Creative & Brand Development

A Step-by-Step Brand Audit Process

A brand delivers an experience at each interaction with the marketplace. This is front-and-center in April 2023 with the Bud Light controversy, wherein influencer campaigns are receiving both praise and protest, and company leadership is claiming that some of the marketing decisions were not approved by executive leadership.

Understanding how the market responds to the key elements of your brand strategy – the emotional benefits that your brand delivers, the three things that your brand means to your market, your brand personality traits, your promise, your brand story, your brand name – will enable you to understand whether you’re communicating effectively and which areas need improvement.

Following this step-by-step brand audit process will enable you to understand how your market feels about that brand experience – both your internal market (your stakeholders) and your external market (your customers and prospects).

brand audit process

Brand Audit Step 1: Create Brand Summary

The first step in your brand audit process is to create a brand summary. If you’ve completed a written brand strategy, this is simply a list of the key components. You’ll use this to compare to the results of your internal and external surveys.

If you’re not sure how to answer some of these questions, you may want to take more time to fully define your brand strategy before conducting your brand audit. Or, you may want to have your team work together to complete the brand summary.

Here are elements you may wish to include:

  • Primary Value Proposition
  • Secondary Value Proposition
  • Most Powerful Emotional Benefits Conveyed to Our Customers
  • The Three Things Our Brand Should Mean to Our Customers
  • The Five Human Personality Traits that Describe How We Want the Market to View Our Brand
  • Our Brand Promise
  • Our 25-Word Brand Positioning Statement
  • Our Brand Story
  • What Our Brand Is Known For

Note: We have an entire module devoted to a brand audit in our Brand Strategy Toolkit if you want more comprehensive guidance.

Brand Audit Step 2: Determine Your Survey Method

The survey complexity and the number of participants will depend upon your company situation. You’ll want sufficient detail to evaluate the true perception and a sample that is large enough to ensure that the results are relevant.

First, list the people who can participate in your survey. Then, determine your survey format. You have a number of options to choose from.

  • Email – Use an online survey program like JotformSurvey Monkey or Typeform to launch your survey and tally your results.
    1. Email Survey Pros
      1. Easy to set up
      2. Helps you structure your survey questions
      3. Tabulates responses and provides reports
      4. Inexpensive
      5. Keeps costs low
    2. Email Survey Cons
      1. May need to be deployed several times to get people to respond
      2. Viewed as impersonal
      3. Requires a compelling headline and intro to get people to participate
  • Direct Mail – Send a self-addressed stamped envelope with a cover letter and a paper survey.
    1. Direct Mail Survey Pros
      1. More space to create a compelling message, to thank the customer for participating and communicate any incentives
      2. More effective than email for reaching customers who don’t use computers
    2. Direct Mail Survey Cons
      1. Needs to look very professional
      2. May be viewed as tedious
      3. Doesn’t fit with the “innovation” value proposition
  • Telephone – Place calls directly or use a third party to make impartial calls.
    1. Telephone Survey Pros
      1. Great way to get detailed answers and probe for more information as needed
      2. May bring to your attention unhappy customers who you can help immediately
    2. Telephone Survey Cons
      1. Dissatisfied customers may be uncomfortable telling employees about their issues
      2. Customers voicing a concern to another live person often expect action to be taken immediately
      3. Can be expensive if using an outside group
  • Combination – Contact the customer via two methods – for example, call or email them about a survey, then send it by mail.
    1. Combination Pros
      1. Improves your response rate by improving your awareness
      2. Reinforces the importance you place on customer loyalty
      3. Offers another chance to communicate with your customers
    2. Combination Cons
      1. More costly

Brand Audit Step 3: Compose Your Questions

Some suggested questions are below. They’re designed to be open-ended rather than multiple choice or ratings, so that you gain true unsolicited, uncolored feedback. These work well with a fairly small group of survey recipients (as you’ll need to manually evaluate each response and assign it a rating afterward), but it will lead to more accurate, actionable results.

