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The Brand Amplitude Series:

Tools for Brand Practitioners

Part 1:


Carol Phillips and Judy Hopelain

Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

Brand Amplitude, LLC 2012 All Rights Reserved May not be reproduced without authors permission 2
What Is A Brand Audit?
A Brand Audit describes and evaluates the current state of a brand and its effectiveness in
achieving a companys 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 companys 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 brands strengths/weaknesses
Evaluates the brands current image (how it is perceived by customers and other key
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)
Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

Brand Amplitude, LLC 2012 All Rights Reserved May not be reproduced without authors permission 3
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
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.

Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

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Sample Brand Audit Outline

1. Company or business units 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,
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
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

Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

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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 cant 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

Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

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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 YMCAs slogan, Something for Everyone, lacked specificity.
Consequently, prospective members didnt know Whats 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.

Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

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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 Lowes 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 stores 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.

Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

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Practice Applying the Tool

Now its 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 ______________________

Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

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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
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 countrys industry is going to hold on to its customers if it cant 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.

Part 1:
How To Conduct a Brand Audit

Brand Amplitude, LLC 2012 All Rights Reserved May not be reproduced without authors permission 10
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: carol@brandamplitude.com or judy@brandamplitude.com