S2 #5 Brand audit: how to oversee your biggest asset

S2 #5 Brand audit: how to oversee your biggest asset

S2 #5 Brand audit: how to oversee your biggest asset

Daniel Diosi

Daniel Diosi

Daniel is a brand and marketing management expert who works with startups and small businesses to do excellent business online.

His expertise is brand and marketing management. Daniel, and his consulting company Daniel Diosi & Partners, have contributed to the brand and online business growth of various companies. He believes that branding is a crucial element to long-term business success. Since 2010, Daniel has been working with several government tourism boards, international hotel chains, travel tech startups, and marketing technology companies with great success. His motto, "Doing average things will get you average results. Exceptional results require exceptional efforts." has become a philosophy in several teams and organizations.

In 2020, Daniel Diosi & Partners launched Brand Auditor, a big data and targeted survey-based brand audit solution for startups and SME.

Successful brands pay close attention to their marketing and communications, ensuring a laser focus on close, meaningful customer relationships. But what does that look like, and how do you ensure that you understand your customers’ needs, problems, and what solutions they want from you? How do you ensure that your brand continues to thrive as a strong asset? Daniel Diosi talks about the importance of the brand to the business, how to perform a brand audit, and the biggest lessons learned from brands that must get it right – luxury hotels.

brand, brand audit, brand management, marketing success, communications, audience definition, audience analysis, brand promotion, luxury hotels
Episode number:
Date Published:
March 11, 2021

KRISTINA PODNAR, HOST: Welcome back to another episode of the Power of Digital policy podcast. Today, I'm excited to talk about one of my favorite policy topics because it doesn't jump to everyone's top of mind. And yet it should. I'm talking about a brand and to talk about a brand I have with me today, Daniel Diosi. Daniel is a brand and marketing management expert who works with startups and small businesses to do excellent business online. Daniel, welcome. It's a pleasure to have you today.

DANIEL DIOSI, GUEST: Oh, thanks for having me, Kristina. It's a pleasure to be here.

KRISTINA: I'm excited to speak with you. I want to jump right in, but can we actually take a step back before doing that? Can you help ground us by defining what a brand is? I mean, we hear brands being used around things like your personal brand, your corporate brand, event brands, geographical brands, product, what is a brand?

DANIEL: There are lots of different things for different people, depending on the area of expertise or the area of work. I think most of the people in companies who are related to marketing or working on the front line try to add something to a brand. But from a customer perspective, I think the brand is what a company means to us, to customers. That's how I would define it. So thinking about big brands, they all mean something. Let's say, for example, we would choose Apple because they produce excellent products. They don't have the hassle with those products. We will choose a trusted brand because we feel something about it. I think this is how I would define the brand.

KRISTINA: So what are the things that make it a brand? People say things to me a lot of times, which kills me, they say like brand, Oh, we have our logo.

DANIEL: That's very poor; that's not enough to have a logo. In my opinion, a brand can be a very good brand even without a logo, even without a defined. Brand identity, in fact, I, I come from the hospitality industry. So I have spent there over 10 years. There have been very successful service providers and distributors who do not even have a website. They have an excellent brand because people know about their reputation and those companies are very established. There are companies who do not put any effort into maintaining a brand, but actually, they do have a very good brand because of their reputation and because of what people perceived and what people think about those companies.

KRISTINA: What's an example of such a brand that doesn't really put a lot of effort into their brand, but they inherently do something right. Obviously, because they're a trusted brand.

DANIEL: For example, furniture suppliers who have catalogs instead of a website, and then people can order through the phone. Or, for example, food suppliers who always deliver excellent quality meats from Australia or certain other specialized items. These companies can have an excellent reputation, and they can do very good business.

They are working with all sorts of suppliers from all around the world. So for example, some of them, they are flying in beef from Ireland, someone also from Scotland. And, and those suppliers, they do not really have websites. They do not really have elaborate brands or social media presence, but people know them, and people do an amazing amount of business with them because of their reputation. And they can be sure that those promises that they promise as a company, those are going to be fulfilled a hundred percent.

KRISTINA: So is it the case that brands in the B2B space don't have to have digital as a component of their brand? Or does that differ? I mean, do B2B differ from B2Cs in that way?

