How to Complete a Brand Audit
If you’re looking to grow your brand’s market share (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?), then conducting a brand audit could make all the difference between owning the top spot in your competitive space, or falling to the bottom of the heap.
A brand audit is a comprehensive inspection of your brand’s marketing efforts, with the goal of producing an official report that depicts your brand’s current position in the broader market. Through this process, you’ll ideally be able to identify which efforts are paying off, as well as where there remains room for improvement.
Let’s take a deeper look at why brand audits are essential, the step-by-step instructions on how to successfully conduct your own audit, as well as the role that brand voice plays in your overall branding strategy.
Why Conduct a Brand Audit?
Thanks to the rapid-fire pace that advertisers and marketers are required to keep up with today, it’s no surprise that it can be all too easy to fall into a routine of completing tasks without taking that much-needed moment to reflect and ‘look backwards’ to assess the performance of your ad campaigns, website, blog posts, and social channels.
This is where a brand audit can come in handy. When you’re focused on ‘shipping,’ then your brand’s evolution can take on a life of its own, causing your identity to become watered down, and your performance to start to slip.
In order to prevent the latter and ensure that your brand identity stays intact, conducting regular brand audits is a way to guarantee that the core of your branding is resilient and remains aligned throughout all of your communication efforts.
In fact, you should develop a habit of routinely setting aside a block of time (let’s say once per quarter) to conduct a brand audit that will determine whether your communication efforts are causing you to meet targets or not.
The benefit of building a historical view this way is that it allows you to see whether all of the beautiful content you’re disseminating is driving results.
Achieving Brand Alignment by Performing a Brand Audit
With an ever-increasing number of brands vying for consumer attention, avoiding complacency has become a key consideration behind many brands’ marketing efforts.
Now more than ever, marketers are experimenting with innovative ways of redefining their brand, while simultaneously striving to sustain a consistent voice that binds the brand’s historical identity with their aspirational selves. In a fluctuating marketing landscape, performing a comprehensive brand audit should serve as the first step toward formulating a sturdy, new and improved branding strategy.
Let’s look at how to conduct a brand audit, step-by-step:
Brand Audit Step 1: Make Sure Your Brand Identity is Clear
The first step toward determining whether your branding is serving its purpose or not is to develop a layered understanding of how your brand should be expressed across different mediums. Essentially, your brand audit is meant to help you uncover how exactly you are going to express that identity to audiences.
If your brand identity description merely includes a few character traits, such as ‘authentic,’ ‘upbeat,’ and ‘informative,’ you can enhance your brand audit by filling out a few more details. Consider how these qualities will translate in your communications in both an explicit and implicit manner. For instance:
- If your brand is upbeat, how often do you use punctuation that demonstrates upward inflections, like exclamation points in your written materials?
- What about your word choice – do you have certain words set aside?
- What visual effects combine with your materials to create a feeling of authenticity? Does your brand color palette include bright pantones in shades of yellow and pink that indicate an upbeat disposition?
- Do your videos have a voice over that sounds happy and positive? Or are they silent or stale?
- Are you creating social posts that hinge on themes of encouragement, motivation or confidence building, for instance?
Brand Audit Step 2: Conduct Market Analysis
You won’t be able to properly determine where your brand fits into the market at large until you have a firm handle on the market itself. Your brand isn’t sealed off in a vacuum, so the next step of your brand audit is to conduct a market analysis, which will help you come face to face with your competition, and set goals based on the reality your brand is operating within.
A market analysis has at least three components: analyzing your current customer’s perceptions of your brand, your prospective customer’s decision-making process, and taking a thorough look at your competition.
Before you can position your brand within the market, you need to know your customers… and what better way to familiarize yourself with them than to consult them yourself? Circulating surveys to your customer base in order to gain sample data identifying their needs and desires will help you understand how to align your brand strategy to meet their expectations.
By the same token, your market analysis can include holding a focus group with members of your target audience who aren’t currently buying from you, as this provides a way to step outside any internal audience bias. Why aren’t they engaging with your brand, why are they opting to bring their service elsewhere, and how can you go about converting them to join your customer base?
Another step of your market analysis can involve studying your competition. Who are they? Which elements of their branding strategy are paying off, and what lessons can be learned from them? Which segments of the market do your competitors have a hold upon, and where do they overlap or diverge from yours?
The market analysis phase of your brand audit should also entail implementing an efficient way of monitoring and analyzing your social and sales data. All of this data ought to factor into how you flesh out your brand strategy and how your brand figures into the wider market that you have now performed an intricate anatomy of.
Brand Audit Step 3: Investigate Whether Your Brand Identity is Resonating Throughout Your External Communications
Once your brand audit has helped you gain a solid sense of how your brand is being communicated through your words, sounds, and graphic imagery, and you have an idea of how you stack up against other major players in the market, your next step is to take a snapshot of how your brand is coming across through the various platforms you use to present yourself.
Review each platform where your brand comes to life. This will likely include reviewing your:
- Social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.)
