A brand audit is the detailed process of analyzing your internal and external brand to ensure that it is consistent and cohesive.
I’ve been thinking about this idea of a brand gap, recently – that you know in your head how you want your brand to be experienced but often what’s actually happening is different. There’s a gap between what you’re envisioning and what the reality is.
In order to determine your next right steps in creating a brand that truly represents your business and supports your next level, you need to know where you stand right now.
Enter: The Brand Audit.
Today’s post is going to walk through the steps of conducting an effective audit of your existing brand so that you can determine where the important brand gaps are. Additionally, it’s also great to know what currently IS working so that you can double down on those efforts for maximum impact.
Rather watch than read?
In This Article
>> What is a brand audit?
>> Why should you care about auditing your brand?
>> Step one: Setting up the foundation
>> Step two: Internal audit
>> Step three: External audit
>> Step four: Create a plan for making changes
>> Rather watch than read?
>> Additional brand resources.
What is a brand audit and why does it matter?
According to Merriam Webster, an audit is a formal examination of an organization’s or individual’s accounts or financial situation.
So with that in mind, a brand audit is the process of evaluating the effectiveness of your internal and external brand experience.
I say both internal and external because what happens behind the curtain is just as important as what your community is seeing on your website, social media and in email newsletters. This is especially true if you have anyone else supporting you in business – if they aren’t clear what you’re all about as a brand, it can have a significant impact on what your audience experiences.
Which leads me to, why audit in the first place?
Inconsistencies in your brand can cause confusion with your audience. A brand audit will help you pinpoint where those inconsistencies are happening so you can make the necessary changes or updates.
We’ve all heard the saying: you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you are. Well my friends, that’s the beauty of a brand audit – it helps you understand your current situation so that you know what the next right step is for you and your brand.
When is the right time to audit your brand?
Regularly auditing your brand is a great best-practice. It’s helpful to set a cadence that makes sense for you and your business. If you’re established and feeling good about how you’re showing up, once a year may suffice. I usually go through and do a quick check at the end of every quarter when I’m doing my quarterly review and planning – it seems like a natural fit for the review/planning process.
Sometimes, though, an audit is needed at a different moment in time because things just aren’t working for your business but you aren’t sure what or why.
Since the purpose of a brand audit is to gauge the effectiveness of your brand, you usually uncover hidden roadblocks that are stopping you from moving forward and getting to that next level.
With that in mind, if you’re in a season where things are just feeling off, here are a few signs where an audit might be your next right step:
- Lead generation and/or sales is not growing
- Engagement with your brand is decreasing and/or staying the same
- You’re growing at a fast rate and have handed off a lot of external-facing communication
- You’re seeing brand inconsistencies either within your team or externally-facing
Step one: Setting up the foundation
The first step in auditing your brand is to gain clarity on how you want your brand to be communicated in the first place. Said another way, you need to have a brand strategy. Now, this doesn’t have to be an overwhelming or super detailed plan. In fact, a great starting point for your brand’s communication plan includes just four components – who, what, why and how.
The Who: This is who you’re serving. That perfect-for-you ideal client that makes you freakin’ love what you do. It’s the person or business or group of people that really get you into that flow state. You know, the place where time doesn’t exist and you’re just doing the work with pure enjoyment. Your ideal client is the type of person that brings out those types of reactions.
The Why: This is the emotional thread and connection point that is really going to draw in the right people. It’s why you do the work, why you show up day in and day out. This is the belief that you have as a business and brand. Remember, Simon Sinek says it best: People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
The What: This is what transformation you’re providing for your ideal client. Yes, it’s what you’re selling but the goal here is to understand on an emotional level the benefits of what you do – not just the features. The intangibles as well as the tangibles.
The How: This is the fun part that has a clear line of sight to your brand visuals. It’s how you want people to feel when they experience your brand. When they see your logo, read a caption on the ‘Gram, open an email or scroll through your website – what feelings do you want them to experience?
Clarity around these four elements will help you not only understand what your brand is all about, but it will also create a solid foundation for you to draw from when you go through the brand audit process.
The second part of this step is to understand what your goals are in conducting the audit. Auditing a brand can be as quick or in-depth as you’d like so it’s helpful to set the expectation up front. Is this a full brand audit where you look at every external brand touch point or are you only focusing on digital or print elements?
This can be done by creating a simple two-column challenges and goals chart – what’s currently not working with your brand and what are you hoping to achieve with a consistent and cohesive brand?
Step two: Internal audit
The goal of an internal audit is to understand if you have the information, documentation, systems and brand clarity that will set you up for consistent and cohesive brand success.
Wondering why you can’t just jump to step three?
