Audit Your Branding in Q1: How to Make Sure You Put Your Best Foot Forward

The average marketing team juggles four different channels throughout the year. The top channels in 2023 include social media, SEO, email marketing, and content marketing. However, some departments could have more than nine different outlets promoting the business and engaging the customer base.

Regardless of your marketing department’s size, you need to ensure each channel is aligned. If the branding is different from one outlet to the next, you could confuse your audiences or have an ineffective presence across the web.

The end of the year is a great time to audit your branding. You can make sure every channel is unified, updated, and accurate. This way, you put your best foot forward in the new year. Follow these steps to make sure you are ready for greatness in 2024.

Banish Old Logos, Colors, and Fonts

If your business recently completed a rebranding project, you might have some old brand imaging that continues to linger even though your team should be using the new colors and graphics. The last few weeks of the year are the perfect time to banish this old media once and for all. You are entering a new year — make sure you use your new graphics.

Here are a few places where old branding continues to linger. Make sure you catch any outdated slogans, logos, and fonts so you present a unified front with your brand.

  • Less popular marketing channels: Ask your marketing team to comb through all of their channels and identify any sources where old media could linger. For example, if you stopped using Pinterest or Flickr, you might not have thought to update your profiles on those channels.
  • Non-marketing departments: Your legal team or service department might still use old letterhead as they phase out old reams of paper. Make sure none of this old media is customer-facing.
  • Local media outlets: When journalists are in a hurry, they tend to grab old logos and photos for their stories. Consider resending your media kit with the latest brand imagery for newspapers and TV outlets to use.

In most cases, this use of the old media is an honest mistake. An intern might grab an old logo in a hurry without realizing they’re not supposed to use it anymore. This audit aims to check branding errors while informing everyone involved where to find your up-to-date assets.

Keep Up With Social Media Trends

Social media is constantly changing, and while you might try your best to keep up with it throughout the year, some best practices might have slipped past your team. The end of Q4 is a good time to evaluate your online presence and establish a set of branding practices for the coming years.

For example, one of the trends our team at J&L Marketing has seen in the past year is the death of hashtag stuffing on Instagram. Historically, brand managers would add dozens of hashtags to every post in an attempt to reach the largest possible audience. This isn’t that effective if the hashtags aren’t relevant. More social media teams have also noticed that they don’t get as much exposure through hashtag stuffing as when they add a few targeted tags.

Moving into the new year, you might decide that your team will research a few key hashtags and add them to your social media posts. As you audit other elements of social media presence, you can adjust your best practices and share these changes with anyone who might be responsible for creating and sharing social content throughout the year.

Update Your SEO and Content Best Practices

Along with auditing your social media presence, evaluate how you share content online. Your branding doesn’t just cover your graphics and logos; it also relates to the content you create. If your team attended an SEO conference this fall or registered for webinars that address algorithm changes, update your best practices to align with modern trends.

For example, some companies continue to optimize for content without stop words — words like and, or, the, and with — which are used to create words and phrases. In the early days of SEO, content marketers would intentionally omit these stop words to directly optimize for words or phrases. However, in the modern era, Google can read these stop words and understand their context. As a result, you should always include stop words when they enhance readability because this means you are putting the customer first.

Here’s an example to understand how stop words can change a sentence. Let’s assume a car dealership is trying to target the phrase “car dealership Minneapolis.”

  • Good: Come down to ABC Ford today and learn why we are the best car dealership in Minneapolis.
  • Bad: Come down to ABC Ford today and learn why we are the best car dealership Minneapolis.

By removing the stop word, the sentence is incorrect and uncomfortable to read.

Auditing your SEO and content for the new year means putting your best foot forward in Q1. Depending on the level of changes you want to make, these updates might also create a major project for the new year as you modify old content to keep up with these best practices. A lot of work in the short term could lead to significant SEO benefits in the long run.

Check Your Tone

The reality of branding is that most customers will never notice the lengths you go to to make your business look professional and maintain a unified voice. Most people won’t care about an old logo or change in your SEO best practices. However, they will pick up on the tone of your content, whether they are reading your copy or listening to a video or podcast you create.

Experts estimate that 65% to 93% of communication is nonverbal, depending on the context of the information. Unfortunately, in written text, you don’t have the ability to add nonverbal cues. Your audience can’t tell that you gave a fist pump in the air when sharing good news or added an empathetic head nod when discussing a problem. This is where your tone comes in.

The tone you choose in your writing and recordings can provide nonverbal communication that engages your audience.

Evaluate your published content to make sure your tone is aligned. Most businesses try to balance professionalism, authority, and engagement. They want to be seen as experts that are also approachable.

Unlike the SEO branding audit, which could trigger a major refresh project in the new year, auditing your tone is a way to align your team during the content creation process. When each department uses the same tone, your social content will sound like it came from the same sources as your paid search ads and long-form articles.

Connect With Your Customers

As you develop your marketing plans for the coming year, take a second to stop and listen. Now could be a good time to listen to your customers through surveys, interviews, and sentiment evaluations. Be careful — you might have to face the uncomfortable reality that your brand isn’t engaging customers in a valuable manner.

For example, one survey found that 85% of businesses believe they offer personalized experiences to customers. Only 60% of consumers think this is true. This means there is a segment of businesses that is confident in its branding and marketing efforts that are missing the mark — and potentially missing sales.

Consider the types of customer evaluations you want to invest in during the new year. You could test your brand reach and recognition or listen to understand how customers perceive your brand.

Conducting a brand audit to present a unified marketing front won’t be that effective if you aren’t reaching your target market with the messages they want to hear.

Reflect on Your Core Values

Branding is internal and external. While your marketing department often guides your external branding, your employees reflect your internal brand. This means you will need to leave the marketing department to work on this section and might need to meet with leaders within your organization.

For example, a marketing team can create engaging copy on how a specific car dealership is never pushy and instead will help customers make the right decisions for their needs. However, if the sales team is under a lot of pressure or is disengaged with this brand value, the representatives might become pushier and more forceful over time. This brand disconnect can drive away customers, making your marketing team seem dishonest.

Core values and company culture start at the top. Your executives can use the final weeks of the year to reflect on the business and the workplace they have created. They may decide to make changes to fully reflect the company’s branding and empower employees to live their core values.

One survey found that fewer than 50% of employees believe in their company’s brand, while even fewer can act on that branding. Disengaged or disconnected team members will not reflect your brand goals and could harm your business in the long run. With strong internal branding, you can create a healthy workplace in the coming year.

Unify Your Branding With a Full Service Agency

Your branding audit needs to bring together your internal employees and external vendors. Anyone who handles your marketing assets needs to fully understand how to represent your organization. This gets more challenging when you work with several boutique agencies instead of a full-service company. There are more teams you need to communicate with and departments you need to oversee.

If you want to streamline your marketing operations, reach out to J&L Marketing. We handle a diverse portfolio of channels, ranging from video marketing to paid search. When you conduct your branding audit, you only need to communicate your best practices once. We will distribute the information across our teams.

Our goal at J&L Marketing is to help you save both time and money. This allows you to work smarter, not harder. If you want to be more effective in the new year, reach out to our team. Let’s take on 2024 together. Contact us today.

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