DANIEL: Well, in my opinion, the point is that a brand is something that the company offers something that the company wants to stand for. In many cases, Based on the business activity, the company is already standing for something they have already demonstrated values that customers like or dislike about that particular company.

Now, in a case of an unknown company or a company that is new to many people, let's say it's in the growing stage, or they are still in an early stage. They do need to define those brands, and they do need to communicate those efficiently. And make sure that those values and key points have come across efficiently to their, to their target market, those businesses who are actually existing for a long time. And then they have been conducting business with different other companies; they already have that reputation. So people, before contacting them, or when doing business with them, already know what to expect. So that's why they chose them. They do not relate it to have a brand. Although it wouldn't hurt for them to have a visual brand or, let's say, more elaborated. But they do very well without actually putting efforts into their brand management because their results and their service, and their quality is, are speaking for them. And, in many cases, I think this is what more productive brand management should also be about. To convey those values and to convey those promises to customers that the company wants to be known for.

KRISTINA: So let's touch a little bit more upon this brand management aspect that you mentioned; you focus on providing brand audits. Tell us a little bit about what is the brand audit all about, how does it fit into brand management, and why does anyone or any business really needs one?

DANIEL: It's a very important question actually, to understand what people think about the company. Because it's, it's a very common sense thing. If people think positively about the company or the target audience are under the impression that a company is going to be able to efficiently and securely resolve their issues. Then, in that case, the likelihood of doing business with them increases. In that case, in the opposite case, let's say a company fails to communicate those values that are relevant for their potential customers. Then the profitability of the customer choosing them is going to be reduced. So it is really important for a company to understand that how are they perceived by their target market? Do they know about them at all? Are those key values that they are trying to communicate? Are they relevant? How do the big companies do it? Like Coca-Cola, BMW, Gucci, and all those companies, a couple of friends of mine were working in such companies. And basically, I was asking them what is the procedure and what is the framework? Because I thought that I could put together something that is much more potent compared to what is on the market offered by those granddaughter providers. So actually, we came up with this framework, which is very similar to what some of the big companies are using. That is based on a mass public opinion serving. Based on the opinion of the target audience so this is already a lot more valuable compared to having a bad person's opinion, which is often very subjective. So we were thinking about how to bring it even further. So actually, through APIs, we can connect to data provided by all kinds of market research companies like Nielson or Gartner. So we can extract data or download data to the APIs and the benchmark it's. Did the survey results that we were getting for this particular company that is being audited. So, in that case, the client can have a very clear understanding of how do they perform and how do similar other companies perform. So these are very important insights for the company to know, so they can really understand that. Let's say those values that they want to communicate are relevant. How would other people rate? What is the first impression experience? Are they demonstrating those competencies that that matter, let's say, for example, in a B2B environment so yeah, in my opinion, having a brand, though, is very important, but it's actually also very important to have a proper brand of it that is really answering those questions that a company should be asking, which is just how they are perceived by their target audience?

KRISTINA: So, one of the things that always bothers me about audits is that they're so great about spotting issues after the fact. How do you help businesses change their behavior to shift from making missteps online to producing content and campaigns and marketing properties that have integrity from the get-go that are on brand? Or is that really not the intent of an audit?

DANIEL: Yeah, they do offer some level of consultation regarding how to fix their issues. But those that we are producing actually outlining issues quite clearly. So, I don't know if you have seen some of the audit templates, but some of our roles have almost 50 or 60 points that are being analyzed. So it's quite a good breakdown. Let's say, for example, if the tone of voice is rated to be poor, and then the company can understand that they need to work on their tone of voice. And in each of the reports, when those people who we asked through the surveying, they can actually give their feedback. So they can actually leave some comment about what they didn't like about a particular aspect.

KRISTINA: So do you see it more as a circular process where a brand will actually audit their online brand, if you will, and then they'll change or tweak their behaviors and processes. And then they'll continue to do audits. Do you have to do them? How often do you have to do an audit even?

