How to conduct Brand Audit Essay

Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit
What Is A Brand Audit?
A Brand Audit describes and evaluates the current state of a brand and its effectiveness in achieving a company’s business objectives. This assessment is the first step in brand strategy development and is used as a diagnostic tool for determining where the brand strengths lie and for identifying its potential vulnerabilities or shortcomings. It is the foundation on which the other steps depend.

In this step you should use all available information sources, internal and publicly available. You may decide to take the time to conduct new research to supplement what you know or fill in the gaps.

A brand audit:
? Assesses how well the brand is delivering against the company’s objectives ?

Identifies customer wants, needs, and trends at the category level


Inventories and categorizes all existing brand elements and assets (trademarks, sub-brands, logos, taglines) in the brand portfolio


Describes relevant competitive market trends and your brand’s strengths/weaknesses


Evaluates the brand’s current image (how it is perceived by customers and other key stakeholders)


Identifies potential sources of differentiation, tablestakes, vulnerabilities

What You Need to Know

The purpose of a brand audit, just like a financial audit, is to assess your current position and identify key issues. A brand audit incorporates information about the customer, the company, the market and the brand. (See graphic to right)

Brand audits take many forms – there is no single magic format. Regardless of the form your audit takes, the perspective is always that of the company and how the brand supports its overall objectives. To complete a brand audit, you will need to first identify all the possible sources of information at your disposal.

This includes (but is not limited to):

Company mission, vision and values statements


Financial performance and trends (e.g., revenue, profits, margins)


Third party research about your industry (e.g., financial analysts, syndicated market research, government agencies, industry associations)


Proprietary research studies (e.g., tracking research, focus groups)

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Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

Current and past advertising and promotional collateral for your brand and competitive alternatives (within and beyond the specific category)


Social media reports and conversation analyses


Customer service records


Patents and other intellectual property

Once you have identified the best information sources, the next step is to organize the most relevant information. The types of information Included in a Brand Audit can be classified into four categories:

Brand Audit Inputs

Each category addresses a key issue in brand strategy. You need the complete picture to make effective brand strategy decisions. The outline below is just one example of how you might organize the information. You will need to adapt it for your category and to fit your information.

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Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit
Sample Brand Audit Outline

1. Company or business unit’s strategic direction
a. Company / BU growth objectives
b. Business model, e.g. direct to consumer, channel partners c. Key alliances / co-branding partners
d. Strategic initiatives and implications for brand
e. Core competencies and personality
2. Consumer wants and needs
a. Target market (category and brand-specific):
i. Category purchase or usage behavior
ii. Demographic and psychographic characteristics
iii. Geographic concentration
b. Audience size and segmentation
i. How is market typically segmented? e.g., by product type, quality tiering, etc.
ii. How big are these segments, where is the volume?
c. Target wants and needs relative to the category
3. Market definition and attractiveness
a. Define the industry or category your brand is in
b. Show industry or category size (revenues), growth over the past 3 years,
and projected growth over the next 3 years
c. Assess industry/category competitiveness, e.g. industry concentration, number of competitors
d. Identify and profile the relevant competitive set, e.g.,
i. Most current market share and recent trend
ii. Salient brand attributes or descriptors
iii. Perceived strengths and weaknesses
iv. Implied positioning and brand imagery
4. Current brand image
a. What is the brand known for?
b. What brand elements are associated with the brand, e.g., trademarks, sub-brands, logos, taglines
c. Brand attributes / customer associations
d. Points of parity / points of differentiation vs. competition e. Current positioning – taglines, brand visuals/symbols, current ad campaigns

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Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit
Tools and Frameworks
This tool is deceptively simple, but is a powerful way to visually organize a lot of disparate information and make brand strategy implications apparent. The goal of a brand strategy is to identify the basis for customer brand preference – why should they buy your brand over the alternatives? Yet most brand strategies are incomplete without also reassuring customers that the brand satisfies the primary reasons for buying the product in the first place. These are known as ‘points of parity’ or ‘tablestakes’. They are the price of entry for the category. If you can’t deliver on these – and deliver well – then your points of difference are irrelevant. This framework distinguishes between what is distinctive and what is shared. The insight derives from the ‘overlaps’, those ideas or traits that are important to
customers and unique to the brand. These are the ‘potential differentiators’. Just as important are ideas that are unique to competitors and important to customers. These are ‘potential vulnerabilities’ for your brand that will need to be neutralized or mitigated through effective brand strategy and execution.

Brand Assessment Framework

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Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit
Examples of Applying the Framework
The Local YMCA Brand Assessment

The YMCA serves more than 10,000 neighborhoods across the country. Ironically, its greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness – everyone knows about it or at least thinks they do. Its 120-year history of serving families in the Michigan-Indiana area meant that many non-members thought of the Michiana YMCA as a place for learning how to swim. A survey of people living within range of the YMCA showed that most were not aware of its comprehensive health, fitness and family-oriented programs. The YMCA’s slogan, “Something for Everyone,” lacked specificity. Consequently, prospective members didn’t know ‘What’s there for me?’ A brand audit took a close look at the competitive environment relative to the programs and facility at the YMCA and revealed many hidden strengths. For example, the river location, which some internally saw as a negative, actually turned out to be a positive reason to visit the YMCA. In the two years since this audit was completed, the Michiana YMCA grew its new membership significantly and enhanced member retention by rebranding and through cosmetic facility updates. The fresher look and refocused messaging in conjunction with a national rebranding effort influenced many non-members to take a closer look
at ‘The Y’.

