As a brand custodian, you have a vision for your brand. You know very well what it stands for, and what it should communicate to your target audience and to the world at large. You may even have hired the best advertising agency you can afford.
But how do you know if the audiences are seeing your brand the way you want them to?
How do you know if your way of projecting your brand is the right way?
Enter Brand Audit.
What is brand audit?
Brand audit is a process of determining how well your brand communication meets the goals you have set for your business.
Who needs a brand audit?
A brand needs a brand audit. Period.
But isn’t every business a brand?
Not at all.
Most businesses tend to think of themselves as brands. However, a brand is a promise, as the classic definitions of brands go.
A brand is a name that conjures specific associations like trust, fun, credibility, reliability and so on.
If you invest in creating a brand out of whatever business you do, you’ll not have to think of doing your business in terms of everyday survival. A brand audit can get you started on the path to become a brand.
That is, if you’re marketing-oriented, you are a brand. And conversely, if you think of sales so that you can help ends meet, you are not a brand. You are a business. You are sales driven.
A brand audit cannot help you if you are not a brand simply because there’s no brand to study.
But aspiring towards a brand audit can help you become a brand. The process can help you alert towards what you’ve been doing right and otherwise.
Why talk about brand audit now? Hasn’t it always existed?
Yes and No.
In the digital age, brand audit happens on a scale never achieved before. Because there are too many channels on which brands and their competitors are likely to be present, and each channel is different, your communication can go haywire.
Before the Brand Audit – The Times of Advertising
Before the invention of the Internet, brand communication was more or less left to advertising agencies. And target audiences encountered brands through TVCs, radio commercials, print ads, and outdoor advertising.
In the times when advertising agencies were at their peak, the closest you could get to a brand audit was through the brand positioning you arrived at via:
- Brainstorming internally
- Pitch from an ad agency
- Focus groups
- Recognition & recall tests
Thanks to the search engines and social media, the scope for brand communication has broadened. Now, brand communication happens through several digital assets like websites and social media accounts.
Why Do You Need a Brand Audit?
There are several ways in which a brand audit can help you take critical decisions regarding your brand.
01. Suitable for Vast Scale of Communication
In the era of digital marketing, you need a brand audit because both your digital assets and your target audience are more likely to be spread across all social media networks.
02. Audience Receptivity
How do you know if you are communicating well with your prospects? If your communication is well-received? If your message is not having negative unintended consequences?
03. Goal Setting & Management
To be specific, a brand audit can determine where you stand in your marketing efforts as a whole.
Some examples of goals are:
A. Broad Goals
- Increase brand awareness
- Develop brand trust
- Establish brand credibility
- Increase overall conversions to goals in the process of lead nurturing
B. Specific Goals
- Increase website traffic
- Increase session time
- Reduce bounce rate
- Enhance shareability of content
- Prompt more people to tag your brand
- Draw attention from influencers
- Gain recognition from domain experts through content
In the context of these goals of digital marketing, a brand audit can help you understand:
- if your assets are meeting the goals you’ve established
- if you have set the right metrics to check if your goals are met
- if you’ve been following the best practices in your asset management
Suppose that your goal is to increase the session time of users on your website. A brand audit can tell you if you have engaging content to retain the users for longer time on a particular page.
In such a scenario, a brand audit can tell you if your web page is not designed as per the UX principles.
04. Shift in Business Approach
Note that the digital marketing goals mentioned above are marketing-driven, and not sales-driven.
This difference between the two kinds of approaches requires further explanation.
There’s nothing inherently wrong in expecting your digital assets to convert traffic to sales. But the steps to conversion will still have to follow the funnel approach.
A brand audit will help you understand how your brand fares in terms of the different stages of the funnel.
That is, your brand communication has to take care of the ToFu (Top of the Funnel) and MoFu (Middle of the Funnel) stages in order for your target audience to reach the BoFu (Bottom of the Funnel) stage and convert.
In other words, your digital presence ought to make your users go through the Awareness Stage and Consideration Stage before they arrive at Decision Stage.
You’d also want the same customers to come back. And you’d want to know what can bring them back. Brand audit can help.
A brand audit can discourage you from adopting the short-term sales-driven approach. By opening up newer horizons of long-term, healthier marketing-driven approach, a brand audit can make your brand resilient.
05. Insights & Recommendations
Additionally, a brand audit gets you insights and recommendations regarding how you can take better charge of your brand communication.
If a brand audit reveals that your website is not designed as per the UX principles,
the auditor is obliged to tell you how to fix it by, least of all, pointing out the best practices to you.
What are the domains covered in a Digital brand audit?
A brand audit takes into consideration several parameters like:
- User Journey
- SEO Audit
- Informational Keywords
- Navigational Keywords
- Transactional Keywords
- Content Audit (Strategy & Flow)
- UX/UI Audit
- SEO Audit
- Mobile Application
- UX/UI Audit
- Social Media Audit
- YouTube, and many more.
- Competition Analysis
Your website is analyzed from the point of view of SEO, traffic analytics, user journey and flow, user experience principles, content strategy, and content hygiene.
The audit takes into consideration elements as minute as readability of your content!