DANIEL: We would recommend having all this until it's not satisfying. So, that's it; there is a company that never did a brand audit previously. It's very recommended for them to do one. So once they have the results, they can have an understanding of their performance. So, in my opinion, companies should be taking brand audits it's until their brand's performance is not satisfying. This means that when they take the first audit, they are going to see quite a few problems. Some companies who do their brand naturally are going to see fewer issues, other ones who were not really putting too much effort into managing their brand until the point, of course, they are expected to have more issues. So let's say they find solutions for those problems, and they are going to make the necessary adjustments and necessary changes in their marketing communications strategy. Perhaps they do some sites rebranding. Then a couple of months later, they can take the next brand audit to measure the results of the changes. It is recommended that taking the regular audit before carrying out a major rebranding or any major changes. So the companies can really understand that what they do need to change and not to change something that was already working.

KRISTINA: Are there general patterns that you've seen in your audits? Are there certain things that strong brands are doing consistently well that other people should take note of, or conversely, are there things that you're seeing people generally not doing well that they should really step up to?

DANIEL: In my observation, what I have seen is that brands who are very successful with their marketing communications and they can maintain close, meaningful relationships with their customers. I will say they have a very good understanding of what really matters for the customers. I mean, by those brands were not performing very well. They are not listening to their customers. They are not trying to put themselves into their customer's shoes. And not putting any efforts into trying to understand that's what they're their problems what are their difficulties what makes them seeking for a solution or what is that person's intent? They are quite distanced from their target market, actually. Meanwhile, those companies, who are spot on? They have a very good understanding, a very up-to-date understanding of what their customers go through and why do they need that?

KRISTINA: We've seen quite a few things that worked during this COVID pandemic. Historically we've seen brands like Nike with its Kaepernick ad take a risk that propels the brand forward. But at the time, it's not a sure bet. You're taking a chance or a risk. How does that work with audits? Should businesses basically be doing an audit regularly to try and peg the market? And how does that work when you want to do a campaign, and you don't necessarily know how it's going to land? It's a risk.

DANIEL: Well, I think we get back to the same topic we've been discussing before. If if a company, if the marketing management understands that what their target audience is thinking about different topics or they have an understanding of how likely they are going to react negatively or positively to a campaign. Then it makes the planning so much easier. If those companies do not have this understanding and are just going to try random things, or they have an idea of which they assume that it's going to be good, they actually don't have any evidence or don't have any. Calculated risk or probability of how likely it's going to turn out good or bad then, of course, the risk of failure will be higher. So, I'm not sure that the brand audit would be the right tool to get sufficient information to plan such a campaign. I would really suggest brands, I mean, brand managers and companies who take their brand seriously. To keep an eye on things, to listen to their customers, collect feedback, and, possibly, ask them how they would feel about the campaign.

KRISTINA: Are there tools that promise brand audits, and they promote brand audits and online quality. How do you see tools either complimenting a human audit or can we actually replace humans? Kind of insights and audits with tools themselves. I mean, AI is quite advanced now. So can you maybe talk a little bit about the sort of the tool versus the human aspect of auditing?

DANIEL: Well, in my opinion, automation, AI, and all kinds of algorithms can help to process brand audits and to conduct audits, but. Since we are still trying to sell things for people, we try to do business with people through our companies and brands. So it's very important to get real human feedback. Yes, in our company brand audit, we use a high level of automation and minimal AI, very minimal unrestricted AI to conduct the brand audits. And that is mostly limited to data processing. And to automate those repeating tasks that would take a lot of time for a human to do so. All the information that we present in the reports is based on human feedback. And I think that this should be the case. Unless we start to sell things to bots and algorithms...

KRISTINA: ...hopefully not any time soon. Right?

DANIEL: Yeah. Yeah. Who knows what the future is going to bring, but we are still doing business with people; in my opinion, automation and making use of AI purposefully is very good. It's really good because it can have so much, but we are still human doing business with other human beings. So I think the most important feedback that we can get is from other people.

KRISTINA: That was helpful to understand. And actually, as you were speaking, I was wondering to myself, when, let's say, a multinational is undertaking a brand audit, is it important because people are different from market to market? How important is it to really target the local market? How do you advise global brands to go about doing audits with such a diverse marketplace?

