While the word "audit" tends to immediately be associated with scary tax situations, it's actually a very healthy thing in a business context. Companies are well advised to engage in regular audits of various aspects of their business including finances, operations and the internal information technology network among other critical areas.
Unfortunately, the company brand too often gets overlooked in this process. That's because the idea of a "brand" is a very abstract concept, full of elements that don't translate well into hard data points.
Let's try to make things a little more concrete since continually evaluating your brand is critical to business success. Your brand is simply the general public face of your company, and how customers and the general public tend to conceptualize your business.
It's driven primarily by all of your various communications with the public -- that means marketing methods, advertising taglines, your websites, your social media presence, your logo, your packaging, and how your various employees and customer service representatives interact with the public.
It's not merely superficial, however, as company actions matter too. This is the part that puts your brand less than 100% under your full control, as it will be impacted by things like press coverage and social media chatter about what your company is doing.
A brand audit is meant to break out all of these individual elements and assess their performance and impact, especially as compared to where the market and popular sentiment are currently at. So how exactly do you do this? We'll help you get started with today's post.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of individual variables that add up to influence your brand. The first task in a brand audit is to identify the ones that are most important, and also most within your capability to change.
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This means that there is no complete one-size-fits-all approach to brand auditing, as different companies of different sizes and in different markets will be juggling different elements. Generally speaking, all companies should at least be looking at the following elements of their brand during each audit:
There are many, many more elements than these, of course, especially when you delve into internal brand aspects as well as external presentation. These elements represent a solid core to help start getting your mind around what an audit will entail, however.
Honestly, the larger the company, the easier this likely is going to be. Though a large company has more elements to sift through, they also have greater resources to devote to the task.
Small businesses may be tempted to DIY, with the business owner or company leaders doing most of the audit. The issue here is that your existing biases are going to color the analysis and skew your data. What you really want is data from your customers about how they are looking at you from the outside.
Generally speaking, the most straightforward path is to hire a market research or brand management company. These companies have access to databases of end users who will do things like taking opinion surveys, product testing, and usability testing of your online features.