How to Choose a Branding Agency?

If you’ve been in marketing and communications long enough, then when I say that the term ‘branding agency’ is somewhat confusing, you will know what I am talking about.

Traditionally there were some clear differences between the activities and deliverables of advertising agencies, design studios, direct marketers, media consultants, management consultants and public relations firms. These days we need to add digital or web-based firms to the mix, as well as media owners, bloggers, events, exhibitions, social media agencies, meeting planners, architects, interior architects, signage consultants who all overlap and want to own the ‘brand’ word. They may not say it directly, but they all see themselves, as the experts in delivering a specific ‘brand’ experience be it channel specific.

For what it’s worth, here is my three-step approach to finding the right ‘branding agency’:

1. Look for a branding agency that is channel neutral.

By that I mean, not a digital firm that wants to sell you a website, or an advertising agency that wants to sell you an TVC; or a PR firm that wants to sell you a press conference. OK, I am being a little over simplistic with blurred lines between the activities aforementioned. It’s a cacophony out there, but with a channel neutral partner, they should consider the appropriate channels to work with as oppose to being bias. Brand is not about a quick fix. It’s bigger than a tactical communications solution – by definition; brand is the management’s long-term strategy for the protection and exploitation of intangible assets for commercial gain. In other words, it’s you, it’s your reputation and it’s your behavior – a channel should not define you.

2. Look at the people that will actually provide the work.

I sat outside a client’s boardroom the other day, waiting our turn to present ourselves to the potential new client. As the other agency finished its presentation and were exiting, my colleague pointed out the guy they call the ‘Pitch-Meister’ – the one they bring in to win the business. So, guess you meet the ‘A Team’ and then after appointment, you get to work with the ‘B Team’. Doesn’t really work for me. Looking at their credentials can also be deceiving, as they may have changed their key personnel, but show you work that wasn’t done by the current team. Ask to see the team that will actually do the work.

3. Look at the culture and size of the branding agency.

Find an agency that fits well with your business culture and size. That does not mean that niche agencies cannot work with big clients. It all depends upon their resources and their commitment to your challenge. However, at the other end of the spectrum, in general, small clients don’t really work well with large agencies (unless its pro bono). A good fit can be felt at your face-to-face meeting. Good chemistry is really important, especially when you are dealing with highly strategic issues that will involve the boardroom. You want a team that will be able to articulate the challenge, deliver the solution and work effectively with the board and the senior management, as well as being able to cascade this to all aspects of your business – be it motivating the sales team, repositioning the business in the eyes of your key stakeholders, changing the structure of the business to be true to the promise it needs to fulfill. You don’t want an order-taker. You need a strategic adviser.

Hopefully, you will find the right one. If you get stuck and need some further help, please give me a call on +65 9673 1452