How can you solve a problem if you don’t fully understand it?

An important, but often overlooked stage in brand strategy, is a diagnosis of the brand. Understanding a brand's health is necessary for any strategy to be effective, and helps make sure brand and marketing investments have the best chance of generating commercial return.

Brand diagnosis isn’t glamorous or shiny like brand campaigns and new product launches, but it’s the real work that will allow you to understand the (truthful) ‘why’ behind your customer behaviour.

It’ll allow you to audit the thousands of actions and decisions being made in your company and work out what’s helping, or holding back brand growth. It’ll also help you to understand the trajectory of the brand, allowing you to work out the best way to make it relevant today.

A brand diagnosis is a strategic process that evaluates the health and performance of a brand. It involves analysis of the brand's current position, how it is perceived, its commercial effectiveness, and the depth of its connection with various groups like customers, employees, partners, and other key groups.

The process analyses both internal (business/brand) and external (category, consumer, competition, culture) factors. By actively listening to feedback and analysing data, you can identify potential issues and opportunities early on, based on shifts in behaviour, sentiment, and language. From the evaluation, brand opportunities and challenges become clear, as well as the areas for improvement. Often these can be a company's 'blind spots' — hidden, not obvious, or unexamined areas that are commonly present.

It can be challenging for companies to find the time and resources to conduct a diagnosis, and biases can also inadvertently skew perceptions and interpretations of data, further complicating the process.

A diagnosis needs to be structured, the project lead must have expertise in data collection and interpretation, and be aware of blind spots or biases that may exist within the organisation.

A good brand diagnosis should include:
  • An in-depth internal and external brand audit

  • Revisit of the ‘why’: brand origin, archives, founding team

  • Stakeholder workshops and interviews

  • Category, brand, and cultural research (qualitative and quantitative)

  • Community analysis and panels

The evaluation involves all departments that have responsibility and influence in delivering a consistent brand experience; Leadership, Marketing, Sales, Customer Experience, People, Product, and Operations. Once the results are clear, internal adjustments can be made to ensure that what the brand communicates externally is lived up to internally, and external adjustments can be made to increase the chances of above-average efficacy.

Understanding your brand's current perception can guide the creation or evolution of your brand positioning, keeping it relevant and memorable.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your brand experience can help shape your customer experience strategy, allowing you to enhance areas that customers value and improve areas that are lacking.

A brand diagnosis can also influence your messaging by highlighting what aspects of your brand are most meaningful to your audience.

Great brands are persistent in their pursuit to understand their customers and consistently analyse the factors helping or hindering their growth. A diagnosis should be taken as the first step in brand strategy and then revisited annually to support the cycle of learning, adapting, and improving. This helps increase the commercial resilience of the brand and improves return on brand and marketing investment.

A brand diagnosis can have an immediate commercial impact. A well-known brand, they were dealing with a 12-month period of declining revenue. We undertook a comprehensive 360-degree diagnosis to identify where they're underperforming, how they can strengthen their brand, and better serve their customer.

Within just six months, the brand saw a revenue increase of 147% reversing the previous 12-month decline. Today, the insights and data from the brand diagnosis continue to inform their strategic conversations and planning.