DANIEL: They really need to break down their auditing efforts to the region by region or cultural segments. Actually to a very interesting topic. So, in my opinion, if a company would want to put efforts into any market, they need to analyze them separately.

KRISTINA: And so that brings up the issue too, I guess, of, the opportunity versus the brand safety. You mentioned protecting IP and really helping to ensure that the brand resonates in a marketplace, but brand safety is about so much more than that, right? It's about not just the perception. People have of a brand, but also how do you deal with advertising? What about privacy aspects? It's all of the traditional digital policies wrapped up into one big one from a brand perspective because the reputation is on the line. How does that play out during audits? Do you see many organizations paying attention to all of those aspects, or is it just sort of the softer side or what I call, the softer side, which is how do things resonate with the end-user?

DANIEL: Well, it's different from company to company. Personally, I mostly worked with smaller companies, small, medium enterprises, and startups who have limited resources for such things. But when I was consulting for bigger companies or actually I was involved in any marketing and branding-related projects, in some larger companies, yes. Over there, it's, it's definitely a priority.

KRISTINA: You just mentioned the startup world. We talked about this, we touched upon it earlier, but within the startup space, what are the key aspects of the brand that they need to get right? What things from the get-go need to be installed in a place that you can't uninstall later? Or are there even things like that?

DANIEL: It's a good question, actually. Most of the time, I was involved with the tech startups, and I, I'm sorry to say something like this, but those people are very technology-minded and have a minimal affinity to design and...

KRISTINA: ...it just has to be functional. And it has to be technically exciting...

DANIEL: Well, I have noticed that they started to produce different solutions to many things, and all look the same. All of them like having the same onboarding procedure; all of them promise the same things, increase your conversion rates, get leads to automate your Facebook campaign. I think you have seen hundreds of these, and you cannot even distinguish what is by rich, which one you should subscribe for. They are priced the same $20, a hundred dollars, or 150 for the premium package. So actually all of them, they look very much the same. What is very important for startups is to have a personality, a brand personality, which resonates with the target audience. Because of the debts, they can stand out more than standing out with the technical features or communicating the benefits and things like that. I would suggest that startups focus on having a brand personality, and they're going to achieve it either by creating it themselves or in the community, talking about them. Or to media, but I think that they should have it defined at a very early stage to stand up.

KRISTINA: You make it sound very, very simple because you say it's so fast. But I'm wondering how hard it is for brands to understand their own brand and their own brand value? Can an organization undertake its own brand audit? I've seen online articles that say yes, go for it. Here's the framework, but how well does that work?

DANIEL: Okay, so somebody can carry out the brand audit, but the results are going to be questionable. Considering that, I would assume that most people in a marketing team have their own opinions and assumptions. They should be changing or how they should be doing their brand that will be reflected in the results. Either this, that fate I would say that they can carry out to brand audit. But they need to separate the results and separate the process from their own opinions because that's how it goes wrong. Actually, I have been involved with dozens of marketing teams in the past years. And most of the time, what I see is that they all have their opinions and. The social media team, the digital marketing guy, and the marketing leader have totally different opinions. And usually, it's going to be what the big boss is saying, either the owner of the company or the highest-ranking person in the marketing team, and the others are going to execute it in certain ways. But, but most of the time, it's gone wrong. If somebody is going to do on brand audit within the organization, most likely it's going to offend other people either will prove that they have been doing things wrong is going to prove that the leadership was not very good. Or for example, the original concepts were not good. So, it can create a lot of conflict within the organization, in my opinion. And also, it can create a lot of bias in the results. So I would suggest that if they do it, do the audit so that they are asking their target audience to launch their own surveys. They can do their data collection on their own. That's fine. But they make sure that their opinions, those personal subjective opinions, are a hundred percent excluded from the dictation. I think that's a good way to do it. Otherwise, if they would like to analyze their results and they would like to analyze their performance and coming to assumptions. I would definitely not suggest

KRISTINA: That makes sense. I was looking at your motto. Your motto is doing average things will get you average results. Exceptional results require exceptional efforts. When we talk about exceptional in the context of brands, does that also mean high effort, or what do you mean by exceptional?

