Conducting online brand audit
Today, I’d like to show you step by step how to conduct a basic online brand audit. Since we are in the middle of the winter, and given that I live in Montreal, I chose “ski resorts in Eastern Townships” as my topic (Mont Sutton, Ski Bromont, Mont Orford and Owl’s Head.) I chose these ski resorts, because they are my favourites. I love them all. My goal is to show the best practices so that other brands can improve themselves. Mind you, this is an online audit; so I am not talking about the actual resorts. Similarly, I am not evaluating to their marketing collaterals either.
Keep in mind that online brand audit is quite a methodical task. You may want to print webpages and create a big collage. Or maybe you use Evernote. The key is to keep a record of everything because we are going to accumulate a lot of information. For every brand, we will check three fundamental things: the brand’s websites, its online footprint and its visuals. This will be fun. Let’s see what we find out!
I always start my audit with the brand’s website. At this point we are trying to understand what the brand currently claims about itself. Highlight the key messages on its landing page. Pay particular attention to the “About Us” section. Most often this page contains facts, meaningless numbers and a soulless narrative. However, this is where your brand should communicate its story to the world! Check if there is a compelling narrative on the About Us section. Your personality, your values, what you stand for should all be reflected. That said, we like it better when those messages are subtle. You want the reader to feel that s/he’s personally addressed. As Chris Grams suggests, print out those pages and highlight key words and themes. If your brand does not have a compelling story here, then it won’t be compelling elsewhere.
Winner: Mont Sutton by a landslide. Here is how the brand describes itself. Doesn’t it make you want to go there? Wow!
Our second stop is Google. Type the name of the brand and see what the first official entry says. Mind you! Most often your brand is not what you say it is. It is what Google says it is! Do you convey a clear message on Google? Be succinct and compelling. Try to capture your core with that short message.
Winner: According to Google, Ski Bromont has the clearest and most complete message.
Next, we will check the brands’ online presence. Look at their Twitter accounts. Go to their Facebook pages. Read the Wikipedia entries about them. Here are a couple of things to pay attention to on Twitter:
- How does the brand describe itself on Twitter? Is it consistent with your existing findings?
- Does it use a colloquial language? Or does it treat Twitter as a channel to push news or sales?
- Is it visually consistent with its website?
Winner: Owl’s Head. The brand is very approachable on Twitter. It responds to messages in an informal way. Feels like it is a member of a close-knit community. Also it does not overuse its Twitter account to promote its offers. As a rule of thumb, 1 in 4 messages should be about your promotions and the rest should be just conversation. Finally, is it possible to dislike that funny Owl?
Next, look at the brand’s Facebook page. Here is what you should pay attention to:
- How does the brand describe itself on Facebook? Is it consistent with your existing findings?
- Does the brand focus on engagement or sales? Does it respond to messages from its fans?
- Does it reward its fans exclusively?
- Is it integrated among all channels?
- Does it offer customer support/service?
Winner: We have two winners: Ski Bromont has the largest community and it responds to its fans punctually. Mont Sutton too, deserves credit because of its Facebook Tree Planting campaign. That said, all of the mountains can learn more from studying the Facebook page of MAC Cosmetics.
Last, check the Wikipedia entry about the brand. Wikipedia is an entirely open, transparent platform and your brand is fairly naked there. That does not mean that you can’t participate though. People check your Wikipedia entry to get detailed information about you. Here is where you should list all the facts that you usually post on your About Us page. Spoil the readers with information. Aim to satisfy the knowledge thrust of your biggest brand advocates. Pay attention to these:
- Is there a Wikipedia page about the brand? How extensive is it?
- Is the content one sided? (Positive or negative) Or is it neutral?
- Can you find absolutely all the information you are looking for?
Winner: None. Although Ski Bromont has the most complete entry, it is far from tapping into its great potential. This is where all four mountains should study Whistler Blackbcomb.
Finally, analyze brand elements such as name, logo, tagline and overall look and feel. Here are our winners:
- Name: We don’t have a winner here, as all ski resorts are understandably named after the respective mountains they are located at. That said, we realize that Ski Bromont has a brand architecture problem: The brand’s name is “Ski Bromont”. That said, the resort is open 4 seasons and even the Aquatic Parc or biking sections are under “Ski Bromont.” That creates confusion.
- Logo: Seems like Owl’s Head really nailed this one. Their iconic owl is ageless. It makes the brand approachable and its simplistic design makes it cool… Actually, very cool. Sutton is the runner up.
- Tagline: Mont Orford and Ski Bromont communicate the size of skiable area. I prefer Mont Orford as “3 mountains” clearly communicates grandeur. Either way, I think these two are better practices compared to Owl’s Head, which lists its services. Sutton does not use a tagline.
- Overall look and feel: Sutton has by far the best website. It is a treat for your eyes. The natural wood concept is consistently applied everywhere. Actually, Sutton has one of the best websites of ALL mountain resorts – not just among the ones in Eastern Townships.
Of course, this is just the online part of our brand audit. Nonetheless, if you follow the above-four steps, you will be able to find many insights about your brand. What do you think? Fire your comments!