    • What do you think {insert your product or company name} stands for?
    • What are the key benefits {product/company} delivers?
    • How would you describe your experience working with {product/company}?
    • When purchasing from/working with {product/company}, what’s a word or phrase that describes what you expect from us each time?
    • If {insert your product or company name} were a person, how would you describe him/her? What human personality traits match the brand?
    • What is the main thing you think of when you hear {insert your product or company name}?

If you have a large survey sample, use a rating system from 1-10.

Brand Audit Step 4: Determine Your Sample Size

You don’t need to collect a survey from every recipient. Instead, you’re aiming for a “statistically valid sample size,” or the number of responses you need so you can confidently apply those results to your entire group of customers. Statistics is a complex field, and consumer marketers must take into account all sorts of calculations to accurately measure and apply their results. There are a number of key metrics for a marketer to consider, including:

  • The total number of people to whom you want to apply the survey results (A)
  • The % of those people who respond to your survey (B)

When your “total number of people” (A) is very small, you need a higher percentage of them to respond (B) so you can be confident in your results. If A is very large, you can confidently use a smaller percentage. Statisticians and researchers use the term “confidence rating” to indicate how statistically accurate a survey’s results can be considered. Ninety-five percent is a standard confidence goal.

Here’s how to calculate:

  • Number of potential respondents in this group (A) (population)
  • Percent who should respond to the survey (B)
  • Number of completed surveys desired (C = A*B)
  • Projected minimum response rate (D) (as a decimal)
  • Number of surveys to send out (C / D)

It’s very difficult to estimate a response rate if you haven’t conducted a similar campaign with a similar group of people. Here are some tips:

  • A phone survey will deliver the highest response rate but will be the most expensive survey to implement. You can probably reach 80% of your list, depending on the amount of time you spend making calls.
  • A mail survey will produce a far lower response rate than the phone. You can raise your response rate by calling or emailing recipients ahead of time and asking them to respond.
  • An email survey is very simple for participants but is subject to the same factors as any other email campaign – you need a compelling headline and a solid message to get them to participate rather than deleting the message. An email survey is the least personal for the recipient, and thus they may not take as much care with their responses.
  • If you offer an incentive, you can dramatically increase your response.

As you get ready to launch your survey, here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:

  • If you’re not using an online survey system, set up your worksheet to tabulate your results BEFORE you finalize your survey. That way you can make sure you’re asking your questions in a way that can be captured and measured in your spreadsheet.
  • People are busy. Keep the survey as short as possible.
  • Ask people to respond within a fairly short but fair period of time – for example, 10 days. A deadline is important or else the piece may end up in a pile of unimportant mail.
  • If the deadline comes and goes and you haven’t received your minimum number of surveys, call or email the people who haven’t responded and ask them if they’d be willing to help you improve.
  • Consider providing an incentive to respond.
  • Thank recipients who invested the time to participate. A personal note, a letter or even a small thank you gift is a simple but effective gesture.

Brand Audit Step 5: Analyze Your Results

After you’ve collected your survey results, it’s time to analyze them. Your end goal is to determine whether your existing brand matches the market’s perception and your team’s perception of your brand. If it doesn’t, you’ll want to identify the disconnects.

If you’d like to create analyses and reports for separate groups (such as customers, prospects, vendors, employees, etc.), complete this task for each group. The first step is to determine how you’ll rate the responses. This depends upon the survey type and the volume of responses, but your end goal is to evaluate how well the majority of the responses reflect your brand summary.

If you used open-ended questions, read through all of your questions and determine the average rating for each question. Rate the response to each question based on the following scale:

5 = the response is an extremely strong match to your brand strategy

3 = the response is a general match to your brand strategy

1 = the response does not match your brand strategy at all

Now, take a look at the different groups you sent the questions to. Record the average rating for each group. Do you see any trends? What can you conclude from the data?

For each group, determine your results. If your audit matched your brand summary, congratulations! Keep up the good work. If not, continue to determine how you can strengthen your brand. Then apply those changes to the materials and messages you use in the market, along with your operational requirements (because your brand is an experience – not just a logo or creative).

If you want additional guidance, check out our comprehensive brand strategy toolkit.

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