Branding and Brand Audits
Have you ever heard of a ‘Brand Audit’? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t…either way, this article should help you, your brand, or your business better understand branding and how it works. Branding is the visual and verbal elements that come together to tell the story of your business/non-profit/cause. In other words, branding showcases your values, your services, your aesthetic, your purpose, and your vision in visual and verbal ways. Branding involves colors, fonts, iconography, logos, keywords, photography, videography, and much more. More importantly, branding has to do with how all of these various elements come together to tell a central story (the story of your business)! A brand audit, then, is a tool to assess the story you are telling.
A brand audit looks at every piece of content that you use to showcase your business/company and analyzes how well everything comes together in telling a narrative. Sometimes, companies do a fantastic job of telling their story with their content. You know these companies because you experience their story every day through social media, television, radio, and advertisements. You know–whether consciously or subconsciously–when a business is telling their story well based on how much time you spend interacting with that business. When someone tells their story well, you are more likely to stick around and interact with them. This is why you might find yourself scrolling through an Instagram feed full of curated, branded content. Humans love good stories.
Brand audits are important for businesses, non-profits, freelancers, and individuals because we often become unaware of the story we are telling about ourselves. We get busy with accounting or logistics or brainstorming to the point that we forget about our story. When this happens, our brand can begin to suffer. When we lose track of or when we stop thinking about our brand story, we slowly forget why we are even in business in the first place. This is why the occasional brand audit is important.
When you take the time to assess what story you are telling, you will find the missing parts of your story. Or, you will find parts of your brand narrative that you are not showcasing enough. Or, you might discover that the story you are telling the public is not the story you are telling yourself. A brand audit truly can awaken you to the parts of your brand story you have forgotten.
Okay! Enough of the esoteric, philosophical nonsense about why a brand audit is important. Here are a few steps you can follow to conduct a brand-audit! Feel free to add or change these steps so that they best suit who you are and what you do. Never every brand audit looks the same, so be ready to improvise!
Step One: Establish Your Brand Audit Goals
The first task for conducting a brand audit is to first figure out why you are doing it int he first place. Ask questions like, “Am I interested in rebranding?” or “Will I use this brand audit to change my marketing direction?” or any number of other questions. Ask these questions so you can understand what practical outcomes you desire with your brand audit. Once you have a clear goal of the brand audit, we allow these goals to drive the next step! (Side note: write/type everything out in each of these steps…it will make Step Five much easier!)
Step Two: Gather Your Brand’s Content
If you are like us, then you probably do not have much time to constantly explore your own content to see how it all looks together. This step, however, is critical because it will (often) show you if you are telling a cohesive story. In this step, you need to gather every bit of content you generate (pictures on social media, icons, font examples, colors, language, etc.) and put it in one place. We use a number of professional tools to help with this task, but this step can be as simple as taking screenshots of each of your social media channel profiles, your website pages, your logo, and everything in between and placing all these screenshots in a document. It does not have to look pretty…it just needs to work for you! Once you are happy with how your brand’s content is gathered, you can move on to Step Three!
Step Three: Analyze Your Gathered Brand Content
Like we said, once you have gathered your content in one place, you will most likely be able to tell if you are telling a cohesive story. Spend time–at least an hour–looking through your content. Write down notes and comments on anything and everything.
Place yourself in the shoes of a complete stranger and try to describe what you see. Answer these questions:
- Do all of the colors I see go well together? What kind of message do these colors display? Are all of the colors across all platforms the same?
- How many fonts are there? Do they go well together? Do you like the fonts? What do they say to you?
- Does the logo match the iconography? Are they the same style? Are the icons fun or serious or confusing or awe-inspiring? What message do each of the icons communicate to you?
- Are there similar words used across all platforms? When you look at all of the verbiage across all platforms, what words stand out to you? Do these keywords seem to match the company’s stated vision/purpose?
- Do the pictures look professional? Do you like the filters you have chosen on social media posts? When you scroll through your Instagram (and other platforms) page, does it look cohesive?
- If you had one sentence to describe the overarching narrative your business is communicating with your branding, what would it be?
Step Four: Brainstorm Ideas for Improvement
While you have all of the content in front of you and while you are still in the mindset of step three, brainstorm all of the ways you could improve your branding. If Step Three illuminated some areas where you don’t feel like your brand messaging is strong, then come up with a few ideas on how to improve that messaging. If you don’t like the colors you see, explore what specifically about them you don’t like. Exhaust yourself in coming up with as many ideas as possible while you are in this mindset. Once you cannot come up with any more ideas on how to improve your branding…take a break!!!
After your break, come back to your ideas and land on a few practical solutions to the problems you might have discovered. For example: if you realize you don’t like the colors you are using across your platforms, then creating a new color palette that you enjoy and implement is a practical solution to the problem. The important thing to remember in this step is to remain practical. Don’t spend every moment of your brand audit hating on your brand. It is fine and encouraged to note problems, but spend more time on the practical solutions to the problems rather than the problems themselves.
Once you have a list of practical solutions…you have arrived at the primary goal of a brand audit!
Step Five: Consolidate and Visualize Your Brand Ideas
Congratulations! You have completed your Brand Audit! You now have a better picture of your brand and some stellar ideas on how to improve your messaging. That was hard work!
As a final (and completely optional) step, you can consolidate your analysis and brainstorming into a single space. Create a presentation deck so you can visualize your discoveries. This can literally be as simple as a PowerPoint presentation (or, try out Canva)! The point in this additional step is to create a document that you can always have to remind yourself of your story. You can change, add, redact, and modify this deck whenever and however you choose to change your branding so that it always tells your story. Remember, this step is for you and is designed to remind you of the story you are telling about yourself!