How is your brand performing? It might be time for an audit.

Philip Kotler, Professor Emeritus of Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, said, “If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.” If you have been neglecting your brand, now is the time to evaluate where it stands. 

How is your brand performing? It might be time for an audit.

A brand audit is a checkup. It is a thorough review of your brand to identify what the company is doing well, what could be improved and your current position in the market among your competitors. Before we review how to think about a brand audit, let’s back up and start at the beginning.

What is a brand?

In the simplest terms, a brand is a promise. That promise is conveyed by everything the company does and everything it says. More specifically, TEN|10 Group defines brand in the following ways:

  • A brand is the “personification” of a product, service, or even an entire company.
  • Like any person, a brand has a name, a personality, character and a reputation.
  • You can respect, like and even love a brand. You can think of it as a deep, personal friend or merely an acquaintance. You can view it as dependable or undependable; principled or opportunistic; caring or capricious.
  • Just as you like to be around certain people and not others, so also do you like to be with certain brands and not others.
  • Like a person, a brand must mature and change over time. But its character and core beliefs should not change. Neither should its fundamental personality and outlook. 
  • People have character. So do brands.
  • A person’s character flows from his/her integrity: the ability to deliver under pressure, the willingness to do what is right rather than what is expedient. You judge a person’s character by his/her past performance and the way he/she thinks and acts in both good times and especially in bad. The same holds true for brands.
  • Brand is the intangible, visceral impact of a person's subjective experience with the product, service or company and the personal memories and cultural associations that orbit around it.
  • Brands are all about messages – strong, exciting, distinct, authentic messages that tell people who you are, what you think and why you do what you do.

Scott Bedbury, former chief marketing officer at Starbucks and, prior to that, head of advertising at Nike, said it best in his book, A New Brand World. “We are defined by the experiences and actions of our lifetime. So are brands.”

Why is a healthy brand important?

In today’s world of accelerated new product development, constant contact and communication overload, all of us are inundated with options daily, from what toothpaste to buy to what airline to fly. Proliferation creates so many choices that it diminishes our ability to differentiate or choose what we truly value. 

Brands help us choose. They are invaluable tools that help us break through clutter to make choices based on our experience of and satisfaction with products or services.

Building a healthy brand means making, communicating, keeping and strengthening a promise. Maintaining a healthy brand means delivering on that promise over and over again. A brand audit is a useful exercise to evaluate if and how you are delivering on your promise.

How to think about a brand audit.

A meaningful brand audit should be conducted with two focal points: internal and external. A review of external branding is often what first comes to mind. Companies intuit the need to have a gauge of what their customers and potential customers are perceiving about their organization and their product or service offerings. It is less common to consider the health of the brand internally. Companies may not stop to think about what employees are perceiving about the organization, but internal brand health is critically important. Employees deliver — or do not deliver — on the brand promise on a daily basis. Their engagement is key. 

With both internal and external perspectives in mind, following are a sampling of the key steps TEN|10 Group considers when conducting a brand audit:

Assigning brand stewards: We identify individuals within the organization who are best suited to be responsible for managing brand compliance.

Communicating the importance of brand consistency: We provide recommendations on best practices for consistency in communication within the company’s community. Whether communication is in the form of a brochure, website or how you answer your phone, you always want to be supporting your brand values. Consistency with branding elements (logos, fonts, color palette, imagery, etc.) helps connect all forms of communication and helps your audience remember all the messages from you are coming from the same reliable source.

Identifying key brand touch points: As part of the brand assessment, we map all current areas of audience engagement with a company. Key outcomes include a greater understanding of the various points of interaction: touch points that have the greatest impact on audience perception, touch points that need additional marketing/communications support now and others that may need future support.

Analysis of the brand story: To determine if you’re successfully communicating the complete brand story, we review current messaging surrounding the vision, values, concept, differentiation, promise, solution, benefit, position, motivation and expression of the brand.

Materials review: By analyzing current marketing materials we’ll conclude whether all your materials look like they come from the same trusted brand; if they are outdated; if your brand is being used consistently and follows a standard set of rules; if the colors, fonts, images, etc., are consistent across various pieces; and if there is a clear and consistent voice across all key messaging.

Materials rating: For existing marketing material, we will determine if each piece meets your brand standards; if it fulfills a need or solves a problem; if it needs updating or modifying to remain relevant; if it is the most appropriate form of communication; and if it is the best it can be.

As with most things that are worthwhile, nurturing a healthy brand takes effort. A brand audit can be a valuable tool in assessing and measuring how your brand is performing.

In the words of Sir Richard Branson, “Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.”