When Is the Last Time You Conducted a Brand Audit?

You’ve launched your brand both internally and externally. Customers are purchasing your product or service. Sales are being generated. But when is the last time you performed a brand audit? Your bottom line alone is not necessarily informative as to what is powering your brand and where optimization could help.

Conducting a brand audit on a regularly scheduled basis allows you to monitor your brand and refine it as needed. Should the brand require adjustment, better to know as soon as possible. The longer you wait, perceptions become further engrained and influencing them become increasingly difficult.

Internal and external audiences

Because your brand has internal and external audiences, it is important to assess how the brand is performing with both. Internal audiences are your brand champions. If they don't have a clear understanding of the brand, including its positioning, meaningful differentiators, and key messages, then they cannot be expected to represent the brand effectively. How do internal constituents perceive the brand? What do they think is working well? What do they see as barrier with customer adoption? What’s really resonating and what is requiring greater explanation? What do they feel is relevant to themselves and your customers – and why? These are all things that should be measured.

Externally, segmentation of customers can be useful, not only by customer type, but also by customer status (current, potential and lost customers). How do current customers perceive the brand? What differentiators influenced their decision to adopt? How is the brand meeting their expectations today, and how might their expectations evolve? For lost customers, what drove their decision to move forward with a competitor? Are there areas of the brand that could be bolstered to increase its competitiveness? And for potential customers, what are the criteria they are using to assess brand options? How might your brand best meet their needs from their perspective?

The competitive landscape is also constantly shifting.

Technology, economics, changing demands all influence lenses through which the market views its choices. It’s essential to have reliable intelligence on how the market is trending, competitor performance, pipeline assessments and knowledge of emerging technologies in order to assure that your brand is positioned in a realistically compelling manner.

Time and budget will impact how you conduct your brand audit. It’s helpful when you can develop a consistent approach in order to establish a baseline for future comparisons. Changing measurement techniques and metrics make apples-to-apples comparisons more complicated. That said, if the form of measurement is not delivering reliable findings, then change is in order.

Online surveys and one-on-one telephone interviews can be an effective methodology for obtaining internal and external feedback. Surveys and discussion guides should be created so honest and candid answers can be captured without judgement. Protection of respondent anonymity must be communicated and respected. Honoraria or a modest reward can be offered in return for the respondent’s time.

The internal and external information collected in the brand audit often form a revealing foil. It can be particularly useful to brand managers to have the external feedback to confirm or combat internal perceptions that might differ from customer feedback. These disconnections are not unusual and represent opportunities for course correction. The inherent challenge is that evolving the brand in a stronger direction necessitates acceptance of external findings. Additionally, if the brand is supported by customer service, customer satisfaction surveys can also be used to glean helpful information. It should be noted however, that customer satisfaction surveys alone will not necessarily capture the sentiments of lost or potential customers.

The frequency of your brand audit should be based on how volatile your market is and how your brand is performing. Conducting a brand audit on an annual basis is a common approach so long as your key constituents are not being burdened by participating in the process. It’s key to value internal and external constituent time and operate the audit and information gathering efficiently.

Report back what you’ve learned

One step that is often overlooked is communicating back to those who have participated. People like knowing that their input mattered. It’s constructive to report back what you’ve learned and how you’ve not only heard what people have had to say, but also address how you’ve acted on that feedback.

There’s nothing more potent than an accurate understanding of internal and external brand perceptions. This information provides the compass to confirming or discovering the right pathway to achieve your brand’s goals. Whether a corporate, product or service brand, make sure you understand your constituents, protect your brand by reinforcing it with sound knowledge, and don’t allow assumptions to fuel decision making.

by Jonathan D. Katz