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What to Look for in a Branding Agency

November 21, 2019

by Marissa Ryan

Co-Founder at VisualFizz, Digital Marketing Consultant

This is a no-nonsense guide to choosing the best branding agency for your business because rebranding is always more expensive than getting it right the first time.

Updated April 28, 2022

Imagine that teams representing ten branding agencies are sitting in your lobby waiting to pitch their proposal. How will you narrow down your list?

To narrow down your list of branding agency candidates, consider how you were first contacted and solicited for the opportunity to pitch. 

  • How smoothly does the agency interact with your business?
  • How timely are their responses? 
  • Did they provide all of the requested information? 

These first few interactions can give you a sense of how the agency would interact with your business long-term. 

Narrowing down your list of potential agencies can help you find the right branding agency for your business and future brand. 

What Does a Branding Agency Do?

Looking to hire a branding agency? First, you have to break down what a branding agency can do for your business.

Branding is the process of creating and developing a company’s brand. This includes naming, brand identity, messaging, and other factors.

Branding agencies create, plan, and measure these initiatives for companies. Their job is to communicate how your value is unique to prospective buyers and competitors. 

How to Hire a Branding Agency

  1. Look for a diverse branding portfolio
  2. Look for an excellent branding reputation
  3. Look for regular communication
  4. Look for a well-defined branding process
  5. Look for proof of brand success
  6. Look for total investment over initial cost

Look for a Diverse Branding Portfolio

A diverse portfolio is one of the first things to look for when choosing a branding agency. 

Every branding agency will tell you they’re the best in your industry, but a diverse portfolio is proof of the agency’s level of expertise, making it possible to define expectations. 

A diverse portfolio should show a range of brands and styles.

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. Be sure to ask for specific examples of innovation and creativity in their work.

In addition to a diverse portfolio of clients, the branding agency you choose should also show cross-channel versatility and the ability to maintain brand voice across social media channels and platforms.

Look for an Excellent Branding Reputation

Always ask the agencies you are considering whether they have the right expertise to run a branding campaign in your industry. 

Remember, the goal is to find an agency that is able to use their expertise in your industry to create unique, usable content that improves the messaging, design, and outlook of your business.

Read this: 'Social Media & Globalization: 3 Iconic Social Campaigns'

Stop only considering candidates that show great expertise in a niche industry but fail to recognize the unique aspects of your business and industry. 

Look for Regular Communication

If an agency checks the boxes for a diverse portfolio, the right expertise, and the ability to communicate through the pitching process, they must also show they can communicate over the long term.

Communication may come in the form of updates, status calls, or check-ins, but should always be collaborative, instructive, and proactive. 

Agency communication should also include a thorough explanation of long term goals, short term expectations, and a breakdown of how their team plans to meet them. 

Additionally, the team in your office pitching their service is not necessarily the team who will be working on your brand. Though this may seem a small detail, it is one of many that can gum up the communication process. 

The branding agency you choose should communicate so well that they feel like an extension of your team.

Look for a Well-Defined Branding Process

Successful branding campaigns depend on proven, evidence-based methodologies to craft compelling messaging and authenticate your brand. 

Without a clearly articulated process, a branding agency is only as capable as they are lucky and has no way of repeating the success they had on past campaigns. 

To find a branding agency with a well-defined process and research-based approach, ask: how do they help brands like me differentiate themselves from competitors? 

You’re likely not hiring an agency to do exactly what you say; you hire a branding agency because of the success of the agency’s branding campaigns, the strength of their strategy, and the effectiveness of their execution.

By using data, your agency should push you to address the failures of your past strategies and the inefficiencies in your current branding that are preventing success. Branding is hard, but a well-defined process makes it easy to follow the steps. 

Businesses may start with an initial logo and go through several rounds of logo creation before finalizing the logo concept

The agency should show how they designed the logo and the different iterations it went through.

Like a math student who doesn't understand how they got the right answer, send back agencies who can’t back up their previous success with a note that says, “show your work.”

Additional Reading: 'Old Logos vs. New Logos: Logo Redesigns & Consumer Responses'

Look for Proof of Brand Success

A branding agency should be more than happy to show off their success and elaborate on their expertise. Seek out measurable results like data metrics, analytics, and reports. 

Don’t forget to ask for case studies that detail the return on investment (ROI) a client experienced and the overall success of their branding campaign. 

Case studies also provide insight into what tactics the agency values most based on the metrics they measure. 

Eliminate branding agency candidates with past work that indicates a significant focus on metrics that are strategically irrelevant to your brand. 

Look for Total Investment Over Initial Cost

An agency’s price is a good indicator of the type of relationship you can expect. Ultimately, you get what you pay for. 

Though budget-minded agencies are valuable, a branding agency that understands your business and has the expertise to meet your branding needs is an investment in the success of your brand. 

Rebranding is always more expensive than getting it right the first time. Branding agencies that work with you to craft your messaging, articulate their process, and price their services accordingly are more likely to be successful in the long run.

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. Analyze the big picture, and be clear and upfront about the return you expect from your investment. 

Find an Agency That Will Help You Plan for Long Term Success

If you follow these guidelines, you will find an agency that has the portfolio, expertise, experience, and process to run a successful branding campaign in your industry. 

It’s important to find a branding agency that understands the nuances of your business and can craft them into a message that differentiates you from your competitors, and that’s what branding is all about.

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