Brand Strategy // Conducting a Brand Audit

I’ve been working with a number of one-on-clients recently that have me diving into more of the brand strategy and creative direction side of things, so I wanted to create a little series here on the blog that would represent this focus in my business and share a little bit of the strategy side of branding with you.

Coincidentally, with it also being the beginning of a new year and with a list of to dos for the Studio Bicyclette brand as well, I thought I would share the process as a bit of a case study at the same time since I’m practicing what I preach and trying to follow my own “rules”. I so often find that when it comes to applying what I teach and help other businesses do to my own brand, I have a tendency to cut corners since there’s not the same level of accountability or project management happening that would with a client. This is my attempt to change that!

After doing a little bit of reflection on 2016, highlighting the lessons I learned and starting to plan for the new year, I realized that beyond mapping out my goals and dreams for this year, there were some external ways that this needed to be represented as well. In other words — while there were some more strategic, behind the scenes changes to the brand that needed to be made, those would also start to show up on the website and on other platforms.

So this is where I’m going to start that process — which in this case involves conducting a brand audit.

I’ll be sharing what this looks like for the Studio Bicyclette brand while also sharing tips and resources that will hopefully help you do the same thing for your own brand. Because although I think there can definitely be value in tackling something like this in one fell swoop, these are also important things to keep in mind on an ongoing basis, constantly ensuring that your brand is on the right track and making the right moves in the right direction.

We’ll start with a bit of an overview to give you the birds eye view of this process, as I tend to look at a brand strategy as having a number of different components:


business + brand goals

This is essentially narrowing in on what you’re offering and who you’re serving. Once you’ve defined what your brand and business goals are, you want to ensure that everything you’re creating, offering and talking about are supporting these goals.

ASK:

  • What are your long- and short-term goals for your business and brand? 
  • Are all the elements of your brand aligned and helping you achieve these goals in some way?

Values, vision, voice + visuals

A natural progression from your overall business and brand goals, your four V’s start to dive into your values, vision, voice and visuals. This is how your brand starts to come to life, and what others see as you start to style your brand and tell your story.

Your vision and values are the guiding concepts that define your brand and communicate what’s important to you. Your voice is essentially what your brand sounds like, or what your unique point of view is. Your visuals are what brings your brand to life, showcasing your style and telling your story.

Ask:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • What makes you unique and sets you apart?
  • Is it obvious at every brand touchpoint what your brand style is and what story you’re trying to tell?

services, products + offerings

This section starts to get into how you serve your community and clients, whether that’s through one-on-one services, physical or digital products, or some other type of offering, paid or free.

Not only is it essential to define what you’re offering, but ensuring that this is clear to anyone who visits your site or any other brand touchpoint.

Ask:

  • Is it easy upon visiting your website and social media accounts to see what you do, what you offer and who you serve?
  • Are you creating the right offerings to serve your audience and ideal customers?
  • Is it clear how to hire or buy from you?

visual strategy

Now it’s time to start getting visual, ensuring that every piece of your brand represents that overall style and story that you’re trying to convey. I could go into this in way more detail (I have a whole course on it, after all), and explain to you why a visual strategy is important, but as promised, we’ll keep this as an overview for now. Visual branding in this case might show up as photos, illustrations, other graphic elements, blog and social media templates, or icons (just to name a few!)

Ask:  

  • Is there consistency across all your various branding elements?
  • Does your branding and overall visual strategy communicate your brand style and story?
  • Are there certain colours, details and elements associated with your brand that set you apart and help create recognizable visuals?

CONTENT STRATEGY

Content can refer to a number of different things in this case, and depending on your business model, this will likely look different for everyone, but since we already touched on visual strategy above, this is more about written content. It can include blog posts, newsletters, social media content, downloads or other offerings. Basically, you’re looking to ensure that any content you create and offer under your brand is supporting your goals and presenting a cohesive brand overall. 

Ask:

  • Is content nuanced to fit each individual platform?
  • Are all content categories and subjects well represented without having to dig too much, yet also cohesive enough that it’s evident what you’re offering?
  • Are you establishing yourself as an expert and providing value through your content?

SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY

This is obviously an important one in my world, acting as an extension of both your visual and content strategy, and potentially showing up on a number of different platforms, including Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

Ask:

  • Is content nuanced to fit each individual platform?
  • Is your social media content representative of your overall brand goals, style and story?
  • Are you including calls to action as part of your social media strategy?
  • Is your content cohesive and consistent?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be diving more into these specific areas, and I’ll also be sharing the results of my own brand audit with you as I start to make some smaller changes and narrow in on my own brand strategy for Studio Bicyclette this year.

If you’d like to follow a similar process for your own brand, start by answering the above questions for yourself, making notes on which areas you might need to focus on. Hint: Those will likely be where you found yourself answering ‘no’ or struggling to answer altogether. That's where we'll want to pay particular attention.