So you think you’re ready to rebrand. You have a good reason (if you’re not sure, here are 7 reasons to consider one), you’ve talked to leadership, you’ve done the research, and now you’re ready to hit the road running.
You may be eager to dive into logo prototypes or word clouds, but a good rebrand generally requires an intentional and meticulous process. For a huge global company, it can take years, millions of dollars (as Pepsi’s did), and an enormous team of interdisciplinary creative professionals. While it can be less complex and costly for a mid-size company or startup, it’s still a detailed process. You can’t just give a designer carte blanche or tell an agency you want something “young and fresh,” then expect the right idea to roll in.
The Key to a Strong Rebrand
A good rebrand doesn’t start by fast-forwarding to the future; it starts with taking a look at your present brand. You can’t create a strong vision without an intimate understanding of what it is you’re working with, the struggles your brand has faced, where it has failed, how you want it to evolve, and what you hope it will achieve. That’s why a rebrand should always start with a brand audit.
A brand audit is a survey to help you articulate the “state of your brand” before you dive into a full rebrand, covering things like strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, opportunities, etc. This information is crucial to help your team or any outside agency understand your objectives, challenges, and goals. (It’s smart to do a brand audit before you reach out to a branding agency, as they will need to know this info anyhow.)
We often end up walking our partners through this process, but if you can get a jump on it, it will save valuable time for everyone involved. Here, we’ll walk you through a brand audit, including the questions to ask, pulled from the framework we use ourselves.
Before You Start Your Brand Audit Survey
We’ve seen many of the roadblocks or hiccups that can happen during a rebrand. We find it’s often due to a communication issue. To make sure your team is on the same page throughout the brand audit, make sure you:
- Answer everything as thoroughly and honestly as you can.
- Gather insights and feedback from individuals at all levels of your organization, not just the higher-ups.
- Get final approval.
This way everyone can rest easy knowing that the information you’re working with is current and accurate. So, onto the exercise.
Step 1: Distribute Your Brand Audit Survey
On the surface, a brand audit survey is fairly simple in that it is a basic audit of all elements of your brand. However, for brands that don’t have a well-articulated brand strategy, these seemingly simple questions can actually be difficult to answer, which is why it’s important to come to a final consensus after questionnaires are distributed. (Trust us; differing opinions and vague responses can cause havoc down the road.)
For your brand audit survey, you will survey your team about three specific areas of your brand:
- Current Core Identity
- Current Visual Identity
- Current Verbal Identity
Here are the basic survey questions to distribute to your team. You may add, edit, or tweak depending on what’s most relevant to your brand.
Current Core Identity
- Organization name? List the way you want it on the logo and any other derivatives)
- What does your organization do? Use a succinct, objective description.
- What is your core identity? This includes purpose, vision, mission, and values.
- How is your organization currently perceived? Does that align with the organization’s character/values?
- How does your organization want to be perceived?
- How has your organization changed over time? Where is it now, where is it going?
- Who is your audience?
- Who are your competitors? How does your brand fit into the landscape?
- How does your organization differentiate itself?
Exercise: Place an X where you want your brand to fall on the spectrum below.
Current Visual Identity
- Objectively describe what your brand is/what it looks like (e.g., logo, color, font)
- Subjectively describe what you think it communicates (e.g., friendliness, strength)
- How does the visual identity align or misalign with the organization’s values?
- What do you like/not about the current visual identity?
- How has the visual identity changed over time?
- Are there different geographical teams or divisions to account for within a variation of the logo?
- How do you feel about your logo?
- Where will this logo be used (print, web, social)?
- Why are you creating a new and unique logo? Why now?
- Should your new logo be “evolutionary” or “revolutionary”? Is it updating the current identity or starting completely new?
- Why type of “character” or “personality” would you like the new logo to have?
- What type of logo are you more drawn to:
- A symbol: An abstract representation of the brand of the organization. (e.g., Nike swoosh, McDonald’s arches)
- A logotype: Stylized letters representing the name of the organization (e.g., Coca-Cola, Dell, FedEx, NASA)
- Combination mark: Logos that use a combination of both words and symbols to represent the organization (e.g., AT&T, Domino’s)
Current Verbal Identity
- What is your brand positioning? Articulate what differentiates you in the marketplace, or how you are different from your competitors. A simple template to help you articulate this is “Our [offering] is the only [category] that [benefit].
- What is your value proposition? What benefits can consumers can expect from your brand? If you need to rework yours, follow this simple guide to writing a great value proposition.
- What is your tagline? Use a simple, succinct statement summarizing your brand promise. If you have trouble articulating this, find out what science says about the secret to a great tagline.
- What’s your elevator pitch? Sum up what you do in a few sentences.
- What are your brand stories/messaging? These are main talking points/supporting messaging that reinforce your value proposition.
- What is your voice/tone? How do you speak?If you haven’t quite determined your voice, try these 5 exercises to find and hone your brand voice.
- Who is your brand persona? It can be helpful to describe your brand as a person, such as George Clooney with the irreverent humor of Jon Stewart.
Step 2: Collate Your Brand Audit Answers
Your job is not to gather surveys, then dump the pile on your poor design team or branding agency. The goal of the exercise is to get a consensus and distill your thoughts into a single, all-encompassing document.
Once you have your surveys completed, gather your team and review them to look for similarities and discrepancies. While the responses to your brand audit survey may differ wildly, they also provide incredibly valuable insight into how your current brand is succeeding or failing at communicating your identity. (Large discrepancies are also a symptom of why a cohesive rebrand is so necessary.)
Step 3: Come to a Consensus
After you’ve talked it out, your team should be able to fill out a single “official” questionnaire (which will ultimately become the outline of your creative brief), then you can share it with whoever is helping with your rebrand. If done well, this document will help make your rebrand stronger and more successful from the get go.
If you could use a little more guidance on building a better brand:
- Follow this guide to create a brand strategy that works.
- Learn how to build a great style guide to keep your content cohesive.
- See our step-by-step guide to building a brand identity.
We’re also happy to chat about any branding troubles you’re facing.