Key points:

• Brand Strategy is the number 1 priority for CMOs this year.

• Brand audits keep the focus and are a powerful competitive weapon .

• A blend of old fashioned focus group research and cutting edge tech is required to get a brand audit right.

Brand Strategy is back on top as one of the number one strategic priority for CMOs. No surprises there with storm clouds still hovering on the economy’s horizon. Brand always rises to the top in climates of uncertainty.

Gartner analyst Ewan McIntyre points out that marketers know that keeping the volume up on Brand provides long term value and that investments made in the brand will reap benefits when the upturn comes.

One of the most constructive things you can possibly do is conduct a Brand Audit to make sure your brand is healthy, pointed in the right direction and ready for the rebound. Yes, building brand is a tough road to hoe for any marketer – but taking the time to undertake a quick Brand Audit before you throw yourself into 2021 can pay big dividends. 

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1. Find out what your audience is thinking.

This is going to take a little time and effort (and some money for a well thought out survey). Doesn’t sound that easy, right? Before you put a line through this step, remember that what you find out here will likely be gold. Direct feedback from your audience gives you unparalleled insight into the mind of those your targeting. 

So – conduct it yourself or engage a third party? There are arguments in favor of both. For most marketers with diminished teams right now, time is not a luxury - so using an outside company makes sense. But if you and your team can make the time, it’s a great process to go through. Just make sure you know your target market and broaden the net as wide as possible. Small sample groups will only skew outcomes. 

2. Review the analytic tools you rely on.

Web traffic is huge for business right now – particularly with the world at home and not going back anytime soon. Getting the most out of Google Analytics to get deeper insights into how people arrive at your site and spend time in it is vital. If your business has international reach, understanding which countries are hitting your site via search and social media is critical. But it’s equally important for locally oriented businesses. You should also look closely at things like bounce rate, page loading times, UX and quality of content to keep visiting eyeballs satisfied. Once again, there’s a lot in this, but if you can fine tune your online game, it will pay you back in spades.

3. Dive deep into your Social Media strategy.

Social media has changed everything for businesses large and small. It was gaining pace before the pandemic hit, but the needle is right around the dial now. Of course, it’s a busy, busy marketplace in social media – exacerbated by the position we’re in and the relative ‘simplicity’ and low cost of getting messages out there. To get an edge, you need to get meaningful insights into your likes, shares and referrals and back this up with a deeper dive into stats around the audience profile – age ranges and genders. Armed with this kind of information, you can focus tighter on the audience and craft the right content to keep them coming back. Social media management tools (there’s a bunch out there including products like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Zoho, Buffer etc) simplify the process and help you grow your audience with a more authentic engagement strategy. 

4. Check out your competitors.

While you’re no doubt doing this on a regular basis, it’s time to really ramp this up to gauge what it is that they’re doing differently to you and if that strategy is successful. Remove the blinkers - “we’re way better than those guys - they have no idea” - and undertake your own research to compare and contrast with your own business model. Become a fake customer to experience how they treat new business – what are the early touchpoints and what’s the UX like on their site? You can also run some analytic tools across their SEO strategy (check out products like Semrush, Moz Pro, Raven Tools etc). Knowing what keywords they’re hitting can help you reconsider the content on your site to ensure you at least match up with them and appear alongside on search.

5. Get under the hood of your brand and tweak.

Armed with information about competitor activity, what your audience thinks of you, how you look on social media and how ‘sticky’ your website is, it’s time to fine tune that brand. Assuming you haven’t arrived at a position which requires a complete rebrand (that’s another subject entirely), you can use the learnings from Steps 1-4 to make improvements, monitor any changes you make to gauge the impact on customer interaction, re-tweak and so on. If the changes you need to make are bigger, you could organize some focus groups (think of it as the bookend to Step 1) to sense check your new strategy and garner response. This could save you a world of pain later, so it’s a valuable step – even though it takes a little effort.

These five steps are a great way to kick of what could be one of the most interesting and fulfilling business years ever. However, five steps does not maketh the brand! There’s a lot more you need to do to get that brand humming – things like getting your brand compliance strategy in place, selecting the right martech to help with brand consistency etc. Make ’21 the year that you turned your brand into a potent weapon in business.

Learn more about Digital Asset Management and Branded Template Creative.

Image credit Priscilla Du Preez