How to Perform a Brand Audit — An Unbiased Approach
As a child, I absolutely dreaded going to the doctor.
It wasn’t because of my pediatrician, Dr. Vinoy, whom I absolutely loved. It was the waiting room. I distinctly remember the wood-panel walls, fake shrubbery, and decades-old furniture sprayed with some off-brand Lysol to give the appearance of cleanliness. It made waiting for results even scarier.
I was pre-asthmatic. My mom would take me for regular checkups and refills for my inhalers. At the end of every visit, I felt happier, with candy in my hand. I noticed my mom felt better too. Dr. Vinoy made sure I was healthy and let us know if my condition was worsening or getting better.
Today, as a Brand Strategist and Designer, I work with clients who often delay a deep examination of their brand. Most reasons are from fear in what they may find, the expenses to hire a specialist, or they just have their head down not paying attention to the problems that are there.
A brand requires a regular “check-up” in the same way our bodies do. Blissful ignorance will come to bite you later on as small issues amass into larger complications.
Even the most established companies can struggle to stay strong and agile as they grow. To operate at peak performance for a long period of time requires continual monitoring of strategies, goals, and results.
Conducting a brand audit allows companies to take a step outside their walls and look back at the overall picture of their health.
What is a Brand Audit?
A brand audit is an in-depth analysis of your brand’s performance. It identifies what you are doing well, areas for improvement, and your position in the market compared to competitors.
Think of a brand audit as a physical exam that your business will need to perform every so often. The process varies depending on the industry and specialty of the company.
The advantages of a brand audit
A well-conducted brand audit can help you understand your brand position within your market and in the minds of customers. An audit allows you to:
- Understand how people perceive your brand and business
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Align your service and products with customer expectations
- Establish your brand position in the market compared to competitors
- Define goals and how to achieve them
Once completed, an accurate diagnosis can be made about where your brand stands in the eyes of customers and the public. A brand audit creates a proper prescription for what a brand needs to be strong and maximize growth.
Who should perform a brand audit?
Most companies hire a brand agency to conduct a comprehensive audit, examining brand pillars such as their values, culture, product, logo, website, and content marketing. They can also review the business infrastructure such as customers, policies, and onboarding process.
However, you may choose to audit yourself using readily available data. Before you invest duffle bags of cash into someone else examining your brand, take a moment to look at it for yourself.
When you are familiar with where you stand and issues you see at the surface level, allowing a specialist to identify deeper problems will be a lot easier.
1. Create a framework
The first step of your brand audit process is creating a framework. Before you start examining your logo or website think high-level. Use mind-mapping for this part of the process and write down everything that directly or indirectly relates to your business. Consider asking yourself these questions:
- Why do customers visit your website? Are they searching for information? Are they looking to signup or purchase a product?
- Who are your main competitors?
- What is your niche?
- Are you active on social media?
- What are your product/service strengths and weaknesses?
- What trends do you see happening in your industry?
- What differentiates you in the marketplace (ex. pricing, quality, etc.)?
These questions will prompt your thinking about target customers (geography, careers, buying patterns, etc.), products you offer, how you distribute content, and your leadership in the industry.
2. Examine website analytics
For online businesses, which are most nowadays, it is crucial to frequently review how the company website is performing.
You could easily spend $25,000 on the most stunning website design ever seen, but if it is not converting visitors into customers it is important to understand why. Use these insights to determine your site's performance:
Are people visiting your website?
When users are visiting your website, you want to gain some information about them so you can understand your audience and customers.
Your site’s traffic will come from many sources (ex. direct links, social media, referral links, etc.). When you sign up for a Google Analytics account, you will be able to gain massive insights into your website’s performance.
It’s not enough to ask “how many people visited my site this month?” It is just as important to know:
- How long did users stay? Huge numbers in traffic mean less if users leave within a few seconds. Pay attention to the bounce rate and time spent on a page to find user behavior.
- What percentage of users made a purchase? A conversion rate shows how effectively a site is marketing its product offerings. Depending on your site goals that can mean subscriptions, downloads, or money transactions.
- How are users viewing the website? Mobile and tablet internet usage surpasses desktop worldwide. Google’s search engine favors mobile-friendly sites. Without a responsive design, you risk a low ranking.
Website traffic won’t make or break your sales, but it is a good indicator of your popularity and visibility. Let’s face it, if your business is not online it doesn’t exist.
What is your site's bounce rate?
A “bounce” occurs when someone visits a website and leaves without any interaction. Google determines an interaction occurred if users visit at least one additional page.
Bounce rates can vary depending on the pages of a site. For example, on an e-commerce site with a blog attached, the product page may have a different bounce rate than the blog page.
Are visitors converting into customers?
If you are advertising on Facebook or Google, you’ll want to maximize your PPC (Pay-Per-Click) spend by finding that sweet spot to convince the maximum percentage of your prospects to take action.
3. Review social data
Maintaining a social media presence is a full-time job when you do it right. Companies hire entire teams with the sole purpose of managing posts, audience engagement, and targeted advertisements.
Profiles can easily fall into disarray if you don’t take the proper steps to check on your progress or get things back on track.