DANIEL: Hmm, exceptional. I would say not really reflecting that the intensity, but the way of doing things. I think it's more about efficiency and results and the impact other than doing more. Although doing more is often on the same page with these things. Actually, this is something that my mother used to tell me when I was like 10, 15 years younger. And it was really encouraging me. To do more and to do things better than others and, yes, truly doing average things, let's say doing things, how other people are doing their things. Managing a brand like how the competitor is managing the brand is going to be a recipe for mediocrity because it's not going to make the company stand out. If they want to do better, if they want to look better, if they want to connect with the same target, be more efficient than the competitors in that space, they need to find better ways to do things. They need to have a better understanding. They need to understand that what the competitors are failing at, what are their weak points. And then they need to see how to be better in those points. And quite often, they need to redefine how they do things.

KRISTINA: So that's making me think about a very specific use case. And I want to bring this up to you and hear your thoughts on this. I was talking to my mom two days ago. My mother lives in Croatia. She ended up buying a bed and the bed. Interestingly enough, as she purchased it through a company that allows for online. Credit card processing, but because of how they do the delivery, she had to go in person to the store instead. And in a, to be sitting in, in Northern Virginia, close to Washington, DC, it just seems ridiculous, right? Like why, if you can actually process a credit card online, do you have to go into the store physically? And so one of the things she pointed out to me, which I often forget living in the United States, is that's just how it works. All of the companies work like that. As you're talking about, I'm wondering, really kind of having these exceptional results, because you're doing exceptional work or you're putting an exceptional effort, how do brands challenge themselves to really do that exceptional work? When everybody around them is really doing average. Like, what is the motivators that you see that really kind of help take the brand to the next level? Or is that just something that you have or don't have?

DANIEL: Yeah, actually, it's a very good question. And it's very good that we cover this topic because I have some very nice examples of this. So, if there is a competitive environment, then most companies they will think about, they will think about how to be empowered with the competitors. They are not really going to think about how to overcome the competition. They are not going to think about how they can really rise above and be the best. They are going to be competing on those things that all the other competitors are competing about those companies who actually challenge themselves and who want to stand out in some ways, they are going to find out how they can position themselves, that they are going to be seen as a much better option compared to anyone else. They need to understand what their customers want, how they can solve their customer problems the most efficiently, or provide maximum value or excitement or whatever value to their customers, whatever business they are in. They need to present themselves as that company. So they are going to become the most attractive option among all the others. I was working on the modules related to marketing things. And over there, most of the resources they are coping in each other. They really copy each other. Let's say, for example, one of them is starting a social media campaign. Then one month later, the entire industry is going to do the same social media campaign. Some of them are like having new websites, and then the next website of most of the other companies will be something like that. So this was going on for approximately seven, eight years since the digital revolution started over there. And last year, quite a few new resorts have opened. And some of them opened with entirely new concepts. They were not among the rest, but they were so much above them that they gained extreme popularity just a couple of months from their opening. Those leading resorts known for certain things become very quickly insignificant compared to those brands. Because they were standing for something, so that was an island that was more about art, the other was more about relaxation. Yeah. In a way that it was very jungle, like, and they were communicating it very efficiently, and many times I was like in conversations with people who are working in the Maldives. They didn't even know about the website. They didn't even visit the website, actually, but they knew exactly what that company is standing for. But that's the team is, and they really wanted to have a visit there. So it's very interesting actually, and those other companies who were standing for luxury white sand beaches, and all the other things that are very typical for these. Those become so boring compared to these new companies nobody was talking about them anymore. And actually, if you are following the Google searches in Google trends, we could also see that those new resorts who get their concept, right. And then they were doing their communication right. They have such a spike and such increased traffic for their brand-related keywords. And those companies who are trying to push the old things. They have brand eroding.

KRISTINA: That brings us, I think, directly back to what you said earlier, which is an exceptional effort for exceptional results. That's a good definition. Daniel, it's been such a pleasure; this is a great discussion. It's really wonderful to hear about what it really takes for brands to be exceptional. And how really tactically to go about auditing for your personal and really for your company brand. So appreciate your time.

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