How effective is your branding?
and external brand audits help determine how effective
your branding activities have been. More important, brand audits show what your
branding must accomplish in the future.
Audits, which offer qualitative brand snapshots, have multiple advantages.
They benchmark the current brand position by showing how internal and external
audiences perceive your offerings and the strengths and weaknesses of your service,
quality and marketing. Brand audits also unify an organization. Too often, many
in your company have a different definition or perception of what your brand stands
for. A brand audit can illustrate those differences, providing a roadmap to building
a consistent, universally accepted vision of the brand. This vision is critical
to ensure that everyone is marching to the beat of the same branding drum. Finally,
brand audits can help eliminate the all-too-common disconnect between what companies
believe their brand to be and what customers perceive it to be.
Internal Brand Audit
An internal brand audit takes the brand temperature from corporate executives
and other personnel. One-on-one confidential interviews probe to determine each
manager's perceptions of the brand, branding goals, evaluation of past branding
activities, knowledge of key corporate or brand messages and other key points.
- What is a corporate core value?
- Who are the key stakeholders
- Describe a typical customer and his requirements?
- What past marketing activity has had the greatest impact? What past marketing
activity has had the least impact?
- If you could design the brand experience from scratch, what would you offer
Each interview takes about 20 minutes, but they can last as long as an hour.
On average, 5-15 executives and managers are interviewed as well as front-line
service personnel. Questions can be prepared beforehand, but the most valuable
insights often result from free-ranging discussions on the brand.
As an independent third-party, FusionBrand also offers the credibility, sensitivity
and anonymity needed to generate insightful and frank comments about corporate
branding. Our skilled interviewers gently probe beneath the glossy veneer of corporate
clichés to determine employee perceptions of what the brand is and what
it must be. The results are carefully analyzed, and can be presented in a report
or during a branding workshop. Past clients have been surprised at how much corporate
brand visions and values vary within a firm. If employees don't have a common
brand view, how can customers?
An internal brand audit can also test service and responsiveness. FusionBrand
will anonymously contact lead generation, service and other customer-facing activities
to request material, seek support, ask for quotes, etc. Reports will analyze the
responsiveness and quality of the interaction. Again, results can be surprising.
When a call was placed to a phone number listed in the ad of a major telecommunications
carrier, the number was out-of-service!
A communications audit is especially useful for larger firms with multiple
divisions or departments involved in branding activities. A communications audit
looks at all the material that represents a brand - press releases, ads, brochures,
Web site, logos, etc. Analysis then determines the amount of consistency and integration
in appearance/design, messages and adherence to corporate standards. Ideally,
a brand manual is in place to provide a benchmark.
FusionBrand will look at such issues as:
- What are the key messages? Are these consistent across all channels and media?
- Is there a common look-and-feel? Are corporate standards followed?
- How current is information?
- How well does the material support the brand vision and values?
- Are target market requirements being met?
A communications audit is usually conducted at the same time as an internal
External Brand Audit
An external brand audit looks at how various stakeholders (or, more accurately,
constituencies) view the brand. Such constituencies include customers, "lost"
customers, prospects, media, distributors/retailers, regulatory bodies and suppliers.
Sometimes, an external brand audit is combined with a loss analysis to determine
why a contract or other business went to a competitor.
These constituencies are asked about their perceptions of the brand, based
on their experiences, exposure to advertising/PR/referrals, corporate relationships,
etc. Sample questions include:
- What does the brand mean to you?
- Why did you buy the first time?
- Why will (or won't) you buy again?
- How useful and relevant are corporate communications?
- How responsive is support?
- How do competitors compare?
The number involved in external brand audits can vary greatly according to
time, cost or other constraints. Even as few as 5-10 interviews can produce insights.
In general, however, 3-8 interviews should be conducted among each constituency.
Names and contact information are provided by the client. Each anonymous interview
takes about 20 minutes.
Before conducting an external brand audit, FusionBrand personnel become familiar
with client brand imperatives, products and other issues. Based on this knowledge,
FusionBrand uses superb questioning, listening and analytical skills to determine
brand perceptions and experiences.
Brand audits form the foundation of great brands
"The organization is the brand."
That is true only if employees and managers share the same vision and commitment
to the brand. By illuminating the differences in brand understanding, an internal
brand audit is the first step toward unifying an organization and enabling it
to do business on customer terms.
In today's customer economy, customers define brands based on their emotional,
experiential and economic interactions. To optimize those interactions, it is
critical to first know how customers, prospects, media and others view the brand.
What are the strengths and weaknesses? How loyal are customers? Are communications
relevant? Once these and other issues are revealed by a brand audit, then the
organization can build a great brand, able to do business profitably on customer
Results of brand audits must not only be shared as widely as possible but also
incorporated into internal and external branding efforts, including employee communications,
advertising and PR. It is especially important to use the results to drive changes
in sales, service, support and other customer-facing activities. Finally, remember
to use brand audits as guidelines for improvement, not as a stick for punishment.
Internal, external and communications audits should be held every 1-2 years
to evaluate progress toward branding goals.
For more information on internal, communications and external brand audits,
contact FusionBrand today.