Because in order to effectively communicate your brand externally to your audience, you have to be clear on your understanding of it behind the scenes.
Below is a high level outline of some of the helpful internal brand documents. Your job is to determine (A) if you have said document, and (B) if it’s up to date, relevant and/or useful.
Brand strategy guidelines: This document outlines the four (or more!) brand strategy pillars that we covered in the previous section. Think of it as your quick-scan summary of what your brand is all about.
Brand message guidelines: This document outlines your overarching brand message or the common thread that’s woven into every brand communication touchpoint. It can be high-level, this is the brand’s personality and communication style, or go in-depth and provide content strategy and various words, phrases and value statements to use.
Brand blurbs and stories: There are a variety of different options here but the gist is to have a space where you can quickly pull things like your brand’s elevator pitch, the founder’s story, the brand’s story, the founder’s bio and team member bios.
Visual brand guidelines: This is a document that details how your visual brand should be implemented. It contains things like logo clearspace, primary and secondary colors and their application, typography recommendations and what not to do to your logo.
Visual brand style guide: Generally, this is a one-page document with the high level visual brand standards like your color HEX codes, logo variations and typography.
Make a list of what you have that needs updating, what you don’t have and what you have that is up-to-date. We’ll talk through next-steps in phase four 🙂
Step three: External audit
Once you evaluate what’s going on internally, you can shift your focus to external; what your audience is experiencing.
Before you dive into the auditing portion, you need to first clarify what it is you’re actually auditing. So, what are all the brand touchpoints that someone may have with your business? I.e., website, Facebook, email, PDFs, presentations, YouTube, podcast, flyers, Instagram, brochures, Tiktok, Snapchat (is that even a thing anymore?!), etc.
Each touchpoint provides an experience and the goal with the external audit is to understand where your experience is meeting (or exceeding) expectations and where it’s, well, not.
With your brand touchpoint list in hand, your job is to work your way through each of those experiences and:
See if the internal standards are in line with what’s happening externally. The whole point of doing the brand strategy and internal audit first is to see what the goal is in terms of how you want your brand to be experienced. Then, the external touchpoints are where you can determine what’s working well and what’s not in terms of aligning with your goal.
A few questions that I like to ask are, (1) Is it clear who the perfect-for-you client is?, (2) Is it clear why you do the work and have a business?, (3) Is it clear what you’re offering and the value it provides?, and (4) Is it clear how you want people to feel when they experience your brand?
See what’s resonating with your audience. While consistent brand communication is important, it’s equally important that what you’re sharing is resonating with your audience. So, the idea with this phase is to take a look at the metrics (open rates, likes, comments, shares, etc.) and make note of what’s getting the most activity.
Check for consistency and cohesiveness. Even if you follow the guidelines of your one-page brand style guide, there can still be a lot of interpretation in terms of the overall visuals that you share on behalf of your brand. So, the goal here is to check for consistency across the various touch points – could someone hop to Pinterest, see a few graphics and then jump over to Instagram and still recognize your brand visuals?
Similar to step two, when you’re done with the external audit, make a list of what’s going well and what needs improvement. Step four is all about setting up a plan of action to get your brand to a consistent and cohesive space.
Step four: Create a plan for making changes
Okay, okay. So you’ve done the work and have a clear picture of where your brand stacks up when it comes to clear, consistent and cohesive communication.
Well, I hate to be the one to say it but all that auditing work can be 100% useless if you don’t actually take action on the issues that were discovered.
Going back to step one’s comment – this can be as detailed or high-level as you’d like, which is why it’s helpful to set the expectation from the start. So, based on the challenges and goals you mapped out, the next right step is to list the problems that turned up and write out the action plan(s) required to resolve said problem.
Now, you may have a very big list or just a few items to tackle. Prioritization comes in based on the original goal(s) you set in the beginning. I’d also consider what may have the most impact and bring that problem to the top of the list.
This isn’t something that needs to be tackled all in one sitting. Make a list and slowly work your way down it. The goal is to take small steps every day or week towards creating a consistent and cohesive brand that you’re excited and confident to share. Remember to be patient with yourself and keep moving forward.
Happy branding (and auditing)!
All my best,
P.s. If after conducting your audit (or even after reading about the process) and you realize you’re ready for a rebrand, let’s chat! Sometimes the auditing process leads to a full overhaul, in which case, we’d love to support you. Fill out the application and schedule a call – we can’t wait to collaborate with you in creating a consistent and cohesive brand that supports your next level of business.
Need additional branding resources?
Here are four distinct signs to watch out for when navigating if it’s the right time to get serious about your branding.
Learn why brand consistency is the key to effective marketing and how to get your brand there.
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