Marketing is an ongoing process. Once you’ve established your systems and processes, it’s important to continually check in and reevaluate. And that’s because, in the course of running a business, things change. Your brand expands or shifts focus. Your customers’ needs and expectations fluctuate. It’s important that your marketing efforts remain fluid so you can keep pace with the natural evolution of your business.
Conducting a brand audit is part of this process. This is a smart place for marketing consultants to begin when they start work with a new client. It’s helpful for small business owners to have an outside set of eyes evaluating their brand and providing feedback. And if you’re a consultant yourself, it’s important to audit your own brand once in a while!
These are the essential elements that anyone should consider as they conduct a small business brand audit.
Start with the most visible part of the brand: the name. Does the name of your business communicate what you do? Oftentimes, businesses will shift focus as time goes on. While they may start out doing one thing for a particular type of client, as they head out into the world and begin interacting with real people, they may discover that customer needs are different than they anticipated or that there are complementary offerings their business should provide to give more comprehensive service.
It’s smart for a business to pivot in order to meet demand, but it’s also important that you consider a change in brand name if your original name no longer describes what you do and who you serve.
If you decide that a change in name is appropriate, there are a number of elements to consider. Is the new name you’d like to use under trademark elsewhere? Is there an appropriate domain name available online to reflect your new brand name? Do you have a web designer on hand to help facilitate the switch from your old website to your new online home? And do you have a plan in place to inform your existing customers about the change and to ensure they still feel welcomed and well-served by your business under its new name?
Logo and Icons
After the name itself comes your logo. Your logo will be stamped on almost everything you create and do, so you want to make sure it represents you well. Does your current logo reflect the look and feel you’d like to convey for your organization?
There are a number of design elements that go into setting the tone on your logo and branded visuals.
Can you identify three to four complementary colors that will help tell your story? It’s important to keep things to a narrow set of colors. When you introduce the whole rainbow into your design elements, you muddy the waters and make it difficult for your audience to find a through line in the story you’re trying to tell with your logo and color palette.
It’s also important to settle on colors that work well together. You likely remember the concept of complementary colors from elementary school art class, but are you familiar with the other types of colors that play nicely together?
This overview from Canva on the color wheel and color theory provide insight into how to match colors on the color wheel. Whether you opt for complementary colors (which are opposite each other on the color wheel), analogous colors (neighbors on the color wheel), or one of the other combinations that make sense from a color-theory perspective, it’s important to settle on a narrow range of colors that tell your story while looking great together.
Along with color palette, you must be mindful of the fonts you select for your brand. The types of fonts you use can speak volumes about the type of business you are.
Again, it’s not advisable to embrace a wide range of fonts. Instead, it’s best to limit yourself to two to three fonts that you use consistently across all of your marketing assets. As with brand colors, the more fonts you introduce, the less clear your intent and brand story become.
Things like the font style, size, weight, and spacing all convey information to your viewers. A bold, serif font that takes up ample space on the page may convey authority and strength, while a thin, delicate script font might signal a homey, warm quality.
The font you select for your logo is important, but it’s also critical that you select complementary fonts for the rest of your assets, such as your website, printed materials, and social media content. This guide from Canva on how to pair fonts shares a lot of useful tips to help you get started.
Pairing a serif with a sans serif is an easy way to create a clear contrast between two font styles in a design. Playing with font size and weight can help direct the eye. Larger fonts often grab attention, as do bolded and all-caps messages. Avoid using fonts that are either too similar or too different. Clashing fonts can distract audiences from the messaging contained within the words on the page.
Images and Graphics
Beyond your logo itself, you want to pay attention to the other visual, image-based elements associated with your brand.
Are the images you’re using professional? If you’re creating your own images, invest time in getting them right. Use a high-quality camera for any photos you take, and ensure that there’s a consistency in look and feel. You should try to tie your brand colors into your visual elements, too. Can you incorporate your brand colors into your company headshots by having yourself and your team wear a piece of clothing with your brand’s colors?
If you’re creating icons or digital images, crafting them in a professional editing tool can help you manage things like spacing, alignment, and adherence to your brand colors and font styles. Canva is a great drag-and-drop tool for ensuring consistency across your various marketing assets. And if you’re well-versed in Adobe products like Photoshop or InDesign, you have even greater control over the images you create.
For brands that are putting out lots of content, it can be helpful to rely at least partially on stock images. But when you do, take care in the images you select. Your audience has a keen nose for stock images, and the wrong ones can feel very inauthentic (we’ve all seen the cheesy stock photos of the smiling team gathered around the white board in the office). Again, if you’re using stock images try to find ones that align with your brand’s identity and color palette.
Don’t Forget About the Layout
Many brands believe that once they have their logo, color, and fonts in hand they’re good to go. But the reality is that they’re not quite finished yet. How all of those elements flow together and relate to each other is equally important. Whether or not you present them in a unified manner can truly make or break your brand recognition.
Establishing a brand style guide that dictates how all of the various elements of your brand interact with each other in any of your branded content is key to guaranteeing consistency across all of your marketing materials. Whether it’s your marketing team creating a new social media campaign, your sales team pulling together a pitch deck, or your newest team member ordering up business cards, you want to be sure that all of the elements of your brand’s style look the same across the board.
Conducting a small business brand audit is key to ensuring that your business is represented appropriately on- and offline. You want the various elements of your brand’s style to sync with what you do and who you serve. And because that sometimes shifts, it’s important that you make adjustments to your image, too. Reassessing these crucial design elements help you ensure your messaging and mission are always aligned.