What Is a Brand Audit? [And How to Know If You Need One]
Want your brand to stand out? Analyze your brand's position in the marketplace with a comprehensive brand audit. Read this guide to learn more.
May 16, 2023
Introduction: What Is a Brand Audit?
Many companies blame the saturated marketplace for lagging growth. But the problem often isn't with the number of competitors, website copy, or customer buying trends—it's brand drift.
Drift occurs when a company's message and marketing plan don't align with its mission and brand value. Companies that recognize brand drift early can adjust quickly without much disruption. But if drift goes on too long, it can create some expensive problems.
It's common for businesses to make changes to product development processes, customer service policies, and the marketing strategy. But making adjustments without careful planning can take a brand off its course. The shift is often so gradual that company leadership and marketing teams don't even realize it's happening.
At first, these minor adjustments to your business plan might seem harmless. But deviate enough, and before you know it, your brand has lost its true north. Even the most loyal customers who have dealt with your brand for a long time may begin to feel alienated.
So, before you cut prices or pump more money into the marketing budget, consider a brand audit.
The Real Reason for Brand Drift
Business owners and executives spend a lot of time managing day-to-day operations. I know because I do it too. But the daily involvement in our own brand puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to communicating with our customers.
We often assume our customers appreciate the value of our product or service more than they actually do.
Because we understand it so well, we can underestimate the customer's ability to accurately assess our brand's value and how it compares to competitors.
On the other hand, we overestimate how simple and clear our brand messaging must be.
It can take up to eight touchpoints or more for the average sales process to convert a qualified lead. In reality, people don't buy on the first or second contact. Instead, they need several interactions with your brand before they buy from it.
Customers are busy. And they have thousands of brands from which to choose. So, people must be able to see the value your brand offers immediately and without exerting much effort. Otherwise, they will look for a competitor that does a better job of communicating.
Brand clarity is a term that describes an organization's capacity to define its purpose, mission, and value. Essentially, the brand that wins the sale is the one that does the best job of communicating what it does, for whom, and why it is unique.
Likewise, businesses that lack brand clarity struggle to:
A brand assessment examines a company's current position and marketing strategy to help it regain clarity. The audit process also includes a gap analysis that reveals how your brand is performing and what you must do to achieve strategic objectives.
What Does the Brand Audit Process Include?
The brand audit process will depend on the auditor and the company's goals. However, an audit should include an evaluation of a company's brand identity, processes, and position within its industry.
Tone and messaging evaluations are other critical aspects to review. It's essential to identify what the brand stands for, who it speaks to, and how genuine it is. Assessing tone-of-voice emphasizes the brand's values, which helps the brand resonate with its audience.
Reputation is another area that is frequently overlooked. In today's digital world, your online reputation is important to your long-term success. Analyzing online reviews, social media comments, client feedback, press mentions, and testimonials are key in developing a reputation management strategy.
Competitive analysis is a crucial aspect of a brand audit. Exploring the strengths and weaknesses of your competition reveals how the brand could improve.
Let's look at each area of an audit in more detail.
Internal branding elements form the brand's essence—its mission, vision, and company culture. These keep the company focused on the organization’s long-term purpose and goals.
Some examples are:
- The brand promise
- Brand values
A business that aligns its internal branding with its purpose will find that the effort pays dividends. Employees are more productive. Customer loyalty tends to be stronger. These strong brands also encounter less selling pressure than weaker competitors.
External branding refers to the tangible elements the target audience experiences. The visual identity, website, and social media profiles, and marketing materials (even business cards) are examples.
It's critical for an organization's branding to line up with the target audience's preferences.
For example, a company that sells luxury products should have a visual identity and persona that aligns with the audience’s expectations of a luxury brand. A brand audit would help a company determine the necessary characteristics of a luxury brand through a review of the industry category and relevant competitors.
The key is not to duplicate other brands in the sector, but to incorporate certain elements in the company's branding that will enhance its appeal.
