Imagine that you are sitting at your everyday desk and reflecting on the status of your BRAND and your recent marketing activities. You might have mixed feelings about some internal and external activities. You might also feel that the marketplace has become noisy.
Now, if you are wearing the “marketing hat” in your business, you could have even a deeper perspective on these challenges. There might be some internal business challenges between your brand marketing team and other departments, or between you as a brand guardian and other executive members. Furthermore, you could be feeling some pressure to achieve sales targets as your big season is approaching.
In your reflection, you might find some tasks that align with your overall brand strategy and some that do not. Be honest—did you find some projects that have been initiated as part of a “panic attack” situation? I personally define panic attack projects as those with no sense of strategy and direction, which might work to boost some sales for a short period, but which might also contribute to building up disloyal customers.
When it comes to your long-term brand strategy, initiating many panic attack projects will make it hard for you to distinguish between “good” sales from “evil” ones (good sales being those that helped to make you closer in the mind of your consumers to your strategic intentions). This is a symptom of many brand diseases.
At the same time, you might be still thinking about external factors that have a direct influence on your brand—especially the latest campaign from your primary competitor, which succeeded in attracting a good portion of your current customers. Not to mention that the behaviour of your target customer has started to change because of different market trends and forces.
That is to say, your signals are encountering a bit of distortion and noise in your marketplace. Besides, there is a feeling that some of your team members could “drop the ball” in following your brand’s strategic road map. In other words, you fear losing sight of your core customers.
Meanwhile, a new team member comes to you (after you give him a hard time for not meeting deadlines) and asks you some simple questions. What exactly are we doing? Are we developing the right campaign? Who decides if it is good or bad? Are we building our brand the right way? What exactly are we building with those campaigns and secret projects?
(By the way, you might expect these questions from a new, bright team member—new blood on the team—or brand consultants. Sometimes that’s good, as it gives you another perspective on what you are doing.)
It’s as if he were trying to wake you up from a horrible nightmare!
Now you start to think from another perspective and wonder if your BELOVED BRAND is suffering from some silent killers without your knowledge.
You remember that you’ve already learned that building a strategic “brand image” among your customers is one of the core strategic elements that interrelate strongly with your “brand identity” and “brand story”, as well as what you are trying to build in your customers’ minds.
Let’s all remember that building a strong brand requires a commitment to a well planned development strategy. We can’t just skip the process by rushing into tactics. That’s what researchers know, what practitioners know, and what big iconic brands like Apple, Nike, P&G, and L’Oréal know. Even other emerging brands like Evernote and Pinterest that follow different growth hacker marketing strategies know that.
What I am trying to say is that there is no shortcut in building successful and highly profitable brands, and that leads us to two points. First, you can’t BUILD what you can’t measure. Second, having an unhealthy brand will make it harder for you to win the battle against your competitors.
A critical strategic initiative in these situations would rely heavily on putting in place a policy of conducting regularly scheduled “Brand Audit” studies, which could be followed by different “brand tracking” studies. Brand audit exercises could take various shapes, as well as different scales and time periods. However, as a rule of thumb, a brand audit could be performed once per year, or whenever there is any shift in the brand’s strategic direction.
It’s like visiting your doctor for a yearly check-up—the more you advance in age, the more you need the check-up, and the more additional tests might be required.
Similarly, the bigger your brand, the more you need to know, audit, and track. You want to know if your efforts are aligning with your brand strategy, especially in the eyes of your customers. You want to make sure that each campaign is taking you closer to what you’ve promised to stand for. You need to understand whether what you are communicating is contributing to what customers are building in their minds. You shall look beyond money and making profit per se.
Keep in mind that BRANDS reside within consumers’ minds (it’s their perception, not yours, nor the management team’s).
Customers’ perception and the stories they develop about your brand over time are what really matter in the end. It’s as simple and as critical as it sounds. You are the brand guardian, so don’t allow your brand to suffer. That’s the mindset of big and great brands in the modern era.
Some experts have defined a brand audit as “the comprehensive study & examination of a BRAND to uncover possible sources of brand equity”.
The moment you start performing the brand audit exercise, you will start to understand the current health of your brand and its potential development opportunities, as well as how you might eliminate or reduce the scope of various projects.
I encourage you to explore and refresh your mind about the “brand audit” topic. In my experience, it’s one of the primary keys that could open the door to so many other hidden doors, and I’ve initiated a lot of new projects as a result of the recommendations I’ve gotten from it.
Mohammed is a Global Brand-Marketing Adviser, Brand Auditor and Business Researcher. He is a catalyst of change who empowers businesses reaching remarkable positions within the minds of their consumers.