- What Is a Brand Audit?
- What Are the Components of a Brand Audit?
- How to Conduct a Brand Audit
- What Are the Steps in a Brand Audit?
- Brand Audit Facilitation Kit
- Brand Audit Example
- Benefits of Doing a Brand Audit
- Brand Audit Challenges
- Time to Conduct Your Brand Audit
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Auditing your brand can be daunting. We’ve collected expert tips to demystify the process and rounded up a variety of free, downloadable templates to help you get started.
Included in this blog post, you’ll find information on when to audit your brand, a step-by-step guide to conducting a brand audit, and a downloadable brand audit facilitation kit.
What Is a Brand Audit?
A brand audit is a method of comparing your intended and actual impact in the market. A brand audit should evaluate your brand’s assets and identity, and understand its effect on customers’ feelings toward you.
You should perform a brand audit before you attempt any kind of rebranding effort, launch a new marketing campaign, or expand your offerings. You should also perform a brand audit when sales drop or website traffic diminishes.
Other things to consider include internal and customer feedback. If you don’t have any recent customer feedback, you can conduct a survey to get the brand sentiment of your customers.
Don’t feel like you’re in this alone — the marketing and communications teams and company executives work together to carry out the audit. Reach out to supporting teams if you feel like it's a heavy lift — but, do perform the audit, as the results will bring valuable insights.
What Are the Objectives of a Brand Audit?
Brand audits aim to measure how successfully your branding is performing in the eyes of your customers. An audit is useful for measuring the strengths and weaknesses of your brand, analyzing its reach, and comparing your market position to your competitors’.
A brand audit can help refocus your brand strategy in the following ways (for more help with developing brand strategy, check out this list of free brand strategy templates):
Measure Overall Strengths and Weaknesses: Brand audits examine your brand’s assets to ensure that they are up to speed with the perceptions about your business.. As the market changes, so must your branding. Use the information you find during a brand audit to align your offerings more accurately with the needs of your customers.
Analyze Market Reach: A brand audit helps identify your company’s position in the market. By determining your actual market and comparing it to your target market, you can measure your effectiveness and plan any corrective strategies needed.
Compare to Competitors: Comparing yourself to your most successful competitors is one of the best ways to ensure that your brand stays relevant. Use their models to your advantage by adapting their successful elements to your own brand but also differentiate to stand out.
When to Perform a Brand Audit
To remain competitive in today’s business world, you should perform a brand audit any time your brand focus changes, before any major rebranding or marketing campaigns, or when sales slow. Additionally, you should examine and perform smaller audits on your assets and existing marketing material on a regular basis as a gut check.
“Ideally, you should be auditing your brand every year,” says Justin Lynch, a Brand Consultant for Avlier. “However, that may be unrealistic for many marketing departments. If a business can’t do yearly audits, I suggest they do a brand audit any time one of the following happens: your core service or product offering changes, there are major shifts in the market you serve, or your marketing efforts are not meeting expectations.”
DeeAnn Sims-Knight, the Founder of Dark Horse PR, suggests taking similar action. “If you've updated your logo or revised your brand's vision lately, it's definitely a good idea to perform a brand audit. As a good rule of thumb, we usually suggest doing this once every six months or so. This really helps to keep the brand cohesive and well-represented across all platforms. It's especially important to keep Google up to date with any brand changes, so sticking to an internal audit schedule will help keep everyone on the same page and ready to go.”
What Are the Components of a Brand Audit?
A brand audit includes your brand’s visual assets, guidelines, engagement, voice, and customer reach. These items can be audited individually or collectively, depending on your needs.
Brand Assets: This category includes such assets as your logo, brand pyramid, marketing materials, brand brief, and website. Dino Carter, Founder of D Branding, shares some questions to ask yourself about usability: “Is your website responsive to all devices? Is it mobile-first? Is the placement of important items set in appropriate areas? Is the presentation of information on your website set in a way that will help the visitor? Is it easy to navigate? Is it easy to click Add to Cart?”
Brand Guidelines: Your brand guidelines tell the story of your brand and how it should be represented to the world. Ensure that your guidelines are up to date so that any new marketing material represents your brand in its current form. Lynch recommends that you ask, “Does your marketing collateral have a consistent visual style? Are you using the same colors and typography each time?”
