There are many reasons to do a competitive branding audit:
• to inform your brand’s positioning and messaging
• to assess your brand’s strengths and weaknesses versus the competition
• to find opportunities for greater differentiation and consistency
• to identify industry trends to exploit.
But another reason, that some may not realize, is that it can also inspire your colleagues to new levels of brand building by generating excitement and renewed commitment with reactions like these:
• “So good to get out of the bubble of our day to day”
• “I never realized it until now; but seeing it side by side, I get it”
• “We’ve improved a lot, but there’s still work to be done”
• “All in all, the glass is half full, but there are opportunities to do things better”
• “It’s great that we’re comparing ourselves like this”
• “Great to see things from our customers’ perspective”
• “It’s critical to always be challenging ourselves this way.”
Unfortunately, competitive branding audits can be time-consuming and expensive. But by limiting their scope, costs can be reduced while still providing enough material for analysis. For example, the scope could be limited to:
• top 5 competitors and your brand
• only materials that can be found online, which can include non-digital touchpoints like events and retail spaces (many images for these types of touchpoints can be found on the internet)
• only touchpoints that customers would encounter in their brand experience and buying journey.
Your brand should be assessed using materials and access just like the others—not by providing your agency with touchpoints that you’d like assessed. This way, the evaluation approach is the same for all.
Findings can be organized into three main areas:
• brand positioning determined by messaging
• brand identity (how the brand conveys its positioning in its visual and verbal elements)
• brand experience (how the brand comes across throughout the customer journey)
In addition to findings, actionable implications should be created, along with a brand scorecard using criteria for strong brands (such as relevance, differentiation, consistency, presence, innovation) to rank and compare the brands.
Brand snapshots—one-pagers which include key findings and supporting images for each brand—can provide a quick strategic, visual and verbal picture of your brand vs. your competitors.
And if you don’t have budget for an agency to do the audit, consider using a summer intern. Not only will the business benefit, but the intern will as well.
Checking out the competition and sharing findings with colleagues can provide insights and perspective for brand improvement as well as change mindsets, generate new ideas and create renewed excitement to propel your teams, brand and business forward.
Like in sports, checking the guy in the next lane can boost your adrenaline and speed you to win.
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