- YouTube channel and video content
- Audio content, e.g. podcasts
- Press releases
- Conference and trade show material
- Slideshow presentations
When you assess this material, take a critical eye and focus on whether your brand identity shines through. Where is it strongest, and where is it weakest?
Do you notice any increases in engagement or feedback with certain communication styles or types? Do these popular assets match your brand… or are they telling you that your audience is connecting with a different personality than you had anticipated?
Brand Audit Step 4: Implement Internal Branding Strategy
In addition to running an assessment of your brand’s external marketing strategy, you must put some consideration into your internal branding. You don’t want the voice of your company to communicate with your customer base in a wholly different fashion than it communicates with its employees. In order to foster employee engagement, a substantial portion of your brand audit should be aimed at reviewing your internal materials and determining how you want to communicate internally.
These are but a couple of elements you’ll probably want to take a look at while conducting this phase of your brand audit:
- What are your brand values?
- What sort of culture exists inside of your company, and how does this sync up with its public image?
You can boost employee engagement by putting your internal branding strategy into place. This can include, but isn’t limited to, the language your brand employs, your visuals, color palette, and sonic approach. This stage of your branding strategy should involve ensuring that these elements are consistent across all the materials distributed internally throughout your organization, from corporate training videos to company emails.
Implementing this will help contribute an additional dimension to your brand. Your brand, then, isn’t merely a two-dimensional, purely customer-oriented effort, but a cohesive identity that gets expressed and reiterated in all your assets, including your employees who, at the end of the day, serve as the primary spokespeople for your brand.
In order to forge a unified brand identity, all the ways your brand presents itself externally must be reflected in the ways you present internally.
Brand Audit Step 5: Consolidate All Communications For Maximum Brand Alignment
If your communications are on point with what your brand identity description states and your audience is loving it, then you’re on the right track.
However, if you’re sheepishly scratching your head over the results, or simply at a loss when it comes to your brand identity, the good news is that you can get (back) on track.
Ask yourself: Who are my main customers? How well do I know them, and how deep are my descriptions of their personas?
When you’re building this out, you may wish to think about:
- Where they live
- Cultural background
- Education level
- Interests and hobbies
- Challenges and aspirations
- How they speak to one another (this means everything from slang, to the way they communicate via technological means, be it via social networks, over the telephone, or in person)
There are literally hundreds of ways to approach the breakdown of your main personas. The above is a very basic overview, but will help you to suss out what your brand might like to mirror or appeal to.
3 Brand Audit Tips for Working With Voice
One burgeoning subset of marketing that numerous brands are only now beginning to take advantage of, for example, is sound.
If you fail to capitalize on the various avenues that brands are exploring as they adapt to savvier contemporary consumers, then you risk falling behind, and miss out on an opportunity to pave the way in this fledgling space.
Here are three tips for extending your branding efforts into the sonic space:
1. Learn How to Describe Your Brand Voice
With your target audience personas in mind, you can deliberate the most efficient way to describe your brand sound using the vocal style descriptions listed on Voices.com.
Just like any other individual, your brand is unique and deserves its own distinct combo of attributes.
The resulting brand tone will form the undercurrent of how you want your audience to perceive your company’s personality.
2. Use Your Brand Voice Guidelines When Hiring for Voice Over
As an added bonus of having completed your brand audit, you now have a well-formed description of what your brand physically sounds like. This is a great tool to have when you’re looking to hire voice over actors to represent your tone and connect with your listeners or viewers.
3. Produce Sonic Branding Guidelines for Future Reference
If your brand audit has convinced you to finally foray into the lucrative market of using sound as an outlet for the expression of your brand, then you may want to compile an official document that outlines how you intend to apply your brand sound via marketing materials, both internally and externally.
Consider a sonic logo, the auditory equivalent to the visual identity for your organization.
Your sonic branding guidelines [PDF] will be a resourceful document that you can turn to at any occasion down the line in order to sustain branding consistency.
After the Brand Audit
While innovation and risk-taking are essential in this day and age, consistency is equally important. Your brand audit will help you understand where your messaging is aligned across different channels, as well as where it isn’t.
Uniting all your modes of communication doesn’t simply mean that you’ll consolidate every one of your outward-facing communications with customers. If you’re taking your brand voice seriously, which you ought to be, your brand audit will similarly help you establish a standard for the way you communicate with employees, stakeholders, and all additional parties that your brand interacts with.
Once you’ve completed your brand audit, you may be looking for creative ways to boost your storytelling and marketing, as well as enhance the way you express your brand voice.
Here’s a list of helpful articles that will steer you in the right direction:
- 3 Brand Storytelling Keys to Build a Loyal Customer Base
- A Guide to Synthetic, AI and Human Voice for Your Brand
- Sonic Branding: Designing and Hiring Your Perfect Brand Voice
Explore Samples of Voice Actors Who Have Brought Brands to Life
You can review the profiles and demos of our multitalented voice actors from around the world to discover voices that resonate with your company and inspire your next project.