Before deep diving into design work, it’s best to start with a brand audit, which allows you to build your package based on the most recent research into your company's brand and their niche. A brand audit is a comprehensive analysis of a brand, including its history, messaging, visual identity and market presence. It’s typically conducted to identify strengths and weaknesses, align service offerings with client expectations, identify where a brand stands within its market and learn how a target audience really views a brand and its branding. Companies typically benefit from brand audits when they’re seeking competitive advantages rather than just starting a business. Or, they might be looking for a refresh in order to re-engage current consumers while garnering interest from new audiences. Crisis brand management and reputation repair can also involve a brand audit.
How to do a brand audit
You’ve successfully persuaded your company to add a much-needed brand audit. Nice work. Now it’s time to deliver. Here’s how to conduct a brand audit in five steps.
01. Gather background information
Get to know your company's business and goals.
Research their industry and competitive landscape.
Review the client’s current brand presence. This likely includes a website, social media profiles and marketing collateral.
02. Analyze the brand’s current positioning
Examine the brand’s messaging and positioning in the market.
Identify the brand’s target audience and evaluate how well the current branding resonates with them. This step will likely include an analysis of surveys, online reviews, social mentions and customer feedback.
Evaluate the consistency and effectiveness of the brand’s visual identity (colors, logo, imagery).
Assess the brand’s online presence (search rankings, social media following, visibility in forums, etc.).
03. Identify opportunities for improvement
Determine where the brand’s messaging, positioning or visual identity could be strengthened.
Identify any inconsistencies or gaps in the brand’s materials and presence.
Identify opportunities for the brand to differentiate itself in the market.
04. Develop recommendations
Based on findings from the audit, develop a list of ways to improve the brand’s messaging, visual identity, positioning and/or digital presence.
Present your findings to the decision makers and gather feedback.
05. Implement changes
Incorporate the feedback.
Coordinate with your design team to revise and develop new assets based on the brand audit findings.
Elements of a brand audit
There’s a good chance your company is not looking to change their company’s name or tagline. But in some cases, the research might point you toward raising this possibility. If they don’t have a tagline, consider adding one.
Value, mission, vision statements
As stated above, today’s customers find a brand’s mission and purpose essential to their decision-making. Refining these is a core part of refreshing a brand identity.
This may or may not need to be updated, but you might help define how, when, and where the logo is used. Consider creating a new logo with a logo generator.
There should be a primary, secondary and even tertiary color scheme.
What fonts and styles belong to your company's brand? Are any expressly forbidden?
What kind of images are associated with the brand? Tonally, what makes sense?
In addition to aggregating all of the above, brand guidelines might include details about spacing, a set of template or design examples, and a style guide for both design and writing.
Building out from there, you might include a basic set of print or digital assets, such as email signatures, business card templates, iconography, social media graphic templates, and even merchandise.
How to create buy in for a brand audit
Upsell a brand audit
First, you need to learn how your company currently feels about their brand. There’s a chance they’re already aware that it needs some work and will be receptive to hearing about how you can help improve it .
Inform them that adding a brand audit now will spare them from potentially needing to do one down the road, then needing to redo their entire branding package. Plus, you’ll be providing them with insights and recommendations they can use in a number of ways to promote effective business strategies long after your project is complete.
Generate interest in a brand audit through cost-risk analysis
Help your company imagine a future where they decide to run a brand audit and discover they need a costly redo of the website design or branding package you’re doing today.
Similarly, consider the wastefulness of print and digital collateral that don’t resonate with your audience or drive conversions effectively.
What’s the greatest risk? Is it paying for a brand audit only to learn that the current brand is already doing as well as it could be? If so, that’s valuable to know when designing a new website or branding collateral — and great to share with stakeholders, investors and company leadership.
Use case studies
Demonstrate how brand audits have helped other clients — especially clients in a similar market or the same industry as your client — by using clear-cut case studies.
Provide data that supports the importance of brand-building
People will pay more to work with their preferred brands, which comes down to trust and transparency (important to 66 percent of customers, according to an Accenture report).
77 percent of consumers buy from brands that share their values, says a Havas’ Global Meaningful Brands research report.
Brands build relationships through consistency in messaging, visuals and presence; this can increase revenue by up to 33 percent, according to a Marq research report.