Brand Essence and Pillars: Your product offerings and approach may change over time, and your brand pillars might, too. Revisit your brand’s documented essence to ensure that it is still relevant. “Make sure that you are capturing the emotion of the founder, the commitment of your team, and the essence of your functional and emotional benefits in your visuals, your brand language, and your tone guidelines,” suggests Allison Marchesani Ackerman, Founder of Courtland Consulting.
Engagement: Take a look at your customers’ engagement with various platforms and your sales numbers over time. “Data is very broad, but when it comes to your brand, you want to measure results and engagement. Are your marketing costs going up? Has the open and click-through rate on your emails decreased? Are you receiving fewer testimonials than in the past? Answering ‘yes’ to any of those questions could indicate an issue with your brand, so it’s important to have that data on hand,” suggests Lynch.
Personality and Voice: Does your brand have a voice that reflects its core values? Ensure that your personality and voice are deliberate and consistent. “Tone can be difficult to evaluate and measure. The key is to make sure the brand is ‘speaking’ the same way each time,” says Lynch.
Market Position: Take notice of your position in the market. What are your competitors doing that is working for them? Adapt their successes to your own brand without losing your differentiation in the market.
Customer Reach: Take a look at your customers. Are you reaching your target market? “If you try to sell to everyone, you end up selling to no one,” says Carter. “You must know who your target market is. If you don't know who you're targeting in very specific demographics and psychographics, how do you know what marketing will work on them?”
Customer Opinion and Experience: Poll your customers about your brand. Reach out on social media or at events to find out what people think of the company, and consider providing an incentive for their responses.
Employee Opinion and Experience: Some of the best word-of-mouth advertising comes from a company’s own employees, so make sure to ask them what is and isn’t working. Culture, job satisfaction, and pride are powerful factors. You should also poll your employees about internal material such as your employee handbook and brand brief.
How to Conduct a Brand Audit
Conducting a brand audit starts with identifying your goals. Then survey your customers and analyze sales and engagement. Collect and review this data, and compare it to your competitors’ approach. Finally, make a plan and execute.
“When performing a brand audit, it's important to look at everything from design to analytics and reporting,” says Sims-Knight. “First, make sure that the brand has a cohesive look and feel across all platforms, and all messaging reflects the brand's most updated mission statement, as well as its core values. Next, do a deep dive into the back-end analytics to get a feel for performance. This will give [you] a better understanding of how the brand is currently performing across various platforms, and allow [you] to adjust [your] focus if [you] should be investing efforts elsewhere.”
Performing a brand audit can be daunting, but you can download a free brand audit template to help you get started. Below, you’ll find various templates and checklists that serve as tools and examples for brand auditing, reporting your data, and presenting your findings.
What Are the Steps in a Brand Audit?
There are seven key steps in a brand audit. From identifying the objective of your audit to overviewing your competitors to creating an action plan, we’ve outlined the steps to perform a brand audit below. Let’s dig in:
Step 1: Identify the Goals of Your Audit
Brand audits may have different goals based on your circumstances. An audit triggered by low sales may focus more on customer engagement than one triggered by launching a new product.
Define your goals clearly to help keep your audit organized and on track, which can save time and money in the long run. If your goals are not well defined, consider using a brand audit questionnaire template to get a sense of the kinds of questions you should be asking.
Some of the questions to ask include the following:
- What is your business purpose?
- Who are your main competitors?
- Who is your target audience?
- What is your product niche?
- What is your key differentiator (e.g., pricing, quality, etc.)?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Step 2: Evaluate Your Assets
Go through your brand’s assets across web, digital, and print properties and ensure that all items are up to date and cohesive. To start, do the following:
- Verify that your brand’s personality and tone of voice are consistent across all platforms.
- Take a look at your brand guidebook, brand brief, essence, and brand pillars.
- Use a software tool or brand audit template to keep track of your progress and make notes.
All in all, you may find it useful to bring in an unbiased third party to appraise your brand assets to ensure that your audit is as neutral as possible. Approach the audit with a critical eye, and try to observe your brand assets as someone who is not invested.
Step 3: Get Feedback by Surveying Your Customers and Employees
Evaluating your assets is a good place to start to get a health check of your brand. Get your customers perspective by reaching out on social media, through email, or at events, and ask your customers what they think of your brand. Ask their opinions and engagement levels on what you’re doing well and what you can do better.
“One of the best ways to learn how you've been doing is to research your consumers,” says Carter. “Research with your best customers, the customers who stopped buying from you, and those who are not your customers currently but fit your customer persona. Ask them why they buy from you and not the competition, why they stopped visiting your store or buying from you (people want to talk and they love it when someone listens to their issues and stories), and show them your logo and see if it resonates with them. Understanding where you stand directly from the people is an eye-opener time and time again.”
