Note: The following is an excerpt from 30 Ideas to Build and Live Your Brand. For a free copy of the complete book, click here.

Your brand is everything your financial institution does and stands for – products and services,

customer service, branch appearance, marketing collateral, employee appearance and even restroom cleanliness. Any one of these details can make or break your brand, which means you need to monitor them regularly and audit them occasionally.

Similar to a marketing audit, a brand audit assesses the marketing collateral in the branches – how you display it, if the look and message are consistent on every piece and whether it is neatly displayed or looks cluttered. In the audits we have conducted for clients, we typically have found too many pieces with a look and message that are all over the board and lack consistency.

Mystery shops by an objective third party (not an existing customer or member) are an important piece of your brand audit. An effective auditor talks to your branch employees, taking note of how they greet people and how they treat people. He or she inquires about products and services and may attempt to open an account. This type of feedback from an objective source goes a long way in helping you measure the true member or customer experience.

Western Sun FCU in Oklahoma gained valuable insight when we evaluated its brand as part of a recent marketing audit. We mystery shopped each of its branches and four of its competitors. In one of its branches, our shopper sat for at least five minutes before anyone acknowledged him. After that initial contact, he waited so long for someone to help him that eventually he left. This is information your brand needs to improve.

“They did a fairly thorough review and were brutally honest with their feedback, which was good,” said Western Sun CEO Rob Taylor. “It wasn’t easy to hear everything they had to say, but it was information we needed to know.”

That’s exactly the point. A brand audit is a performance evaluation for your brand. It gives you the information you need to make the changes that will result in a stronger brand. It’s not about pointing fingers and assigning blame for what isn’t working. It’s an opportunity to shine where you excel and improve where you don’t.

If your financial institution isn’t improving, it’s either embracing status quo or moving backward. Neither of these options results in a strong brand. Think of your brand audit as a GPS. If you start heading in the wrong direction, a brand audit helps you get back on track. It helps your organization be accountable for the details that define your brand.

One of the C’s of a strong brand is consistency. You can say your brand is one thing, but if everything your organization does says something else, you have not created a brand that is meaningful to your customers or members. You haven’t created a strong lasting brand. A branding audit will quickly help you determine where you are today.

For a free copy of 30 Ideas to Build and Live Your Brand, click here.