Market Audit Essay

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A market  audit examines a company from a marketing perspective, just as a financial audit, tax audit, or IT audit examines a company from each of their own perspectives. However, while those audits focus principally on internal data, a market audit gathers a great deal of information from outside the company, in order to compare the company’s performance  and character to those of its competitors.  In this respect it has much in common  with  the  Competitive  Market  Analysis. While other audits may be performed by accountants, a market audit is the work of a marketer.

The questions  asked in a market  audit begin very simply, by identifying  the  type  of organization,  the products or services it sells, and the customers to whom it sells them. These questions can be broken down very specifically, though,  and  as more  and  more  specific answers  are yielded, a clearer  picture  of the  market is created. Two television networks  may seem essentially similar—they both broadcast in the same regions, their programming  includes comedies, dramas, news, and sports, and their flagship programming  airs in the same hours. But a closer look reveals that one network appeals largely to families and older couples, while the other targets a college-age demographic; this information affects advertisers’ decisions about which network to  favor their  advertising  dollars  with, and  the  networks’ own decisions about how to maintain or change their appeal to their demographic.

As much data as possible and relevant is collected, in order to provide points of contrast  between the company and its competitors. How much does the company charge  for its product,  and what is the  comparative value of its competitors product? Pepsi-Cola made its mark in a crowded field of Coca-Cola competitors by charging the same price for its cola but selling it in bottles that were twice the size. When comparing prices, coupons, discounts, and other incentives are taken into account,  as are factors that affect ease of purchase— such as availability, associated costs (a market audit of a resort or tourist  attraction would take into account the cost of travel, and perhaps  the “cost” of using up vacation days). Much of the data will bear on factors that are outside the company’s control, or at least not the result of its choices: both Pepsi and Coca-Cola, for instance, likely sell better  in stores that also sell salty snacks, which affects the market data even though it is not the result of a marketing decision. That they likely sell best in hot  weather  is another  marketing  point; consider Coca-Cola’s long-lived advertising campaign associating the product  with Christmas,  Santa Claus, and polar bears, integrating its image with that of winter festivity and positioning the product with respect to the colder months.

A market  audit  will seek to identify key information to inform the company’s marketing strategy. Is the company an industry leader? Is the general perception of its importance  and leadership proportionate to its market share? How does the public think of the company, and to what demographics does it appeal? (In the case of the two television networks, does the audience perceive that it outgrows one and grows into the other, and if so, does the younger-skewing network want to retain that audience as it matures,  or simply guarantee that there is a constant  flow of new viewers?) The specifics, of course, will always depend on the industry. Market audits may depend  to some extent on classic market  research  tools like customer  satisfaction  surveys, mystery  shopping,  and  price  elasticity testing, and may employ more recent devices such as commercial eye tracking or so-called “coolhunting,” a marketing practice that developed in the 1990s to seek out and lay claim to the cutting edge of youth culture.


  1. Bernard Cova, Robert  Kozinets, and  Avi Shankar,    Consumer    Tribes    (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007);
  2. Peter A. Gloor and Scott M. Cooper, Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing (AMACOM, 2007);
  3. Nick Southgate, “Coolhunting With Aristotle,” International Journal of Market Research Society (v.45, 2003).

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