Brand Experience & Company Branding

The Beauty of the Brand Audit

August 2016

Here’s the scenario:

You’ve prepared your brand guidelines, outlining usage of colors, fonts, logos, etc. You’ve created a brand playbook detailing messaging, positioning, tone and templates. You’ve provided brand training to the entire marketing department. For extra measure, you even gave a presentation to the design and creative agencies your marketing team works with to ensure the information was getting to the right people. Job complete.

Just as you’re putting your feet up on your desk and getting ready to snack on some bonbons, you see it. Your monitor is showing you an online ad for your company that looks a little off. The creator didn’t use the right shade of red. Other than that, it doesn’t look too bad, so you let it slide. Then, on your way to your next meeting, you pass some marketing materials on a desk and take a quick peek. Not only is it not the right shade of red (and different from the one you just saw online), but the font isn’t right, and, what logo is that? Is that the one used four years ago? You sit down in your meeting, the presentation begins, and wait, what? Who created that presentation template? Are our customers seeing that?

Houston, we have a problem.

No matter how many tools you create, how many trainings you give and how many resources you make available to ensure a cohesive and consistent brand, you need to stay on top of what’s being used both internally and externally. It’s inevitable that someone will take creative license, not refer back to the guidelines, or not even realize that guidelines exist—and it affects how your brand looks. It may seem like a small detail at first—like the red that’s not quite right—but one misstep leads to another, and slowly but surely, the brand image becomes diluted, along with the credibility and the reputation you’ve spent so much time building and nurturing. This is why regular audits are so important to the health of the brand.

To get started with a brand audit, reach out to those in the organization who create the most materials. You want a wide selection of pieces from across the organization. This includes print ads, direct mailers, landing pages, video testimonials, white papers, online ads, sales tools‚—you get the idea. From there, you’ll start evaluating these pieces: Who’s executing against the guidelines most successfully, and where is there room for improvement?

Here are some tips to help with the process:

  • Decide what you’re going to evaluate, and be consistent. Pick the top five brand attributes and ensure they’re being used correctly. For example, how are colors being used—too much of one, not enough of another? Are logos and fonts being used correctly? Once you feel your team has mastered these brand guidelines, you can delve deeper into messaging, tone, etc.

  • Evaluate objectively. The goal is not to call anyone out. It’s to identify good examples of execution and point out pieces that aren’t executed as effectively. To keep things objective, use a value system. For example, this ad gets a 5 for color usage, but a 2 for fonts.

  • Share the results. The audit will help educate everyone involved if they can see examples that are brand compliant versus others that aren’t. When you show these examples, be sure to point out exactly what’s working and what’s not.

  • Encourage dialogue. Use the brand audit as an opportunity to hear what people are having problems with and learn what additional guidelines need to be created to help with consistency. Maybe the guidelines aren’t being followed for videos because none have been created or the ones created are difficult to apply or follow. This will help you identify where people need help or more guidance on when there are issues.

  • Ultimately, the brand guidelines are guidelines, not handcuffs. Doing a brand audit to see how your team is using them and evaluating the brand consistency will not only help you identify where there may be issues, but help you determine what needs to be created to help the team better do their job.

    It’s a constant process, and the brand will evolve. But doing audits with a regular cadence—twice a year, perhaps—will help ensure consistency and maintain the integrity of the brand.

    And regardless of the constant effort, you still should be able to fit in those bonbons.

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Eileen Weinberg

Eileen Weinberg

Director, Brand & Analyst Strategy
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