If you own a car, there are countless ways you can find yourself at a body shop: you back into a fire hydrant, you develop a strange attraction to shopping carts, someone keys your door. You get the idea. Most cars have also become quite good at letting us know when someone needs to look under the hood – idiot lights on the dash, funny sounds, a new smoking habit, or one day it just decides to not move.

Why is it then, that we fail to act when we think—sometimes even know— that our brand is in disrepair? Well, whether it’s an abandoned Buick on the side of the road, or a brand new Prius with a sticky accelerator, there are identifiable indicators that it’s time to make a visit to “the brand shop”. The following are a few things that may light up your brand’s dashboard:

1.  Your market environment has changed. Your customers’ expectations of how a brand in your space looks, means, and behaves has altered. Are you keeping up with it? What your brand offers is still relevant to your customers, but how they think of you (and talk about you) needs to change to allow you to be more competitive.

2.  Your organization is transforming. You may have identified a new line of business, or adopted a new model, new markets may have emerged—your brand has to evolve with these changes, right down to its fundamentals. While you are not remotely a start-up, in many respects you need to act like one. You must carefully identify the perfect positioning, employ the right strategies and develop new messages and digital properties that are in sync with your transformation.

3.  Your competition is more aggressively managing its brand to better connect with your customers and prospects. If someone in your category is creating a lot of buzz, inspiring messaging and visual expression. You need to react before it’s too late. They say in the next five years there will be more change than there were in the last fifty. If your brand foundation and products are sound, you should be able to adapt and manage any change.

4.  Your communications—print, video and digital—just don’t reflect your brand position. If you’re on top of your offerings and operations, but find yourself apologizing for every brochure and URL you hand out, then it’s time to take a new look at how you express yourself visually. There have never been more tools available to you to refresh your brand.

5.  You took a wrong direction. A lot of things can lead us down the wrong path: Misinterpreted research, aggressive purchasing, even a shift in the market. Or maybe you just took a gamble.  At any rate, your brand is currently out of sync with the direction your industry is taking—or more importantly what your customers are wanting. A brand course correction is needed.

6.  Your brand has changed, but the perception hasn’t. Your products/services are in the forefront – you offer great innovations, higher quality and greater value to your customers. But they’re just not getting it. You need to eliminate this lag and allow your company to move forward. The good news is that you have the vision, model and value to fuel new messages, a new visual expression and a brand that will advance your evolved organization.

Once you have identified your ‘flashing sign’, understanding what course you need to take to transform your brand will go a long way towards ensuring the work you undertake will be necessary and effective.  A good full service ‘brand shop’ should help you better understand what’s wrong (diagnostic), what it will take to get you from here to there (planning), which experience will take you to your destination (creative), and how to continuously stay on the right track (stewardship/optimization).