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The Anatomy of a Strategic Brand Audit.

This is the first post in a three-part series.

The health of your brand needs to be critically maintained and managed if it’s to contribute sustained value to your business over the long term. Is it time for you to complete a strategic brand audit?

Of the many tools available to you to assess the well being of your brand, the strategic brand audit is the most widely used and often the most misunderstood. When brands reach the inflection point where revenues begin to slide because customers no longer resonate with the brand’s value proposition, it’s time to put your finger on the pulse of your brand and determine the long-term outlook for brand health.

Conducting a comprehensive brand audit is how brand owners determine the health of their brand.

Yet for some, the insights gathered can be much like reading tea leaves or making faces out of cloud formations. For others, the results of such an effort are extremely insightful, often surprising, even difficult to accept.

The value of a brand audit is not in the data collected, but in the action taken as a result of the insight gained. Like any navigational device, to have a sense of where your brand fits into what’s happening around it, brand audits require a triangulation of the brand’s original purpose, relevance, and resonance.

In it’s basic form, a brand audit is a diagnostic process that informs a current location rather than a particular direction for brand strategy and marketing tactics.

To get real value from the process, it must be a rigorous, objective and engaging process involving every area of your business organization.

Before we begin to outline what a brand audit is and what its components are, it’s helpful to step back and illustrate the overall context in which brand audits inform all aspects of brand strategy and implementation.

Brands are metaphysical and live in the mind.

Brands are not things; rather brands are a representation of a highly valued idea that resides in the minds of customers and stakeholders alike. A brand represents a set of unifying principles that guide an organization’s behavior and its manner of delivering experiences customers highly value above the available alternatives in the marketplace.

Strong healthy brands maintain an intrinsic value to customers that over time translates into greater tangible financial value for the brand’s owners.

Customers care about what a brand represents to them on the highest emotional level. The physical properties and functional benefits that comprise and define your product are of less importance–this explains the difference between Coke and Pepsi, Chevy and Toyota, Apple and the rest of its competitors.

Sounds simple enough. The trouble is customer's minds are fickle and attention spans short. And worse, the 21st century marketplace is a slush pile of noise and clutter. Brands lose relevance with customers quickly – especially in our age of instant connections, abundant choice and consumption.

Brands with the sticking power to drive purchase behaviors over decades consistently lead with a compelling value proposition and positioning that transcends the consumer’s inherent and natural tendencies toward fickleness for the next greatest thing that comes along.

The success or failure of your brand strategy depends on how well you understand how the mind (not the brain) operates.

Minds have limited capacity. Attention spans are shrinking. The mind rejects any information that does not match its current state of mind. The mind has no room for what is new and different unless it is relevant and remarkable.

Minds resist confusion. People resist confusion, and cherish that which is simple. People want to push a button and watch the thing work. People love simple. Simple made Apple one of the richest brands in history.

Minds are insecure and emotional. Minds are emotional, not rational. People buy things for emotional reasons and then rationale their decision. When people are uncertain, they often look to others (influencers) to help them make the right decision about how to act, what to eat, where to go. People don’t like being out of the loop.

Minds don’t change often. Once a mind has formed a habit it’s very difficult to change. We are more impressed by what we already know (or buy) than by what's "new."

Minds have difficulty staying focused. The more variations you attach to a brand, the more the mind will lose focus. The more the brand loses focus, the more vulnerable it becomes. In toilet tissue, corn oil, toothpaste and technology, the specialist or the well-focused brand is always the leader.

A brand audit is helpful in determining how well your brand represents a single, simple, ownable, credible, highly valued and differentiated idea in the minds of the customer segment your brand serves.


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