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Guiding light: Ultimate DIY brand audit for business owners

Magnifying glass for a brand audit
It all adds up: your brand image is the sum total of every part (illustration by The Offices 2020).

Everyone’s talking about the brand audit. Here’s how to approach it, and why your business should do this regularly – not just as a one-off activity.

Can you think of a successful business that isn’t a brand? We didn’t think so. Because whether it’s your favourite back-lane Chinese noodle shop, or the corporation that powers your internet, everything you recall about that business is its brand. Every sound, visual, word or other experience. Did we mention the logo? That’s part of the brand too – one small part. 

Brands are living entities, meaning they need to be upkept. Sometimes they need light overhauling, where the business might tweak the colours, fonts, photography or messaging so they stay relevant for customers. Sometimes they need a big overhaul, like if you’re a supermarket wanting to tell customers you’re more about quality fresh food, less about cheap basics.

A regular brand audit will reveal what steps you should take. Of course this takes time, resources and clued-up people. It needs to be done annually, or at least biennially. And it can’t be rushed because you suddenly realise there’s a big event coming up and you’d like a new presence.

In this seven-part series, we guide business owners through the process of auditing your brand, using a simplified version of what an agency strategist might use. Why simplified? Because the concepts can get a little lofty. If you haven’t done this before, you’re going to have a lot of questions – of the ‘am I doing this right’ kind.

And we don’t want you to self-doubt. We want you to get on with the task of probing what your business stands for, how you’re really different, and what tactics to roll out next. You can then engage various creative resources to help, knowing these efforts will be supported by solid thinking.

Here are the essentials.

1. Five strategic audit steps to create a great brand

How did some of your favourite brands grow to become the success stories they are? By following proven strategic processes. These five foundational steps of the brand audit will help develop clarity around your own branding, in several areas from the experience to the visuals.

2. Get up close and personal with brand experience and business data

Is your business today the same as when it started? Of course it isn’t. But in the hustle of daily delivery, perhaps it’s been a while since you took a bird’s-eye view of emerging opportunities – or issues. Great branding won’t compensate for flaws in the customer experience, such as bounced orders or lagging communications. So get your house in order with our essential customer walk-through of your brand experience first, and see what business fundamentals have to be fixed before you refresh your brand.

3. Major overhaul or subtle update? How to decide

Having taken steps one and two above, perhaps you’ve decided some branding updates are in order. Will this take time and resource? Yep. And will it tell your sophisticated, modern customers that you inhabit the same world they do? Absolutely it will. Plus, those updates don’t have to mean a complete departure from the important elements of your brand. We’ll explain how to determine which brand features to retain, and which ones to evolve.

4. Start with simple, powerful words

Could you imagine a Panadol ad without its message of quiet freedom? Or a Nike post without its forceful go-get-‘em attitude? Voice is a powerful brand reinforcer, and this article will help you choose, craft, and polish the words your brand might need.

5. Now move onto the core brand assets

After redefining your brand purpose, strategy and words, you’re ready to start thinking about tweaks to your core brand assets: the logo, fonts, graphic lockups, photography styles and other elements. A simple test of your target audience will reveal whether you’re on track or not, and in this article we’ll share an essential scorecard of what your core brand assets are saying about you.

6. Vary your core comms to suit different user journeys

If consistency is key, does that mean using the same look, feel and tone in everything you do? Of course not. We’ll explain how to stay on brand while injecting the right degree of variety into all foundational business materials you produce.

7. Website facelift in six transformative steps

We’ve saved the website for last, because there’s so much to cover: the many graphics, animations, videos, articles, downloads and other content you’ll want to create with the refreshed brand materials.  Plus, how to manage the ongoing process of performance optimisation.  

Once you’ve reached the end of the audit, you may still have questions and choose to engage a professional to help. But you’ll be much further down the process than you would otherwise be.

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