The city of Atlanta has a good number of really strong branding agencies. And in the over 20 years of being part of the design and branding community, we have started to notice a shortcoming in the services provided by many of them. This deficiency isn’t as critical for a branding agency’s larger clients who have the staff, money, and experience to activate and manage a brand. But most small to mid-sized growing companies are given the brand components without guidance or direction in how to move forward. Because of this miss, we’ve come up with a few ways we feel a branding agency can better set up their clients for success when implementing a new brand.
1. Educate clients on all that truly comprises their brand.
Many companies see “a brand” as their logo and maybe their website. And yes, while these are a critical part of your brand story, your brand really is the experience your client has with you. Think of it as what a client might share with a friend if they are recommending you. This advocacy is built from many touchpoints with your team and marketing materials through their unique journey. This includes your sales collateral, your social sites, your videos, your sales team, your support team, all digital correspondence, your retail and/or office space and so much more. Your logo supports your brand, but your brand is so much more. A good branding agency should be able to explain this concept clearly to their clients.
2. Be an advisor, not an order taker.
Unfortunately, many branding agencies create a brand based only on the input and guidance from the client themselves. If I had a nickel for how many times I have heard from a client, “Yeah, but I REALLY know my customer so there is no need to talk to them.” Sorry y’all, this just isn’t true. Your clients will never tell you the entire truth. Any branding agency who does not do their own research is setting themselves up to be your vendor and not your partner. We have NEVER done research for our clients and not walked away with some golden nugget they had never heard or would have considered.
3. Don’t let agency “red-tape” interfere with the creative communications.
Okay, don’t get us wrong, Account Executives are valuable, but we believe their role within a branding agency should be different from what is traditionally found at most creative, marketing, and advertising agencies.
We intentionally structure our client communications to be creative led. This means a creative presents the work, receives feedback, and communicates directly with our clients. We feel this arrangement is critically important to the quality of work we produce. All too often client feedback is filtered through a non-visually creative mind. To no fault of their own, this is what a traditional Account Executive role is for, but there are some important nuances that can’t help but be lost in translation. Often an Account Executive cannot educate their client on the details of design choices and rationale that are behind the concepts. While we do have non-creative and client services members on our team, they will never be tasked to be a gatekeeper for presenting creative or relaying client feedback to the creative team.
4. Create brands that embrace the ever-changing nuances of today’s marketplace.
Brands need to be fluid and flexible to survive in today’s digital world. The days of a creating just a vertical and horizontal version of your logo are gone. It seems nearly every few months a new technology or social platform is coming onto the scene which requires your brand to fit within their unique guidelines. And beyond favicons and app icons, brands need to be able to flex with design and social trends. Yes, all brands should have their foundational colors, standards, and visual elements, but if your brand does not acknowledge the current mindset of today’s marketplace, then your brand will become perceived as stale or outdated. A branding agency should be able to create a full brand ecosystem that provides visual consistency across all platforms.
5. Be flexible and provide creative solutions when it comes to cost, process, and timelines.
Most companies that would truly benefit from a strong brand can’t afford a six-to-nine-month timeline or the associated fees that many branding agencies require to execute their “proprietary” process. These factors often price many branding agencies out of consideration, leaving these companies resorting to less-strategic approaches or trying to create things internally. We have seen this as a common pain point, but we’re going to let you in on a secret: every branding agency follows basically the same process regardless of what name they give it.
While we have a tried-and-true approach that we follow when creating a brand, we can scale our scope of work up or down, being sensitive to what the client can afford, or to address other variables that may be in play. Sure, there comes a point where you can’t compromise what the process deserves. We feel that every client can have a well-thought-out brand, not only those with deep pockets.
We realize there is a time and place for branding agencies that spend over six months and charge more than $100k to create a brand. But there are several companies out there that would benefit greatly from a strategically well-positioned brand who just can’t afford that kind of engagement. And honestly, it’s not a bad idea to build a brand in phases, and let your customer and industry organically inspire the finer details as the brand grows in your space. This is what can really allow your brand to connect with your customer.
How to select the right partner.
To help your brand thrive you need a creative partner that understands that your brand is a living entity that grows and responds to its environment, and not a finite deliverable that can be handed over and considered “complete”. So be sure to partner with a branding agency that takes the time to understand your unique situation, asks you what constitutes success in your eyes, and looks to bring additional value and knowledge to the process beyond what you currently understand.
And wherever possible, metrics should be put in place to measure how the brand is performing. How is your client engaging with your messaging? What questions are they asking that may lead you to realize your message was not as clear as you thought it was? Have your clients asked questions that highlight an area of concern that has been overlooked? This next level of brand activation, how your brand walks and talks in your customer’s journey, is what truly defines the best brands of the world.
If you’re interested to see if we may be a good fit for your own branding needs, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.