External Brand Audits – The Checklist to improvise!
‘Charity begins at home’. Going by the quote we recommended the Internal Audits as the first step toward a Brand assessment program. That is also to make sure that the team and the stakeholders perceive and understand the brand in one tone for they are undoubtedly the first & foremost ambassadors of the brand.
Once we make sure that internally we are strong and firm as an entity, the next step is to observe the brand as an outsider, as a customer, as a prospect. It is significant to check the visibility of the brand as a separate entity with no strings attached.
This could be done internally through Dipstick, Perception Analysis and other qualitative methods. At the same time if there are huge communication and branding gaps observed at the niche level, the external audits can also be extended to the target segment for which the very idea of brand in conceived at the management level. (This is Post 3 in the Brand audit series).
The basic idea behind an external audit is to assess the marketing effectiveness. It can be done by assessing the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats of each & every marketing effort. You can also identify the return on branding investments- the areas of improvement which can lead up-to brand re-positioning, brand extension etc.
Largely, an external audit shall include a thorough check of the following Brand Elements:
Corporate Identity – logos and other brand elements
Logo is the first impression of your brand. Make sure it is remarkable and it stands out. It is not necessary to have a story behind the logo but it should have some relevance to your brand. Many a times people go by their creative preferences and leave the logic behind, sometimes the choice of color, fonts go wrong with the logo design, such cases get great help through external audits. An audit on identity should help you understand –
- What do the consumers perceive about your brand?
- What changes do they think you should incorporate?
- Is there anything which suggests a change in brand elements?
- Is there something which leads to an identity crisis?
Collateral-brochures, print materials, trade show displays, etc.
There are 2 ways to check the brand communication materials. It is recommended that a brand voice shall be in sync. The identity and values cannot be different; the brand goals shall remain same and must reflect the brand values and strength in all the brand communication elements.
But Caution, often it is been observed that the brands talk exactly the similar language, the same content and this is seen as a weakness for it becomes repetitive and hence redundant. Posting the exactly same content about the brand in all the elements shows stagnation and it is also observed as a signal of no growth and involvement in the brand story. Go slow if you do not have much to talk about the brand but make sense and engage the readers if you do so.
Advertisements shall be done with the core message at the center. Conduct some focus group interviews with the key audience of each Target Group. Suppose it is a youth oriented product/service – you can meet college goers, the fresher at corporate ladder, the studious and the part-timers.
Be Creative. Be Consistent
Connect informally to find out what connects with your audience.
Change the message or creative if it is working against the brand.
Website and SEO
Keep it simple.
Avoid too many jargon in the content.
Do not complicate the design.
Focus on what you want your audience to reflect on when they visit your website.
Avoid creating a ‘replica’ website like your competition.
Remember, original is always appreciated then a copy.
Do quick surveys as what keywords do the consumers associate your brand most with?
Is there any service which is most recalled?
Social Media is picking up fast as your alternate brand address. Initially predicted as a youth driven media space, social media is now catching up with all the age groups. The statistics are fast changing and growing in the positive direction only with a lot of scope for the marketer. The challenge now is – to engage the consumer, to earn the brand space and now also to get business out of your social efforts.
In social media, Language is a powerful tool. One needs to be careful about the images used in the social space of the brand, the words, the actions; the thoughts and opinions a brand shares on various brand specific, customer centric and even social issues.
A social media audit is required to assess the results on social efforts. Which medium is resulting in better traction, where majority of the consumers are coming from the target segment etc? It is also significant to ascertain the factors like – differentiation, awareness, reach, connections, relevance and personality of the brand.
It is important to assess the brand tie-ups for the reason that the events positioning lead to brand image formation. You will find most of the brands associating themselves with the cause driven events, social and environmental causes. Some take up economic issues and launch exclusive programs to empower the youth.
An audit helps to ascertain,
The benefits your brand gains through such business tie-ups.
Result of these tie-ups, memberships on Brand Equity.
Gain in the image, credibility, customer trust or mileage or local/global level.
News/PR Coverage of any such event and its effect on the stakeholders.
Content Marketing and other assets – blogs, white papers, case studies, articles, books, etc.
Content matters most in the current times. Content helps in building credibility of the brand. It is important as analyze who is following your brand content. What are elements it is most sought after for, what are the differentiating factors from that of competition? Are the consumers reacting to your content, what are blog posts which are fetching comments and how are they connecting. Are you getting any queries through the content or you need to rework the content strategy.
Content Audit also helps in improvising the social media strategy, SEO results.
External review includes assessment of competitors advertising campaigns, their official press release documents, the industry review on that etc. It is also advised to interview the business partners, the associates and vendors to understand the market image of the brand and if the competitors are swaying away the points on service, vendor relations or governance for that matter.
Like the internal audits involve interviewing the employee and preparing them as the real ambassadors and brand advocates, the external audits help assessing the brand image externally.
You should try doing these audits by yourself and write to us if you need help. In the next post, we will talk about the choosing the right people to audit your brand.