Branding business health check : How to conduct a visual audit

Published: 21st June 2011
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Five key branding business steps to visual audit

1. Branding Business Scope

Identify "like" businesses with a strong brand. These are usually market leaders, and are not necessarily competitors, but businesses who share similar competencies. The scope for a branding business should include a hit list of businesses and their market segments. It is important to identify the channels you will be covering, typically this can include:

>> Online (social media such as Facebook, websites, Google, eDM campaigns, email signatures)

>> Print (corporate identity stationary, posters, ads, DM campaigns, proposal and tender documents)

>> TVC (YouTube, TV networks channels)

>> Outdoor (billboards, point of sale)

2. Plan the visual audit execution

The objective for the branding business is a "visual audit" or "communications audit", and itís important to cover multiple channels. Avoid old campaigns and creative (this can be identified by comparing with current website creative). The branding business should present the visual audit at large scale and categorise into different channels (icons) and market segments (consumer, business). Key points for a branding business conducting a visual audit:

>> Avoid old creative

>> Group creative into different channels and market segments

>> Understand how the visual audit will be presented (posters, slide presentation etc)

3. Hit the ground running

When conducting the audit a branding business should get out in the field and be active. The difference between a good and great audit is how comprehensively you "hunt and gather" creative. To achieve the best results donít assume all artwork is online and resign to "surfing" the net. Be aggressive, walk into partner stores and distribution points, and ask for "more information" as there is often more than one piece of artwork communication on a campaign. Online, the challenge for a branding business is to identify where a business is advertising. Social media is an obvious channel, but a business website can be a great source for finding PDF documents, styleguides, multimedia presentations and banner ads.

Hunt and gather key points:

>> Get out in the field - hit the streets and search social media sites

>> At distribution points always ask for more information

>> Learn the "sales pitch"

4. Summarising the visual audit

A branding business will be able to identify strengths and weaknesses in how the creative is delivered. Pay close attention to graphic devices, headlines, sub headlines, fonts and colours, illustration styles and campaign execution examples. Summarise your thoughts; this can be in bullet points for each brand audited. What are the visual strengths of each brand? Where do they succeed and fail? Compare their creative to your business brand creative. Some brands will be visually represented; others will have a strong narrative. It is important to understand how each brand differentiates themselves.

Key points in concluding the visual audit:

>> Bullet point summary form for each brand

>> What is the tone of each brand?

>> What is their positioning or tagline?

>> Where have they failed and succeeded in their visual communication?

>> What are the creative execution examples?

The above framework will assist a branding business conduct a visual audit for their clients.

David Charles Neilson

Principal Partner, Charles Elena Design - a branding business

David is an award-winning designer and has worked for the Australian Associated Press, AAP-Pagemasters as an Editorial Designer.

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