brand audit

Your DIY Visual Brand Audit

The exact elements your brand needs to stand out and succeed

 

When I’m not romancing pixels and swooning over colour palettes, I moonlight (or, rather, daylight) as a dance instructor. At first glance, these two careers might not seem to have much in common. And yet …

Last week, I was watching a particularly determined young student attempt to plié and it hit me, not for the first time, how strikingly similar design and dancing actually were.

You see, a plié is more than just a plié. A plié is actually the sum of its parts. A gentle tuck here. A smooth bend there. Hands positioned just so. And when I’m teaching my students to plié, I don’t just say, “Plié, students” right off the first beat … I walk (or dance) them through the exact movements they need to do in order to execute a plié.

Just like I don’t tell my clients, “Brand your business, dear client.”

Like a plié, a brand is more than just a brand (and a logo!) A brand is the sum of its parts.

But just like a plié ceases to be a plié without the correct leg movements, if one of the parts of your brand is left out (intentionally or unintentionally), it ceases to be a consistent – and compelling – brand.

To captivate your audience, your visual brand needs to be complete and cohesive across all media and platforms.

And by “cohesive”, I mean that your customers should be getting the same experience and the same message no matter where they visit you at. By providing a cohesive experience, you’ll effortlessly gain their trust and build a meaningful relationship with them. Yay!

By offering an inconsistent experience, you risk confusing your audience and turning them off your brand. Not exactly the reaction you were hoping for, huh?

Since you don’t have a brand instructor by your side to walk you through the exact actions to take to execute your perfect brand, I’m going to step in as your branding dance partner and guide you in identifying the parts of your brand you’ve nailed … and the parts you might need to work on.

Dance shoes on? Let’s go!

 

How to audit your visual brand

Destination one: Instagram

It’s become an automatic habit: As soon as I discover a new business, either online or offline, I head over to their Instagram to check them out. It’s like the modern version of after-work drinks, where the corporate suits get swapped for more casual jeans and you feel like you can really get to know a brand.

Which is great … if your Instagram is aligned with your brand.

But if it’s not? Well … with nearly a billion monthly active users on Instagram, you’re missing an incredible opportunity to connect with your audience.

I remember visiting the Instagram of a bricks and mortar business that I adored. In person, the business was beautiful. The signage was on point and in their calming brand colours. The reception area was filled with perfectly branded brochures. The walls were painted in their zen brand colours. Even the tone of voice from staff members was calm and soft. Consistent branding goals right here!

But on their Instagram? I could barely tell it was the same business. There were 15 different colours, 21 different fonts and a billion different types of styles.

Which meant that even though I loved their business, after visiting their Instagram, I felt like their brand was cheapened. And for those potential customers that hadn’t had the pleasure of visiting them in real-life, I cringed at the impression their Instagram would make.

Don’t be them, okay?

Your Instagram brand should have:

  1. A professional profile image.

Is your profile image your logo or a gorgeous, but professional branding shot of you? If it’s neither of these, it’s time to change it (no matter how cute your new puppy is). This little image makes a big difference to the first impression you make on your audience and how you’re seen on Instagram.  

  1. Story highlight icons.

You know the circles underneath your bio that categorise your IG stories? Take a look at them now. Do you have icons, photos, blocks of colour, or (cringe) all the above? Brand solution: Keep them all in the same style. For bonus points, also ensure they are in your brand colours, or if you’re using photos, in your brand image style.

  1. An aligned and cohesive feed.

Now for the most important part of our visual brand audit – your feed! How many colours are you using? How many different fonts? How many different filters, or photo lighting? Your feed should ONLY include your brand colours (I recommend one to four colours), brand fonts (recommend one to three) and brand image style (one style). I highly recommend using a scheduling tool like Planoly to plan your content. It allows you to curate an aesthetically aligned feed …  and recognise when you’ve lost sight of your visual brand style.

 

Destination two: Website

When it comes to converting strangers into sales (and meaningful connections that can’t help but come back for more), your website is your go-to digital destination. It’s your online home and sales team all in one. And just like your home reflects your personality and values, so too does your online home represent the inner life of your business.

Think about it … If your home was messy, unorganised, outdated, with lots of clutter, how would your visitors feel? What if the walls were painted 20 different colours and there were five styles of furniture in the same room? And what if your design style see-sawed between French provincial and mid-century? It’d be a little … overwhelming, right?

The same goes for your online home.

Your website should evoke feelings of belonging. Your audience should want to hang out there, and feel comfortable hanging out there, for as long as possible. That’s our goal. And that’s what your visual brand must be mindful of. Which means …

Your website should have:

  1. On brand images.

Humans are visual creatures. When they land on your site, your images are going to be the first thing your potential customers examine. As the famous idiom says, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So, what are your images saying? Are all your images the same style? Do they have the same lighting? Do they reflect your brand values and colours? Are they high resolution? Pay attention to the little details (‘cos your audience sure will be!)

  1. A clear and consistent logo. 

Does your website feature your calling card, aka your logo? Is it the same logo (or a consistent variant) used across your other platforms and mediums? Is it a logo that makes it easy for your audience to recognise that it’s you? To nail this part of your brand, make sure your logo is consistent with the rest of your visual brand and engages your dream customers at first glance.

  1. Brand colours.

Have you ever seen Coca Cola use anything other than predominantly white, red or black? Brand colours are important, babe!

Which is if why you haven’t already done so, I suggest creating a colour palette for your brand. This is a set of colours (I recommend four), complete with colour codes like CYMK or RGB, that your brand exclusively uses. No exceptions! Yep, even if your fave colour is pink, unless it’s in your brand colour palette, you can’t use it. I’m sorry.

But by sticking to a set of brand colours, you’ll create that sense of consistency that’s essential for ensuring your visitors and audience recognise your brand and feel safe with you.

  1. A maximum of three different fonts.

As a font addict, I know just how hard this one is to stick to. There are so many gorgeous fonts out there! But by constantly changing which fonts you use, you’re ruining the hard work and effort you’ve put into creating a consistent brand. And remember, if even just one part of your brand is out of sync with the rest, it ruins the effect of your entire brand.

So take a moment now to check out how many fonts you’re using on your website. Are they easy to read? Do they complement each other?

I recommend choosing one to three fonts for your brand and setting a style for your headings, sub-headings and body copy. This will make it super easy for you to keep everything consistent.

 

Destination three: Brand collateral

Now that you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to focus your attention on the little bits and pieces that come under the banner of ‘brand collateral’.

These are basically all the different pathways to communicating with your clients. And, yep, you got it – they have to be consistent with the rest of your brand experience!

So for the last step of your DIY brand audit, I want you to review the following items:

  • Email signature
  • Newsletters
  • Business cards
  • Price guide/list
  • Welcome kit
  • Forms
  • Invoices/proposals
  • E-books

Are each of these elements consistent with your brand? If a potential or current client were to see them, would they know they came from you? No detail is too small!

Remember, like a plié, your brand is the sum of its parts.

Yay – your brand audit is now complete! How did you go? Need a little help with your visual brand?

To learn more about Esley Studio’s visual branding services head on over here.

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