Brands — and people’s perceptions of them — can change over time.
That’s why it pays to do a periodic “brand audit” to take stock of your brand’s strengths and weaknesses and how you are positioned in your customer’s minds, experts say.
“A brand audit is a general gauge of your company’s overall reputation,” Phillip Davis, president of Brevard, North Carolina-based Tungsten Branding, says. That reputation could be with clients as well as with staff members.
Companies often get hung up on the logo and tagline or slogan as the main focus of an audit. While those are factors to consider, the “essence of the brand” is most important, Davis says. Specifically, you want to understand what attributes people most associate with your brand, he says.
“You’re either the best, the most efficient, the friendliest,” Davis says, noting that as a brand you want to “own a position in somebody’s mind that correlates with a benefit of some sort.”
Ask open-ended questions, such as “When you think of xyz company, what comes to mind first?” and “Beyond our products and services, if you could use only one attribute to define this company what would it be?” Offer some examples to choose from, such as responsive, efficient, etc.
Ask these questions of all key stakeholders including company executives, employees, customers and even former customers, John Harrison, a partner at The Brand Compound, a Woodmere-based branding and marketing firm, says.
If you only ask the executives, you won’t get a complete and accurate picture, he says.
Plus, sometimes “the owners or executives don’t want to face the fact that the brand needs to be overhauled or simply tweaked,” Harrison says. “Sometimes it’s known already by the employees and customers but the last person that wants to make the change is the owner or key executive.”
But the task doesn’t have to be overwhelming and sometimes only some updating is required, Harrison says.
Arthur Germain, principal of Smithtown-based Communication Strategy Group, a brand marketing agency, likes to break a brand assessment into four areas:
- Brandtelling and visuals: Are you able to clearly articulate your brand story? Is your brand story different from your competitors’? Do your visuals support that brand story?
- Public relations/promotions: Do you consciously promote your brand story? How well are you able to share your brand story?
- Content marketing: Do you meaningfully educate and inform your customers and prospects? Do you provide multiple vehicles for them to learn about your company?
- Media/presentations: Do your presentations wow your audience or leave them confused?
“Sit down and conduct an honest assessment,” Germain says. “Try not to be defensive.”
Of course, it’s also important to look at your company name, tagline, logo, website, company colors and even the furniture you have in the lobby, Charlie MacLeod, president of SMM Advertising in Smithtown, a marketing communications firm, says.
“Everything is the brand,” he says.
In addition to talking to employees and customers, assess what your competitors are doing.
The outcome will be one of three options: keep your identity as is; overhaul your identity; or refresh your identity so it aligns better with company goals, MacLeod says.
“I find in most cases that it’s a refresh that’s required,” MacLeod says.
Keep a pulse on your brand even after the audit.
“Branding is ongoing,” he says.