Your employees are also a valuable source of knowledge and, generally, some of your biggest fans. Be sure to get their perspective on branding, but also ask them about the company’s culture and their experience working for you. You may find that anonymous surveys generate more honest responses.
Step 4: Analyze Sales and Engagement
It’s crucial to understand how your business is currently performing to know where you need to go and how you’re going to get there. Take a look at a few metrics, including social media engagement, website traffic, bounce rate, unique page views, conversion rate, Google rankings, and sales revenue, to start. To help you keep track of your metrics, use a tool to measure and cross-reference these trends with marketing campaigns to determine what is and isn’t successful. Ensure that you compare this data over a long time period to help visualize these changes.
Step 5: Review Your Competition
Examine your most successful competitors and identify what is working for them. Build off of their strategies to work for your brand, and pay attention to their mistakes, too, so you can avoid them. Consider using a competitive brand audit template for ideas and recordkeeping.
Step 6: Organize and Assess the Data
Data is useless in a vacuum, so compare the data from your audit with that of past audits. Look at how your data is trending over time. Use this information to identify what is not working, and to highlight what is delivering the desired results. Then, create a brand audit report to easily collect and share your data, and store it for easy reference when you conduct your next audit.
Step 7: Create and Monitor an Action Plan
After you’ve organized and assed your data, use your brand audit to inform and reinforce your brand strategy. Allocate resources to proven successful ventures, and rework underperforming areas. Set a schedule for audits and stick to it.
“It’s a good idea to perform regular brand audits, even if branding is reaping success and conversion rates are strong,” says Stephen Light, Co-Owner and CMO of Nolah Mattress. “Think of it as an annual check-up at the doctor. We go to make sure everything’s working the way it should, and that [nothing has] crept up on us. The same goes for the health of your brand. Regular check-ups can only serve to strengthen and protect it.”
Brand Audit Facilitation Kit
A thorough brand audit requires a few key items. We have created a brand audit facilitation kit to help you get organized and make your audit easier. Inside this kit, you will find the following forms:
- A brand audit checklist to keep track of your progress and plan your next steps
- A brand audit template to audit your brand’s assets, as well as your competitors’ assets
- A brand audit employee survey to poll the people closest to your brand
- A brand audit customer survey to poll the people buying from you
- A brand engagement metrics tracker to chart your sales data and website engagement over time
- A brand pyramid template to help you start planning any needed changes
Brand Audit Example
A brand audit often leads teams to realize that something needs to change. We’ve asked the experts for examples of times that a brand audit helped them transform a company in need of an update.
Anat Baron, a branding keynote speaker and Founder and CEO of Stashwall, Inc., recalls her experience with an audit that led to a major brand refresh. “When I first came on board at Mike's Hard Lemonade, I took a long hard look at the brand. I wasn't a customer, as I'm allergic to alcohol. So here was a product that I never consumed in a category that I knew very little about. Sometimes, being an outsider pays off.
“I started by looking at the target market and at the marketing plan in place to reach them. I then decided to go where the customers or potential customers buy the product. I literally hung out in supermarkets (off-premise) and bars (on-premise), and I talked to people. As it turned out, while the TV ads were targeted at young men (like traditional beer ads), I didn't see them buying a Mike's out in the world.
“I started asking questions. And it turned out that our target was older and heavily female. I found that this new brand provided something that women had not had before — an alcoholic beverage in a beer bottle that didn't taste like beer. It made them more comfortable in beer drinking situations or occasions. I also realized that they didn't need to be targeted by millions in ad spending. They found something they liked, told their friends, and built it from there.
“Of course, I did all of this while keeping an eye on competitive products. The brand audit showed us who our real customers were and how they felt about the brand, and it allowed us to work on expanding our base. And [we didn’t] lose the one trait that made us special: our independent spirit,” says Baron.
Benefits of Doing a Brand Audit
There are many benefits to performing a brand audit, such as identifying areas for change, measuring success over time, and ultimately increasing sales. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most significant benefits below:
- Brand Maintenance: Regular audits help you to perform needed brand maintenance before there are any major issues. “A brand audit allows you to evaluate if your brand is still properly aligned with your customers. Customer preferences change over time. You may find that your brand no longer speaks to the desires of your customers,” says Lynch.
