November 30th, 2012
By Guest Author
When conducting a brand audit, the simplest
models often work the best – BCG’s Growth-Share matrix, a SWOT analysis, an
organizational chart. These models work because they distill tons of
information, identify what’s important and are easy to grasp.
model for identifying brand strengths and weaknesses – the 3-Circle Model – is
stunningly simple, too. It involves just three overlapping circles representing
the brand, customers and competitors. Mapping the intersections of customer
desires, brand capabilities and competitive strengths allows strategists to
classify and prioritize different types of ‘value’.
Why it Works
analysis is powerful in three ways:
1. Broader look at
A typical brand analysis appropriately focuses most
attention on points of difference as potential sources of competitive
advantage. In addition to identifying points of difference, a 3-Circle Analysis
highlights potentially leverageable points of parity as well as unaddressed
customer needs. If these are important to customers and if no one else is
talking about them, or if your brand can talk about or deliver them uniquely, they
may be more relevant and potentially more differentiating than so-called
‘points of difference.’ Countless brands have achieved success by focusing on
category benefits (Raid Kills Bugs Dead, Lysol Kills 99.9% of germs, Foster
Farms chickens California-grown) or creating a point of difference that lies
outside of the product (Keebler Cookies are the only ones made by elves in a
hollow tree, a gecko assures Geico customers they will save money).
2. Keeps customer
needs in focus
The 3-Circle Model also provides a “final resting place” (pun
intended) for a brand’s areas of ‘non-value’ –features that may be
differentiating or important to keeping up with competitors but that are simply
unimportant to customers. The average supermarket now carries over 38,000
items, many of which are minor flavor or size variations. In the technology
category, the features arms race continues unabated. According to Harvard
professor, Youngme Moon, “There comes a point beyond which we are hard to
impress…beyond which additional improvement ceases to add value.” At that
point, it’s time to take a closer look at what customers truly value.
The health of a brand needs to be critically maintained and managed if it’s to contribute sustained value to customers and brand owners over the long term. Of the many tools available for brand owners and managers to assess the well being of their brands, the brand audit is the most widely used and misunderstood.
When brands reach the inflection point where revenues begin to slide because customers no longer resonate with the brand’s value proposition, it’s time to put your finger on the pulse of your brand and determine the long-term outlook for brand health.
Conducting a comprehensive brand audit is how brand owners determine the health of their brand. Yet for some brand owners and managers, the insights gathered from brand audits can be much like reading tealeaves or making faces out of cloud formations. The results of such an effort are extremely insightful, often surprising, even difficult to accept.
When brands reach the tipping point where sales begin to slide because customers no longer resonate with the brand’s value proposition, it’s time to put your finger on the pulse of your brand and determine the long-term outlook for brand health.
Brands have life cycles. They begin with excitement and promise, enter their growth phase, reach a plateau, and then slowly lose relevance as customers move on to the latest and greatest new thing. This is as natural as life itself. That’s why it’s a good idea to monitor brand health along the way–before sales slip.
Brand managers these days are heads down managing the urgent daily business of the brand. Rarely are they offered the opportunity to step back and make an informed high altitude assessment of brand health.
Completing a brand audit is a chance to take a fresh and objective look at your brand from a number of critical perspectives.
A comprehensive brand audit will often reveal new grow opportunities for your brands, and new ways to make your brand resonate with a new generation of target customers who will represent your brand’s bigger future.
If you believe your brand could use a check up, take the time to make a close examination of the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats facing brand health. A comprehensive brand audit will include a thoughtful examination of the following:
More thoughts on brand audits and auditors. Brand auditors should assess the strength of an organization’s mission and vision and the strength of its brand’s essence, promise, and personality (especially in relationship to the organization’s stakeholders’ perceptions of the organization). As part of the process, the auditor should investigate how congruently each of the following groups or sources articulate or manifest these organizational and brand attributes:
• Its leaders
• Its official documents
• Its internal and external communications
• Its marketers
• Its salespeople
• Its customer service employees
• Its other employees
• Its business partners
• Each and every point of contact the brand makes with its clients/customers
Ideally, the company performing the audit has broad and deep experience (as line managers and as consultants) in each of the following areas:
• Brand research
• Brand strategy & positioning
• Brand identity standards and systems
• Brand advertising
• Organization design
Audits will vary from company to company based upon the company’s unique needs, organizational complexity, marketing competency and other factors. Given the large amount of work, to complete the audit in a reasonable period of time, the audit team should consist of at least three people. The more marketing experience each team member has, the better.
Audit costs may vary from a low of
Last week I began taking a closer look at brand audits. Picking up the topic again today, you can expect a qualified brand audit company to investigate the following areas of brand management:
• Does this company have a deep understanding of its consumers’ values, attitudes, needs, desires, hopes, aspirations, fears and concerns?
• Has this company rigorously analyzed its competition?
• Which of the following types of brand research has the company conducted: brand positioning qualitative and quantitative, brand asset studies, brand equity measurement and monitoring, brand extension, logo recall, and recognition?
• How robust is each of these research studies?
• How are the company and each of its competitors positioned in the marketplace?
• Is there a marketing plan?
• Is there a brand plan?
• Are those plans aligned with and integrated into company business plans?
• Does the company have a future vision and a well thought out plan to get there?
• Is it clear which marketing objectives, actions, and vehicles will provide the greatest leverage in achieving the long-term vision?