The Customer Experience
The customer service experience generally refers to what happens during and after the sale. Some examples are marketing emails, problem resolution, and advocacy programs. A poor customer service experience creates higher customer turnover. Internal discussions with marketing, sales, and service teams can help companies identify disconnects and correct them.
A brand audit consists of a review of your customer experience to make sure the company's value proposition comes through in each touchpoint.
Why You Should Conduct a Brand Audit
The benefits of a brand audit are too numerous to list. But the action plan developed from a detailed analysis can save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars and increase revenue significantly.
Here are some examples of specific areas analyzed during an audit:
Now let's review some of these benefits in more detail.
How to Do a Brand Audit [A Guide for In-House Marketers]
Conduct a brand audit to discover your company's strengths and weaknesses, reduce marketing expenses, and build a strong market position.
If your business is like most, you have thousands of competitors. So, your company must be innovative to sustain a competitive advantage. But you can’t know how to compete until you know what you're up against.
A brand audit allows a company to assess its “place” in the market. This placement, called positioning, is determined by several factors, but the most common are:
- Customer sentiment
- Competitors’ brands
How do your target customers feel about your business? Would they refer their friends or leave a bad review? Do they think of your product as a premium or economy brand?
The answers to these questions depend on customer sentiment.
Brands have some control over how customers perceive them. For example, a business can develop its identity, authority, credibility, and other factors, such as price, to influence the consumer’s perception.
But none of this guarantees favorable customer sentiment. So, it's vital to explore behavioral analytics to understand your audience and existing customer base. You can also conduct social media polls, online surveys, and customer focus groups to understand what influences sentiment.
It goes without saying: the competitive landscape affects everything you do, including your pricing strategy, audience targeting, and marketing initiatives.
Competitors also set the tone for what a business must do to establish its desired market position. For example, if a company would like to be perceived as a premium brand, it must first determine how a premium brand is defined within its industry. An analysis of the industry category and competitors (starting with the closest competitors) will enable brand leadership to identify the characteristics necessary to build a premium brand position.
New Revenue Opportunities
Every company is looking for ways to grow revenue. Sometimes, revenue increases come from new product offerings or target demographics. But often, a business can generate more revenue by optimizing existing product lines and services.
A brand audit can help companies discover new revenue opportunities. Here are a few examples:
Optimize the Marketing Strategy
Digital marketing is complex. There's an overwhelming amount of information online, and much of it is inaccurate. In addition, marketing agencies have varying skill levels, some better than others.
These circumstances create challenges for businesses that want to leverage digital marketing. Many aren’t sure how to hold digital marketing professionals accountable or know what results they should expect.
A successful brand audit tackles these issues by assessing the critical factors that increase conversion rates.
Some examples are:
Is your sales team efficient? Could they convert more sales with the same effort? If so, why? And can you do anything to reduce sales expenses while increasing profit per purchase?
An auditor will review sales data to uncover trends related to conversion. These findings result in a shorter sales cycle and higher lifetime customer value.
Almost every business would like its website to convert more leads and sales. Web analytics tell brand auditors what users do when they visit your website, such as:
A review of each metric tells a company what changes to the website might be needed, if any. Analytics and user testing are also used to develop content marketing and to improve conversion rates.
Social Media Presence
Another aspect of a successful brand audit is a review of a company’s social media analytics.
Many brands want to use social media channels to increase awareness and as a selling tool. But developing a positive social media presence requires effort. An audit includes an analysis of a business's social data. Through the audit, companies will find out how to improve reach and engagement on all channels.
Audit Your Brand to Create Marketing Goals and a Budget
Setting goals and budgets are difficult challenges for most organizations. Often, we find that the marketing budget is not sufficient to support sales goals. In other cases, brands don’t have a strategy for setting accurate goals or are wasting money on tactics that aren’t generating revenue.
An audit will enable a company to:
How to Know If Your Company Needs a Brand Audit
By now, you may know whether your organization would benefit from an audit. This section provides an overview of the businesses that are the best audit candidates.
Companies that are thinking of a complete rebrand.
