resonate with the market? How satisfied are their employees and customers? These are good questions to answer.
More importantly, it’s time to focus your brand audit on how you want to be better and different from the marketplace? Answering a question like, is it time to focus on a specific niche within the marketplace?
This is becoming a popular option for many businesses (including ours) as the marketplace becomes saturated with many options. Companies claiming to do everything end up missing out on market share, because people hire a company that has a specific focus.
JaxonLabs recently decided to focus our energy on Strategy, Project Management & Implementation. We have since developed stronger relationships with some of our partners to fulfill the work for clients. This way everyone can get the best value for their dollar.
CONDUCTING A BRAND AUDIT UNDERSTANDING HOW SYSTEMS AND INFRASTRUCTURE AFFECT YOUR BRAND
One thing that is necessary for completing a successful brand audit has the right technology and systems in place to adequately track this data.
It can be simple for smaller businesses and much more comprehensive and advanced for large corporations.
Data and analytics will provide so much information that you will need a metaphorical shovel to dig through it and organize the numbers into meaningful data to track brand value.
This can be a project in and of itself and should be in place before making any fundamental shifts from a branding perspective. Without a clear picture of performance today, the efforts of tomorrow may not be as effective.