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Part Three: The Anatomy of a Strategic Brand Audit.

Part Three of a Three Part Series The Anatomy of a Strategic Brand Audit.

Conducting a Brand Audit.

The brand audit process has three phases: investigative and information gathering, qualitative and quantitative research, and finally, the collective assessment of all the learning.

To begin the process, brand owners need to have clarity and consensus on the specific issues and challenges the brand may be facing. Common challenges would include:

  • the brand or business entity has been sold or acquired

  • the brand will enter new markets, or create a new category

  • the brand has lost relevance with changing customer desires or needs

  • ubiquitous brand extensions

  • undisciplined brand licensing deals in conflicting product categories

  • aggressive price driven competition

  • product quality / poor customer experience issues

Whatever the issue, a brand audit is the critical first step in identifying the factors within the organization’s culture and out in the marketplace affecting the brand’s ability to compete and win.

Depending on timing or the size and scale of the organization, it can be more efficient to create two teams for the process. One team concentrates on internal information gathering and investigation components, while the second team focuses on the external market research methods.

Then both teams will come together in a series of workshop sessions to make strategic and intuitive judgments on the data than inform the final assessment and SWOT analysis delivered into executive management.

Of course after the collection of data, it’s the assessment phase where brand owners discover the truth about the current state of brand health. Sometimes that’s painful and difficult for organizations to internalize and take coordinated action on.

The Assessment: facing the truth of a Strategic Brand Audit.

Brand audits should be designed to reveal the truth about the equities that brands possess. Once new insights are revealed, the established status-quo within your organization can naturally create resistance to change and adaptation.

Once you have the learning at hand, it’s now a matter of taking action. When brand audits reveal difficult challenges that require dramatic shifts within organization, there will be resistance, perhaps even denial.

Such is the case with the aforementioned Kodak corporate brand. Iconic Kodak had many opportunities to shift its business and enable the brand to lead the digital revolution. Management was too heavily invested in its film, chemical and paper business model to notice the world changing around them.

Digital technology was a destructive firestorm making nearly every aspect of Kodak’s business completely irrelevant. I can think of no better example of the principle of “creative destruction” at work than at Kodak– all this from the company that invented the digital camera!

Strategic Brand Audits reveal mental perceptions not financial value.

Often, brand owners will mistakenly conduct a brand audit as a means for determining the financial value of a brand. Brand Audits are a diagnostic analysis of current mental perceptions about a brand’s relevance, not a measurement of a brand’s financial value as a tangible asset.

Brand audits are an evaluation not a brand valuation.

While there are aspects of brand audits that may inform a brand valuation, the brand audit is not a helpful tool for determining financial value of a brand. Financial value is an entirely different matter.

Brand Audits should be conducted annually.

As part of an on-going strategic brand management discipline, a Brand Audit review should be conducted annually. This doesn’t mean the whole process must repeat itself.

On-going insights and learning that are a result of this process will enable you to more effectively align all stakeholders around the brand’s reason for being (purpose, mission, values) and around a value proposition that continues to have relevance and resonance to the next generation target customer segment.

To remain competitive as our world spins ever faster and the pace of product and service innovation quickens, global brands and start-ups alike will be increasingly challenged to maintain an accurate assessment of overall brand health.

With an annual check-up, you will sharpen your brand management discipline. You’ll enjoy the benefits of having more clarity and confidence in the strategic and creative decisions that can impact the growth and success of your brand now in the future.


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