Locate your social media profiles… all of them
This may seem easy, but we all have our official and unofficial accounts. Those created by you, year one, or by well-intentioned employees. Perform a general search on all major social networks.
Make note of the accounts you find and decide which ones make the most sense to keep and which can be deleted. Being on every social network will not increase your reach if you are not actively engaging in each account.
Select the platforms that cater to your audience and enhance your ability to connect with them. If the majority of your content is video, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are great to have. In that order.
Identify your top-performing posts
Now that you know which platforms you will be showing up on, see which social media posts have received the most engagement. This will improve your social media content strategy and let you know how best to present the brand.
Engagement means different things on different platforms. All metrics are not built the same. For platforms like Facebook and Instagram, reach is a valuable and accurate metric to track. Reach expresses the number of unique views on a post and how much awareness your account is gaining.
Check your branding on social media
Consistency is key. Not only in the amount you post, but in your brand image as well. Your brand should be immediately recognizable across all platforms.
If there is a disconnect between your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles, it is difficult for audiences to determine which profiles are official, or if they are following the right company.
Check these details when you compare profiles:
- Profile Picture: Whether your logo or your face, do the pictures stem from the same elements? Some brands have different logo variations, but make sure they are from the same family.
- Bio Details: Every bio does not have to be identical, but they should all have consistent messaging. Test your links, emails, and phone number to be sure none are outdated.
- Content Style: If your brand has guidelines in place such as color palette, font, or imagery, be sure all your profiles follow them.
Having a consistent image throughout your social accounts makes posting a lot simpler. You discover what content works best for each platform and develop a routine to produce the quality your audience will come to expect.
4. Evaluate the competition
Your brand and business do not exist in a bubble. At this point in the process, you want to see how they stand up against competitors.
When done properly, a competitive analysis can develop what makes your product unique, reveal under-served market segments, and gain benchmarks to measure your growth against.
How to identify your competition
First, you’ll need to know who your competitors are. To make the process easier, let’s categorize competition into two categories: Direct Competitors and Indirect Competitors.
Direct competitors offer similar services or products as you in the same area, serving the same market for the same needs. Think Uber and Lyft. You both are in the same room when selling to customers.
Indirect competitors offer similar services or products as you in the same area, but they serve a different need or target a different audience.
For example, you own the Lemonheads Lemonade Co. (yes, the name may need some work). Your lemonade is stocked in stores throughout your city.
A direct competitor would be someone who produces lemonade and sells their product at the same stores as you. They are similarly priced and sold to the same group of people.
An indirect competitor would be someone who sells soda. It is sold in the same places, but the product and target market are different.
Now that we can define your competition, it’s time to find them.
Where to locate your competition
The best companies within your space will advertise and market themselves well enough for customers to easily find them. Although you’re not a customer, you can find them in the same way we all do. Google.
Google is the best starting place to find basic information about your competition. You can search based on your industry and location.
Another great resource is LinkedIn. A company’s LinkedIn profile is often useful for employee information. You will find key people, offices, and who they are actively looking to hire. Knowing who your competition is hiring and which teams they are expanding will give you an idea of their future plans.
Are they looking for their first developer? Will they be opening a new location? Combined with your knowledge of the industry, understanding their hiring needs will tell you a lot about their future plans.
To take it a step further, with the employee information you’ve found on LinkedIn, you can estimate your competitor’s revenue.
Number of Employees * $150,000 = Revenue Estimate
Jason Lemkin of SaaStr offered this simple formula to calculate a competitor’s revenue estimate. Take the number of employees the company has listed on its LinkedIn profile and multiply that by $150,000 if well-funded ($200,000 if modestly funded). This should give you an estimate you can work with.
Remember, when studying your competition it isn’t to steal what they do. It’s to understand where your brand falls, discover its uniqueness, and explore areas that are overlooked by others in your field.
5. Talk to your customers
Relying on website traffic and social media numbers alone will not give a complete picture of your brand performance.
A mixture of quantitative and qualitative feedback is necessary to gain a well-rounded view of how your brand is performing.
From a business standpoint, your delivery of a product and service is huge for customers. Are they receiving quality in what they are paying for? But there are other touchpoints that customers may not realize they are paying.
That would be the experience.
When they walk into your store or visit your website, examining the user experience is an important part of the brand audit.
This feedback guides improvement of your website interface, employee standards, and customer service. Wouldn’t you like to know what you are doing right — and wrong — in the eyes of your customers?
Customers will interact with your brand in different ways. At each point of contact, the experience should be pleasant and a defining factor in what can be expected from your brand in the future.
You can gain useful insights into how people perceive your brand and product through questionnaires, website surveys, and follow-up emails after a purchase. Don’t be afraid of receiving criticism or finding flaws in your system. Make it enjoyable for people to connect with your brand.
Most people neglect looking deeper into their brand because they fear what they may find: inconsistency, overspending, lack of industry knowledge, etc.
However, this is precisely why a brand audit is important.
In the same way, people delay a visit to the doctor, not taking the time to carefully analyze your brand will allow destructive tendencies to fester and compile until eventual collapse.
That being said, performing a brand audit is not easy. You should be prepared to do the hard work in researching and be brutally honest with yourself. Hold no punches.
How long has it been since you’ve really looked at your brand from the outside? Let’s talk about it.