- Measure Success: A brand audit can give you tangible proof of what your business is doing well. “One of the main benefits of performing a brand audit is that it helps businesses gauge whether their marketing is performing the way they think it is — stated goals versus actual performance. Every piece of information a brand audit produces is a stepping stone toward improved strategy and helps ensure that future decisions are successful ones,” offers Light.
- Increase Sales: A brand audit that helps you align your brand strategy can ultimately lead to an increase in sales. “Branding and marketing go hand in hand,” notes Carter.
- Measure Loyalty: Customer loyalty is an enormous asset. A brand audit can help you measure loyalty and ensure that your brand strategy encourages consistency. “Consistency is critical for creating a powerful brand,” says Lynch. “Often, customers buy from a brand because they expect the same result every time. Continue to deliver that result and you’ll build brand loyalty. However, inconsistency devalues your brand.”
- Identify Weaknesses: A brand audit is one of the best ways to identify inconsistencies in your strategies. Regular audits can ensure that you identify branding and engagement challenges before they become real problems for your company.
- Compare Changes Over Time: Regular audits give you data sets that you can compare over time. “Performing a brand audit comes with a ton of advantages, but one of the biggest benefits is that it allows [you] to benchmark against previous efforts and pivot if needed. Regular brand audits will help cut back on the feeling of spinning your wheels,” shares Sims-Knight.
Brand Audit Challenges
A brand audit can be challenging, as it is a complicated process with many moving parts. From staying organized to remaining neutral, we’ve put together a list of some of the biggest challenges and how to approach them.
Challenge: Collecting Needed Material: One of the challenges of performing an in-depth brand audit is being able to fully collect and access all of the materials needed. “From time to time, we find that a brand has had a few different brand managers — sometimes they have moved on, sometimes they have been promoted — which can make it difficult to round up all of the puzzle pieces out there,” says Sims-Knight.
Solution: “It's best for brands to implement a standard operating practice early on to help avoid this,” Sims-Knight suggests. Create a schedule, and store all audit data in an easily accessible location.
Challenge: Alienating Existing Customers: “When auditing your current branding approach, look at two things: How you can potentially attract a new segment of customers with your branding change, and how doing so will affect your existing loyal followers. People hate change, and drastic branding changes may have an impact on your loyal customers who were OK with the way things were,” warns Roy Morejon, the President of Enventys Partners.
Solution: Include your customers in the audit process by asking their opinions on what you’re doing right and what you can improve. You can’t please everyone all the time, but you can ensure that you are taking their wants into consideration.
Challenge: Not Having a Brand Strategy: “A lot of times, founders and marketers are sure they have a clear and concise brand message, only to realize that their end consumer has little to no awareness of it,” says Ackerman.
Solution: “I recommend [giving] surveys or interviews to your consumers to try to get a sense of how your brand is showing up in the world,” suggests Ackerman. Your customers are a powerful resource and will usually provide their input freely.
Challenge: Potential Costs of Performing an Audit: A lot of time and labor are involved in performing an audit — more so if you need to hire an outside third party. “Time and processes are the biggest challenges. Depending on how much data and branded collateral you have — remember that your website, emails, and apparel are all branded collateral — it can take hours and hours to review everything,” says Lynch.
Solution: Create a schedule and a process to stay on track and limit time wasted. “It’s important to have a process you can follow,” says Lynch. “Having a proven process will keep you on track and allow you to pause and continue the audit as needed.”
Challenge: Staying Neutral: It can be difficult to remain objective when working with a brand that you’ve helped create. “A lot of people have tunnel vision with brands they own,” says Morejon.
Solution: Utilize a third-party auditor, and get multiple opinions. “It's essential that you have a third party taking a closer look, or supplement with focus groups from actual customers from your target market,” suggests Morejon.
Challenge: Getting Overwhelmed. “Performing a brand audit can be incredibly overwhelming, and it can be difficult to figure out where to start. The sheer scale is often why people avoid or ignore the audit entirely,” warns Light.
Solution: Follow a brand audit checklist or a guide, and plan your audit ahead of time. Break the audit into pieces, and delegate the work to trusted colleagues.
Time to Conduct Your Brand Audit
Getting started with your brand audit can seem overwhelming, but don’t worry. Putting together a team and planning ahead can help break down tasks into more manageable, repeatable steps and processes.
We hope this blog has been helpful in demonstrating how brand audits can be useful tools for maintaining brand standards and measuring success over time when conducted on a consistent basis.
Looking for additional help? See how our Brandguide can help to keep your brand consistent and always up-to-date.