So you think you’re ready to pull the trigger on a rebrand, and you’ve done the necessary homework.
- You have a good reason to do it. (If you’re not sure, here are 7 reasons to consider one.)
- Your leadership has approved it.
- You have a brand team who can help you do it.
And now you’re ready to hit the ground running.
You may be eager to dive into logo prototypes or tagline brainstorming, but a good rebrand requires more than that. It’s an intentional and meticulous process that involves high-level thinking and deep reflection about every aspect of your brand: who you are, what you do, why you exist, and more.
Hence, a rebrand can take a lot of time—sometimes years. For a huge global company, it can require millions of dollars and an enormous team of interdisciplinary creative professionals (at least that’s what it took for Pepsi’s rebrand). And 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. You need to take a strategic approach.
Thus, one of the most crucial first steps in a rebrand is a comprehensive brand audit. This single exercise will generate the insights you need to conduct a rebrand the right way.
What Is a Brand Audit?
A brand audit is an exercise to help you understand your brand—as it is now. Before you look to your bright and shiny future, you need to understand what’s working, what’s not, what can be improved, what needs to go, what needs to evolve, and so forth. This shines a light on your strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, opportunities, etc. It’s only once you have that big-picture view of your brand that you can identify the right solutions to close the gap.
(Note: This clarity is especially important if you’re working with an outside agency. 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.)
So how do you conduct a proper brand audit? Here, we’ll walk you through a brand audit, pulled from the framework we use ourselves.
What to Know Before You Start
We’ve encountered many of the roadblocks or hiccups that can happen during a rebrand, and we find it’s often due to a communication issue. To make sure your brand audit as effective as possible, make sure you:
- Answer all questions 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 approval on the final results of the brand audit.
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/Rebrand Questionnaire
Start by downloading our free Rebrand Questionnaire below. It includes all of the questions we’ll cover here, conveniently presented in an editable PDF you can print, email, and distribute to the team you will be surveying for this brand audit. (In addition to your core brand team, you should open it up to anyone who might have valuable insight.)
This questionnaire will cover three specific areas of your brand:
- Current Core Identity (Brand Heart)
- Current Verbal Identity (brand essence, tagline, value prop, messaging pillars)
- Current Visual Identity (logo, typography, color, etc.)
On the surface, it might seem like a simple survey. 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.)
Distribute the questionnaire and have your team answer these questions individually (and honestly!). Your goal is to get a sense of how your brand is currently performing.
Current Core Identity
- Organization name: List the way you want it on the logo and any other derivatives.
- What does our business do? Use a succinct, objective description.
- What is our Brand Heart? This includes purpose, vision, mission, and values.
- How is our brand currently perceived? Does it align with our Brand Heart?
- How do we want to be perceived?
- How has our brand changed over time? Where is it now, where is it going?
- Who are your personas? Identify the audience you’re trying to reach.
- Who is our competitors? How do we fit into the landscape?
- How do we differentiate our brand?
- What is our current brand personality?
Exercise: Place an X where you want your brand to fall on the spectrum below.
Current Visual Identity
- What does our current visual identity look like? Describe logo, color, typography, etc.
- What does our current visual identity communicate?
- How does our current visual identity align or misalign with our values?
- What do we NOT like about our current visual identity?
- How has our visual identity changed over time?
- How do we feel about our current logo?
- Where will our logo be used (print, web, social)?
- Why are we creating a new and unique logo? Why now?
- Should our new logo be “evolutionary” or “revolutionary”? Decide whether you want to update your current logo or start from scratch.
- Why type of “character” or “personality” would we like our new logo to have?
- What type of logo are we more drawn to?
Current Verbal Identity
- What differentiates us? Articulate how you’re different from your competitors by filling in this statement: “Our [offering] is the only [category] that [benefit].”
- What is our current tagline? Use a simple, succinct statement summarizing your brand promise.
- What is our current value proposition? What benefits can consumers can expect from your brand?
- What are our three main selling points/messaging pillars?
- What is our current brand personality? It can also be helpful to describe your brand as a persona (e.g., George Clooney with the irreverent humor of Jon Stewart).
- What are your brand stories/messaging? These are main talking points/supporting messages that reinforce your value proposition.
- What is our current brand voice/tone? How do you speak?
Step 2: Collate Your Rebrand Questionnaire Answers
Your job is not to gather surveys, then dump the pile on your poor design team or branding agency and let them figure it out.
Instead, once you have your surveys completed, review them to look for similarities and discrepancies. While the responses 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: Gather Your Team to Come to a Consensus
The goal of a brand audit is to come to a consensus about the direction of your rebrand, and use that information as the foundation of your creative exploration. So, gather your core brand team, present the insights you’ve learned, and have a discussion about what works, what doesn’t, what you can improve upon, etc. For example, you might find that your Brand Heart is accurate, but your tagline is off. Or you may find that your logo is good, but your voice and tone don’t gel.
Step 4: Document Your Findings
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). You can then share it with whoever is helping with your rebrand. This document will help make your rebrand stronger and more successful from the get go.
Step 5: Proceed with Your Rebrand
Having successfully completed your brand audit, you should now understand what you’re trying to solve through your rebrand—and thus you can proceed with the process.
For step-by-step guidance on how to complete a rebrand from start to finish, see our ultimate guide to complete a rebrand. And as you continue down the path, remember that patience and clarity are the keys to a successful rebrand. The better you communicate, the better the experience will be for everyone.
That said, sometimes brands with the best intentions still get stuck during the process. If that happens, consider bringing in an agency who can help you through the dark. Feel free to holler at us. We’d love to help you tell your brand story as effectively as possible, and that starts with a strong brand.