Brand building should be an essential part of the growth of all organisations. As various components of brand equity, (such as awareness, salience, brand loyalty and advocacy) strengthen, they impact positively on brand performance and on future discounted cash flows, which in turn, enhance the financial value of the brand. This has positive outcomes for the value of the organisation as a whole.
This means that when large corporates or SME’s exit their business they can expect a far better return with a strong brand, compared to one that has not been optimised.
Before charting a course to build your brand you should have an objective assessment of its current state. In this regard a brand audit is valuable in that it researches and analyses the current state of an organisation’s brands as well as the way in which they are managed.
By assessing a brand’s status quo, including its strengths and weaknesses, a brand audit provides an excellent foundation for strategic brand development. In addition it provides a benchmark against which future brand activity can be compared and evaluated.
A brand audit consists of a number of elements and the following are important in this regard:
• An analysis of past and current branding activity, brand positioning and brand marketing. A determination of trends with reasons and outcomes.
• In tandem with the above, analysing relevant existing brand, market and marketing research, if available or undertaking this. This pertains to both the brand under review and competition.
• The focus of a brand audit can be internal or external.
• An internal brand audit examines perceptions of the brand and the way in which it is managed from the perspective of management and staff generally. It concerns itself with a number of key issues including brand mission, vision, and culture and establishes if these align with the organisation as a whole currently and takes into account proposed changes in the future. It ascertains whether internal stakeholders understand the brand and agree with its current image, value offering and points of difference and parity as well as its promise.
• In addition an internal brand audit examines what information is conveyed to management and staff, in what form and how often. Furthermore it seeks to discover if management and employees are true brand advocates and if they communicate the brand’s image and essence in the ideal manner. If internal stakeholders do not believe in their own brand and portray it appropriately how can customers and others be expected to regard the brand as credible?
• Research conducted for both internal and external brand audits need to be objective. Whilst either or both qualitative or quantitative can be used, our recommendation, generally, is to ensure that quantitative elements are included.
• An external brand audit covers similar areas from the perception of outside stakeholders such as customers, lost customers and customers of competitive brands. In addition it can also include other types of external stakeholders such as suppliers distributors and the media, as appropriate.
• An external brand audit assists a company to establish if the internal and external brand perceptions are consistent, which ideally should be the case. If not this issue should be addressed.
• In addition an external brand audit is greatly beneficial in assessing the extent of brand equity in important areas such as brand awareness, brand salience, perceived quality, brand loyalty, and advocacy.
• Some organisations include a communications audit as part of their brand audit but strictly speaking this is a separate audit that focuses on areas such as communication channels utilised (both on and off line), relevance of messages for the target market, consistent and accurate brand portrayal from the desired brand perspective, content, PR and other factors.. A communications audit should be customer centric to a significant extent.
• An expert consultant can play a crucial role as far as brand (and communications) audits are concerned from inception and methodology to the point where an objective and expert opinion is required on the interpretive and strategic fronts.
• A comprehensive SWOT analysis is often included at the end to pull all of the above elements together and add to the overall understanding.
Whilst the points mentioned provide a brief outline of the steps involved in a comprehensive brand audit many SME’s do not have the structure, finances or time to undertake a brand audit of such a comprehensive nature and as such the scope of a brand audit in this instance should be truncated and tailored to accommodate individual needs and circumstances.
Despite these limitations even a limited brand audit provides an important benchmark and can greatly assist in crucial areas like brand building, strategy and planning. As successful brands have the potential to add considerable financial value to their owners a brand audit is a significant investment from many perspectives.
About the writer
Alan Kaplan PhD has international experience spanning more than twenty five years across academic, media, agency, client and consulting areas. Alan’s profile can be viewed on LinkedIn and he can be contacted on 041875855.
Contact Optivance 360 for a no obligation discussion on how we can assist you with all your branding, marketing and communications in a consulting, non executive management or mentoring capacity, or for any of our other key business services including franchising.
Alan Kaplan © 2012
This article is for general information and the reader should seek specific expert advice before taking any action.