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A Check-Up From the Brand Up

Let’s face it: as marketers, we tend to find ourselves looking at what’s next. Be it our marketing calendar, the tradeshow next month or the press release that absolutely, positively has to get out tomorrow, we don’t stop and smell the roses very much.
The problem with not pausing to take stock is obvious; if you don’t know where your brand is right now, how can you be assured you’re pushing it in the right direction? And that’s where the brand audit comes in.
As a point of full disclosure, our company didn’t set out to be a branding firm. Back in 2003, we were a technology firm, working with companies to tell their stories through interactive e-books and websites. But early on, we found that meetings about sitemaps and content areas quickly devolved into arguments like “Why are we putting that on the website anyway?” or “These pages read like they were written by different people.”
Quickly, we realized that if we didn’t understand the brand we were working with, a best-case scenario would be a fresh coat of pixels on a less than sturdy framework of a brand. Since then, many of the projects we’ve completed (and I’d argue most of the greatest we’ve completed) have included some variation of a brand audit.
The brand audit process consists of understanding the perceptions of the brand through the eyes of your employees and your customers. We seek a firm grasp on where the brand is excelling, where it’s looking to grow and where it might be falling short.
We first begin with online surveys, often no more than fourteen or fifteen questions. Many of those questions focus on personality descriptors of the brand (Choose two words from this list you’d use to describe Brand A, for example.), while others ask the respondents to place the brand on a scale of 1-100, in terms of phrases like fun or serious.
The online surveys set the framework for the in-person or telephone interviews that follow. In this case, we’re doing fewer, of course, but are doing them with candidates who’ve been preselected for knowing more about where the brand is and how it arrived to that point.
Following the two types of interviews, we’ve now developed a nice library of data, but the work is just beginning. At this point, we’ll usually do an inventory of the communication tools already in place. Here, we’re looking for articles that either support or oppose the brand personality, but also we’re identifying all of the products that we’ll need to be updated in the event of a refresh or a rebrand.
Finally, with all of the data in place, it’s time to turn to analysis. In our case, we’ll want to hone in on specific brand personality traits and archetypes, which form the core of the logo, color and language decisions. In addition, we’re looking at the types of products and services the brand is doing a best job of delivering, as well as focusing on what audiences the brand has excelled at delivering them to.
Not surprisingly, when you know that much about a brand, projects like websites and tradeshow booths come together much better and much more quickly. And with that much knowledge and time saved, you’ll be in better shape to chase that next big thing, which what us marketers love to do the most.

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