You’ll get to know the basic math regarding:
- shareability of content
- source of traffic: mobile/desktop
- source of traffic: search engine, organic, social media
- stickiness of every web page
- potential of every page for lead capturing in exchange for gratification
- video views
- page views
- number of downloads
- session time
- bounce rate and a lot more.
While your back-end or IT team can get you the above information, a proper audit can tell you how to enhance your goals. You may already have the data around the number of times your content has been downloaded but people who have the expertise in brand auditing can tell you about other metrics like trackability of video content or downloaded PDFs.
Apart from the math, a brand audit can get you insights into:
- how the user discovers you
- what he expects from you
- what he finds in your content
- how he leaves – delighted/disappointed
As new social media networks come up, the domains of audit keep expanding. Your social media accounts play a crucial role in driving traffic to your website.
The audit captures all possible gaps in the consistency of your brand communication through questions as diverse as:
- why are you on LinkedIn but not on Facebook?
- are you posting natively on each platform?
- or, are you posting the same content everywhere?
- why are you focusing on a platform while your target audience is clearly concentrated on another?
- do the images you post across all the platform show consistency?
Users will not know where to place your brand if you don’t follow homogeneity in your presentation. A brand audit can point out such leakages in your digital footprints.
If the scope of the audit is far huger, it can also include several physical/offline assets too – like POP displays or other kinds of signage.
It is not unusual for a brand audit to refer to more than 1000 customer touchpoints.
When Should You Get a Brand Audit Done?
You need a brand audit in several scenarios. Some of these are:
- You want to scale your business
- You want to go public by offering an IPO
- You are facing fierce competition from other brands.
- You are not seeing ROI from your branding efforts.
- Your sales volume has gone down.
- The reputation of your brand has been impacted negatively.
- You want to launch another category/sub-category under that brand.
- You want to sell your brand.
- You want to buy a brand.
- Your shareholder needs to know if your entire company is getting affected because of one of your brands.
- You are moving from traditional to the new age digital marketing.
- You are now willing to hire a brand/communication/corporate head or an entire team to look after your brand.
- You want to know the implications of good will and shareholder value vis-à-vis one of your brands.
- You want to launch your brand in another region/country.
- You want to change your business stance or reposition your brand for another target audience.
- You want to understand what kind of impact a change in logo can have on your brand.
- You want to get your brand valuation done.
In short, you need a brand audit in every situation that requires concrete numbers.
How Often Should You Get a Brand Audit Done?
Audits generally happen annually. But depending on your business goals and how new you are as a brand, you can opt to get audited once in 6 months.
From the point of view of your content strategy and paid-for campaigns, you don’t want to end up losing a lot of money. In such situations, a micro-audit as frequently as once a week can help you strategize better.
Who Can Do a Brand Audit?
Your digital marketing team should ideally be giving you regular reports on basic analytics related to website performance, SEO, and social media accounts.
You’d ideally want to get your team’s monitoring and report verified by a third party. This is where consulting firms play a significant role.
In their audit, consultants cover a huge range of metrics. Your team might be following specific schools of thought in digital marketing – content, SEO, design, or social media analytics. Consultants can help you get the larger picture emerging from all these individual audits.
For example, you might be looking at reducing the bounce rate of your website to 20% and beating yourself up a lot over it. Consultants can tell you how the bounce rate of your website compares with that of your industry.
Consultants can also tell you how the results of different analytics apply to the stage your brand is on.
Because a brand audit is not like an accounts audit, you may not find a standardized approach that will fit you. After understanding where you stand on the matrix of digital evolution and adoption, consultants can decide which approach fits you and determine what you should do with the findings.
If you are an established brand and you have a good budget set aside for your digital marketing purposes, your goal is more likely to keep your communication in sync with your customers’ preferences, habits, and dispositions.
If your brand is plateauing, which means new customers are hard to acquire, the findings of the audit can help you understand how to fix customer acquisition and retention.
If you brand is de-growing, or your old customers are leaving you, your objective might be to do some damage control.
If you are planning to come up with a brand, you’ll need an audit for a feasibility study. The audit, in this case, will scan the ecosystem for you and determine the bench mark for your new brand to meet.
A brand audit tells you how your brand is performing across all your assets and engagement axes.
Finally, what happens if you leave your brand unaudited?
If you are not proactive about getting your brand audited, you are more likely to repeat any mistakes you’ve been making so far.
Further, you delay enjoying the fruits of all that you invest in your brand today.
Branding has traditionally been considered the domain of brochures, display advertising in trade events and exhibitions, or print ads if the budget is good. Brand strategy too has been left to the ad agencies.
But the playing field of marketing has expanded. There are innumerable channels to keep track of while analyzing brand communication.
You may have posted something on Facebook alone but thanks to the ease of shareability, you’ll find the post on private groups on messaging apps.
How have you been keeping track of so many assets? How have you been collating the data from all the metrics? Do you have a process to convert the data into insights and insights into action.
Your answers to these questions will determine what quality of brand audit you have been having. We and all the readers of this blog will feel enriched if you could share your experience of brand audit – your process, your challenges and your learning.