It's amazing what small changes can do. Many businesses find new life just by making a few modifications to their existing brand.
By contrast, some companies should consider rebranding when the target market or company's vision changes. For example, companies that want to increase brand equity might rebrand to elevate their image. In addition, a rebrand may be in order after a merger or acquisition.
Sometimes, a business drifts so far off course that a complete rebrand is the only solution. A brand audit can help organizations determine if a rebrand is in order.
Businesses that want to optimize resources.
Managing resources is critical to long-term business success. Put too much into one area, and you may not have enough for others.
An audit can reveal areas of waste related to:
- Marketing and advertising
- Website maintenance and hosting
- Customer service
- Product packaging
Organizations that want to build a strong brand reputation and online authority.
In 2017, Google incorporated expertise, authority, and trust into its ranking algorithm. Over the last year, the "experience" element has been added. The goal is to prioritize reliable, trustworthy brand websites and content in search results.
Likewise, businesses must build a strong reputation that people will trust. This is easier said than done. The process of building online authority is arduous. There are specific requirements that a company must meet.
Much of what a company must do to establish credibility has been determined by competitors. A brand audit includes competitor analysis and can show companies precisely how to build online authority.
Of course, a business's reputation goes far beyond the Internet. An audit will also explore other strategies a company can use to grow its value offline (i.e., public relations).
Organizations that want to improve customer satisfaction scores.
As you learned in a section above, the experience customers have with a company is vital to its success. Brand processes must support one another to build customer loyalty.
During a brand audit, the auditor will assess customer feedback (i.e., reviews). This allows the auditor to determine how a brand performs among its existing customer base. In addition, the data enables a business to improve current and future customer relationships.
How Much Does a Brand Audit Cost?
Each company that employs a brand audit firm will have a unique situation. The cost of an audit depends on the audit's goals, timeframe, and scope of work.
An audit could cost as little as $3,500. This would apply to most small startups and businesses with only a few employees. But companies that need an extensive audit should be prepared to pay $10,000-$15,000, and in some cases, more.
How Much Does a Brand Audit Cost? (4 Pricing Factors Revealed)
Our comprehensive guide on brand audit fees tells you everything. In under 2 minutes.
Do complimentary or low-priced brand audits offer value?
Some branding and marketing agencies perform complimentary or low-priced audits to win other work projects such as web design, logo design, and ad management.
While these audits may offer some value, there is another crucial point to consider.
Agencies usually deliver audit results that generate additional work for them. As an example, an agency might offer a free SEO audit. In most cases, the audit results will disclose several SEO issues that should be corrected. So, of course, the agency will include an offer for SEO services along with the SEO audit report.
So, if you are considering an audit, hiring a neutral, third-party auditor is best. This is the only way you can be sure that the audit results will be objective.
A Unique Brand Audit Framework
Over the years, I have met hundreds of business owners, executives, business development managers, and marketing directors. Many came to me asking for help with brand strategy or design. Others were struggling to get traction with digital marketing.
In time, I realized there was a disconnect between companies and marketing agencies. A conflict of interest exists between the two. What is best for the client isn’t always best for the agency and vice-versa.
The Brand Auditors delivers a unique experience. We serve clients as a neutral third-party advocate and adviser. Our audit services go beyond your brand's strengths and weaknesses to include a holistic review of your brand and marketing strategies.
With our audit framework, you'll get a comprehensive assessment of your:
The final audit report includes insights and recommendations that will help leadership and marketing teams develop a stronger growth strategy.
If you would like to find out how a brand audit can transform your business, click on the button and schedule a free consultation with an auditor.
Are you ready to find out how a brand audit can transform your business?
Our brand audit process is a comprehensive analysis designed to help companies increase ROI and reduce marketing expenses.
- Increase ROI on lead generation and sales conversions.
- Reduce marketing expenses.
- Strengthen brand positioning to become more competitive.
We guarantee satisfaction or get your money back! Schedule a discovery call with a brand auditor to find out more.
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