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Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit
Ace Hardware Brand Assessment

Ace Hardware is the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative with roughly 4,400 locally owned and operated hardware, home center and building materials stores. The largest retailer within the Ace Hardware franchise, Westlake Ace Hardware, has some 90 stores spanning five Midwestern states. It has long been a local favorite for purchasing home maintenance and garden supplies. Recent expansions by Home Depot and Lowe’s in key trading areas caused Westlake Ace to take a closer look at its brand.

The brand audit revealed that many consumers define selection in terms of ‘has what I need’ rather than ‘has lots of choices,’ turning a potential vulnerability into a strength. The smaller store size meant consumers could find what they needed more easily — an important feature for quick trips when all you need is one or two items.

The audit also revealed that Westlake Ace Hardware consumers feel welcome there and appreciate the store’s friendly and knowledgeable associates. Since many homeowners do not feel like home repair pros, this was a potentially meaningful point of difference. Westlake Ace Hardware used these insights to re-brand its stores and web site using the tagline, “Small Projects. Big Know How. Ask Away.” Today, the store is holding its own against its larger competitors who have less credibility when it comes to offering expert advice.

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without authors’ permission


Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit
Practice Applying the Tool
Now it’s your turn. Here are some hints:

Start with your customers’ wants and needs and move clockwise to help focus on just what is relevant. Be sure to also look for unmet needs. What do customers want that no one is delivering or delivering well?


Consider intangible as well as functional characteristics. Westlake Ace Hardware learned the empowerment its customers felt while shopping their stores was a potential differentiator.


Challenge your definition of your category to include indirect competition or potential substitutes as well as other category brands. The YMCA learned it competed with walking and home exercise equipment as much as it did with other health clubs.

Brand ______________________

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Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit
What Other Experts Say
“The first job in brand analysis is to define precisely all that the brand injects into the product (or service) and how the brand transforms it:
What attributes materialize?
What advantages are created?
What benefits emerge?
What ideals does it represent?”
-Jean Noel Kapferer, The New Strategic Brand Management
“There is no question in my mind that there are big chunks of the business core that are simply broken. The most obvious manifestation of this is what I describe as a monolithic competitive herd. The silver lining in this is that there is now a window of opportunity for outliers to emerge. After all, in order for there to be a rebel, there must first be an establishment against which to rebel.” – Youngme Moon, Different, pg. 103

“A brand audit requires understanding the sources of brand equity from the perspective of both the firm and the consumer. From the perspective of the firm, what products and services are currently being offered to consumers and how are they being marketed and branded? From the perspective of the consumer, what deeply held perceptions and beliefs create the true meaning of brands and products?”

– Kevin Keller, Strategic Brand Management pg. 127
“The objective of brand strategy is to create a business that resonates with customers, that avoids competitor strengths and exploits their weaknesses, and that exploits its own strengths and neutralizes its weaknesses. To create such a business, it is necessary to understand the viewpoints represented in these three sets of analyses.”

– David Aaker, Building Strong Brands, pg.190
“No country’s industry is going to hold on to its customers if it can’t continue to lead in offering the most value. And the answer has to be: better targeting, differentiation and branding.” – Philip Kotler, Q&A

Resources to Go Deeper
There is a vast literature on the importance of brands and how to manage them effectively. Here are a few of our favorites. We hope they inspire you to think about your brand in new ways: 1. Davis, Scott, Brand Asset Management: Driving Profitable Growth Through Your Brands, Jossey-Bass, 2002

This book by a senior partner at respected strategic brand and marketing consultancy, Prophet, was among the first to take a ‘how-to’ approach for thinking about brands as assets to be managed, not just as the outcome of good marketing.

Brand Amplitude, LLC ?2012 All Rights Reserved – May not be reproduced without authors’ permission


Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit
2. Keller, Kevin, “The Brand Report Card” (PDF), Harvard Business Review, 2000 This classic article was written by the Dartmouth professor who authored one of the most widely used B-school texts on strategic brand management. It provides a simple way to assess a brand based on the ten common attributes of strong brands.

3. Moon, Youngme, Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd, Crown Business, 2010 Delightfully readable, this short book by a Harvard brand strategy professor challenges readers to think about what it means for a brand to be truly different, not just differentiated.

About this Series
The ideas in this How-To series are based
on frameworks we use to teach the principles of
brand strategy to upper division undergraduates
and MBA students. Understanding the ideas we
discuss requires basic familiarity with the
principles of marketing, but does not require that
you have years of marketing experience. We
assume the reader knows that brands are more
than logos and taglines – that they are intangible
assets embodying a promise and a relationship
between the brand ‘owner’ and brand users.
Most of the ideas are not original. Rather,
they reflect the cumulative distillation of what we think is most valuable and useful from the vast literature on building great brands. In writing this book we drew on close reading and personal application of the ideas of many brand strategy practitioners, professors and writers, particularly the work of David Aaker, Kevin Keller, Jean Noel-Kapferer, Jack Trout, Philip Kotler and others too numerous to name. We list some of the most relevant works for those who want to ‘go deeper.’ Finally, this work represents our own independent effort conducted on our own time, and neither UC Berkeley nor The University of Notre Dame paid us when we compiled it for use in our courses. We feel privileged to be a part of these great institutions but this series does not have their official endorsement. We hope you enjoy reading it and most of all that you find it useful in developing an effective brand strategy for your business or organization. – Carol Phillips (left) and Judy Hopelain (right)

For more, contact us at: [email protected] or [email protected]

Brand Amplitude, LLC ?2012 All Rights Reserved – May not be reproduced without authors’ permission