Insight – 27/04/2023
Before we look at how to choose the best branding agency for you and your company’s needs, lets break down what a branding agency actually does.
You need a strong, distinctive brand to keep your business thriving. A branding agency can help you create a strong, positive perception of a company, its products or services in the customer’s mind by combining such elements as naming, visual brand identity – the visible representation of a brand, from the logo and colors to the website, mission statement, and a consistent theme throughout all marketing communications. In a nutshell, branding is the process of researching, developing, and applying a distinctive feature or set of features to your organisation so that consumers can begin to associate your brand with your products or services. Effective branding helps companies differentiate themselves from their competitors. With all the factors bearing in mind, how do you even begin the process of hiring a branding agency?
Choosing the right branding agency starts with understanding the needs your business is seeking to address. Are you looking for a brand refresh or a full rebrand? Strategic or creative services? The first step is defining what you want to achieve. This will help you determine what you want for your money and give every branding design agency you approach a good solid foundation to present you with realistic options. Examples of common goals for branding projects: Update the brand identity, refine the brand message, increase brand awareness to name a few.
Once you’ve defined your specific branding needs, you can determine which type of agency you’re looking for. If you’ve never looked at hiring an agency before, you might end up confused with all of the different terms around. Do they mean the same thing? Do they provide different services? Unfortunately there is a lot of crossover. While looking for an agency you might find;
It’s important to check what specific services a company provides before making your decision, as despite not being classed as a ‘branding agency’ they might still offer branding services.
You’ll probably start with a Google search: ‘branding agency nearby’ or ‘branding agencies in New Zealand’. Remember that being at the top of Google isn’t just a result of branding success but also artful search engine optimisation. You’ll need to dig deeper to determine if these agencies measure up in the branding world.
If you’ve got a certain agency in mind that you like the look of, or you’ve seen a style that you really think would work on your business, ask! Unless it’s a direct competitor, most companies will be happy to point you in the direction of the agency that did their branding. The best approach is to compare the objectives you set out in the first step with what the agencies on your list can deliver. Do you need animation for your branding? Check whether the branding agency does animation or video. What are the budget limitations? Is this a niche area that requires specialist creative branding and a branding agency with previous experience in the same area?
Every branding project is unique. Your potential new agency will need to have the flexibility to develop a solution that is tailor-made for your business. A diverse portfolio is one of the first things to look for when choosing a branding agency.
A diverse portfolio should show a variety of brands, tones, and styles. Without those expectations, it’s impossible to determine if a branding agency’s expertise aligns with your business needs. It’s not uncommon for branding agencies to focus on a specific type of business. However, that is not to say that an agency that doesn’t have a portfolio piece in your exact sector should be discounted. Quite the opposite—range is good. You will want to select an agency who can display a wide variety of work, diversity and adaptability. This proves that they will be able to tailor a solution specifically to you needs. Most importantly, your agency must thoroughly understand your brand and your goals.
Creating a solid brand, with strong foundations is much more than just a creative brainstorm. The branding process is a combination of investigation, strategic thinking, project management and creativity. This may sound incredibly complex, and for some brands, a very in-depth process is required, however there are many levels on which successful branding can be created. Yes, there is a lot that goes on in the background and yes, there are processes that we, as experienced brand designers follow, but the one thing that we do, is to make sure that the branding process is kept as simple and jargon free as possible for our clients.
You need to make sure that you are selecting the right size agency for your branding project. Some projects will require an agency with a multi-faceted team comprised of strategists, an account team, creative directors, art directors and writers. There is certainly a great deal of comfort in working with a large team. There is also less risk inherent in the outcome. Arguably, there is a significant cost, and longer timelines associated with engaging a large agency.
The alternative is working with a boutique firm that has a proven track record and a portfolio that matches your requirements. Often a boutique studio will be more responsive, less expensive and just as capable as a significantly larger agency as they usually work with a network of talented collaborators and suppliers to meet their clients’ needs.
Another note of importance when determining how much size matters is, who will be working on your project? A large firm will often have many layers between you and the team working for you. When a boutique agency is employed, you generally have a closer working relationship with senior partners and the people actually doing the work. When working with a larger agency you will usually be dealing with account managers.
Don’t let cost be the only influence on your decision. You’re building a long-lasting relationship, and the lowest bidder might not always be the best option. Analyse the big picture, and be clear and upfront about the return you expect from your investment.
Reputable agencies will not post their fees online, and fees for strategy and creative are almost always value-based—meaning the larger the client, the larger the project, the more potential risk – the higher the project fees. It can be daunting to commit to the fees involved in a branding project but it has to be viewed as a long-term investment as opposed to a single outgoing cost.
It is also worth noting that projects are often billed in phases or milestones. Ask your potential agency partner if their proposals include an exit clause should you feel the project is not unfolding as expected.