Hear that? Listen closely. All that chatter about your company—that is your brand.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” He should know. Amazon is considered one of the most valuable brands on the planet.
Companies frequently consult financial reports to assess their performance. But they overlook the impact their brand has on driving every important metric—sales, net profit, client retention, working capital. The list goes on. That makes auditing your brand just as important as auditing the numbers.
So, what do people say about your brand? Better yet, are you controlling the conversation?
What Is a Brand Audit?
Think of a brand audit like visiting the doctor for your annual physical. The audit serves as a checkup looking at the health of the brand’s positioning in the marketplace, its strengths and weaknesses against competitors, and what requires improvement for differentiation.
Brand audits are the perfect place to start better understanding your company’s performance.
Audits cover three areas:
- Internal branding – This includes the brand’s mission, values, and company culture. The strength of a brand starts with employees first.
- External branding – These are the visual elements and messaging that comprise your brand. An audit should assess the website, social media channels, email and content marketing, advertising, and the business name and logo.
- Customer experience – If customers aren’t happy, nothing else matters. Brand audits review the sales process, customer support, and all touchpoints along the consumer’s brand journey.
What Are Signs You Need a Brand Audit?
Conducting a brand audit annually is best practice. Consumer tastes and needs change constantly. Companies must evolve right along with them. But regardless of timing, brands send plenty of signals when an audit is a good idea. Look for signs of the three S’s: stuck, stale, and stagnant.
Your brand is stuck when:
You’ve updated your products and services, but the brand hasn’t kept up. When a brand and its products aren’t aligned, the disconnect creates consumer mistrust and stops them from buying.
Stuck brands also struggle attracting the right consumer. Dick’s Sporting Goods carried gear and apparel for men and women, but its advertising primarily featured men. The company has since course-corrected, even spotlighting some of its own female executives in ads.
Your brand is going stale when:
Your messaging no longer resonates with consumers. Communication and marketing that worked six months ago might be considered tone deaf or out of touch now. A brand audit uncovers what chord you’re striking with customers.
CVS rebranded as a health company…that sold cigarettes. Despite tobacco sales totaling $2 billion, the company quit—and won an additional $5.4 billion in new business aligned with the healthier brand.
Your brand is stagnating when:
Your company is swimming among a sea of competitors and growth is slowing. When this happens, brands must work extremely hard to refine or sustain their niche. Simply maintaining the status quo often is a quick trip to the bottom of the ocean.
Subway’s tagline is “eat fresh.” Yet its outdated stores and plastic-wrapped, refrigerated sandwich ingredients communicated the opposite. The chain closed stores and worked to regain market share as the healthy fast-food option. With a new menu, fresh cut ingredients, and stores using vibrant colors and pictures, the experience now matches the messaging.
What Will a Brand Audit Tell Your Company?
Brand audits determine what’s working with your strategy and what needs attention. For companies wanting to grow sales, fight off competition, or get the bottom line back on track, brand audits offer the roadmap.
A comprehensive brand audit helps companies:
- Enhance brand clarity
By assessing the brand, companies understand how to refocus messaging and bring precision to the value proposition.
- Improve marketing consistency
Consistency builds credibility. A brand audit shows not only how the messaging aligns across channels, but also with the vision of the brand.
- Develop competitive differentiation
Differentiation is more important—and harder to achieve—than ever. Audits uncover opportunities for setting the brand apart, not just in terms of features, but as part of a larger consumer perception of the brand.
- Expand customer acquisition
Every company wants more sales. Ideally not just through promotions and sales incentives. A brand audit identifies strategies for adjusted positioning that better appeals to target audiences.
Brand audits work best when they catch potential issues before they become big problems. Plus, making a regular exercise of defining objectives, refining strategies, and revisiting the long-term vision of the brand works wonders for boosting business.
Interested in learning more about brand audits? Download Brand Audits 101: Assessing Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset. Our workbook offers a step-by-step guide to brand audits and simple exercises to get started.