So your brand needs a refresh, and you’ve done your research and the necessary homework.
- You have a good reason to do it.
- You Look like everyone else in your industry.
- You’re going after a new audience.
- Your brand has expanded
- Your Brand is painfully outdated.
- It doesn’t reflect your values
- You have dealt with bad press
- You have merged or have been acquired.
- Your leadership has approved it.
- You have a brand team who can help you do it.
And now you’re ready to dive into the deep end.
While you may be eager to begin working on logo prototypes and taglines, it’s important to understand that rebranding requires careful consideration. It involves a thoughtful and deliberate process that requires in-depth reflection on the essence of your brand, including your identity, purpose, and values.
A rebranding process can be lengthy, ranging from a few months to a few years. Large corporations like Pepsi can spend millions of dollars and have a team of interdisciplinary professionals working on it. However, for a mid-size company or a startup, it can be less expensive but still requires a detailed and strategic approach. Giving a designer free rein or requesting a “young and fresh” design won’t guarantee the desired outcome.
One of the key initial steps in rebranding is to perform a thorough brand audit. This important analysis will provide the necessary understanding to successfully execute a rebrand.
What Is a Brand Audit?
A brand audit is a process that enables you to assess your brand’s current state. It involves identifying what is working well, what needs improvement, and what areas require evolution. Conducting a brand audit will help you to recognize your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and blind spots. With a clear understanding of your brand’s big-picture view, you can then determine what steps to take to move your brand forward.
(This clarity is important when working with an outside agency. It is recommended to use a brand audit before contacting a branding agency as they will require this information anyway.)
There are two key parts of a brand audit exercise:
- Auditing your own brand.
- Auditing your competitors’ brands.
This exercise helps you objectively analyze your own brand and identify opportunities for differentiation by analyzing your competitors’ brands.
How to Conduct a Brand Audit
We will guide you through the steps of completing a brand audit using the same framework that we use.
Step 1: Download our Brand Audit Template.
Our Brand Audit Template is available for free and includes auditing templates for both your brand and your competitors.
You will find templates with all the relevant questions in an editable PDF format that you can share with the team you plan to survey for the brand audit. You might also want to invite individuals who have valuable insights about your brand, in addition to your core brand team.
Note: During a rebrand, we have faced several obstacles that result from communication issues. To ensure that your brand audit is successful, it’s crucial to…
- Answer all questions as thoroughly and honestly as you can.
- Gather insights and feedback from individuals at all levels of your organization, not just the higher-ups.
- Come to a consensus about the main takeaways/things you want to carry into your new identity.
By ensuring the information you are using is current and accurate, everyone can feel confident. Now, let’s get to it.
Step 2: Audit your own brand.
Answer the questions outlined in the template. These questions cover three specific areas of your brand:
- Current Core Identity: The foundational elements of your brand (including your business, values, competition, audience, etc.).
- Current Verbal Identity: The way you speak about your brand (including tagline, value prop, messaging pillars, and voice).
- Current Visual Identity: The way you look (including logo, color, typography, etc.)
At first glance, the survey appears to be straightforward. However, for brands that don’t have a clear brand strategy, these seemingly simple questions can actually be difficult to answer, which is why it’s important to come to a final consensus after the questionnaires are completed.
Hand out these questionnaires and have each team member fill them out individually (and honestly!). Your goal is to assess the current performance of your brand.
This details the foundational elements of your brand.
- Business name
- What you do: Briefly describe your business.
- Brand Heart: Outline your purpose, vision, mission, and values.
- Audience: Who are your target personas?
- Competition: Who are your top 3-5 competitors?
- Key differentiators: What makes you different/better than your competition?
- Brand personality: How do you describe your brand?
If you need to articulate/build any of these items from scratch, see our guides to conduct a competitive analysis and identify your brand soul, personas, and brand personality.
This is how you speak about your brand.
- Tagline: How do you sum up what you do in a single sentence?
- Value prop: What unique value do customers get from purchasing your product/service?
- Key messaging: What are your main selling points or messaging pillars?
- Voice: How do you speak in your content?
If you need to articulate/build your messaging see our guide: How to Craft Your Brand Messaging
Audit your existing identity and document what does or doesn’t work about your…
- Color palette
- Visual elements (Photography, illustration, etc.)
Does your current identity…
- Reflect your personality?
- Align with/communicate your values?
- Differentiate your brand?
Document your key takeaways.
- What are your biggest opportunities to improve?
- Identify the things you would like your new visual identity to communicate.
Step 3: Audit 3-5 competitor brands.
To conduct this audit, focus on the visual brands of our competitors. Review each competitor individually and document your observations as you proceed. Examine their website (especially the homepage), social media profiles, and any other relevant content to understand how each brand presents its identity.
- Logo: What shapes/imagery do they use? Do they use a wordmark, logo mark, or both?
- Typography: What dominant typefaces do they use (serif vs. sans serif)? What weights do they use (light, regular, bold)?
- Color palette: What dominant colors do they use? Are they similar to other competitors?
- Photography: Are they using stock photography or custom photography?
- Illustration: What style do they use? Are humans depicted in their illustration style?
- Brand story: Do you “get” their personality, positioning, etc. through their visual presentation?
- Copy: What’s the tone (humorous, witty, serious, lighthearted)?
Based on your audit, document the insights that will help you design a strong and unique identity to compete.
- What common visual themes did you observe?
- What are your biggest opportunities to differentiate?
Step 4: Collate your audit answers.
Your job is not to collect surveys and leave the task of interpreting them to your design team or branding agency.
Instead, after finishing your surveys, go through them to identify similarities and differences, especially in the internal audit. Although the responses may vary greatly, they give valuable feedback on whether your brand is effectively communicating your identity or not. Inconsistencies may highlight the need for a cohesive rebranding effort.
Step 5: Gather your team to come to a consensus.
The purpose of a brand audit is to unify your core brand team and establish a clear direction for your rebrand. During the audit, you should share the insights you’ve gained and discuss what aspects of your brand are effective and which need improvement. For instance, you might discover that your Brand Soul is effective, but your tagline needs work. Alternatively, you may find that your logo is strong but your voice and tone aren’t consistent.
Step 6: Document your findings.
Once you have discussed the details, you should complete a creative brief to direct your visual identity rebrand. Afterwards, you can share it with those assisting with your rebrand. A well-constructed document will increase the effectiveness and success of your rebrand from the beginning.
Step 7: Proceed with your rebrand.
Now that you have finished your brand audit, you should have a clear understanding of what issues you need to address through your rebranding efforts. With this understanding, you can now proceed with the rebranding process..
To get detailed guidance on completing a rebrand from beginning to end, refer to our comprehensive guide on rebranding: How to Create a Brand Identity (With Toolkit) During the process, keep in mind that clear communication and patience are essential for a successful rebrand. Good communication leads to a better experience for everyone involved.
Even when brands have good intentions, they can face obstacles during the process. If this happens to you, think about hiring an agency to assist you.
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