Good question. We get asked what do branding agencies do? A lot.
At networking events, on our social media profiles and in client meetings. It’s a valid question and one we’ve got quite good at answering. Practice makes perfect.
What is a Brand?
You’ve probably heard it before, but a logo is not a brand. Why? Because although a logo is needed by every business, it’s not going to win you many customers on its own.
Well known marketing expert Seth Godin defines a brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
In other words, branding creates differentiation in customers’ minds. Whether you’re a B2B brand or selling directly to consumers and end users, decisions are made on who to buy from based on many factors with brand having perhaps the most influence on the final decision. For example, consumers pay more at Waitrose despite many cheaper alternatives on the market. Why? Because people choose to pay more because of what it stands for. Quality, excellent service and a great shopping experience. Waitrose is a brand.
Whenever someone pays more for a product or service they can get cheaper elsewhere, brand value exists.
What is a Branding Agency?
Branding agencies are complex and have come a long way since the naming agencies of the 70’s, when large corporations would give the job of naming products to agencies.
Commonly known as “the Brandfather,” John Murphy is credited with the invention of naming and branding as we know it today. Hobnobs and Homebase are just some of the names John Murphy invented. But his most important work is perhaps the invention of brand valuation, being the first to treat branding like other company assets, and listing it on a company’s balance sheet.
The primary purpose of a branding agency is to create brands, and to maintain and improve them by creating a clear strategy to develop brand perceptions.
What do branding agencies do to create a brand, maintain existing brands and improve them?
Every branding agency is different but if they are any good they will create a plan to manage and measure the performance of your brand. For the purposes of this post we will focus on how we work at LeftMedia.
The LeftMedia 6 Step Branding Process (this is our actual process, feel free to steal it)
- What do we do? This is very much product and service based, the most simple to answer of the 6 questions. We’re asking our own ‘what do branding agencies do?’ question with this one. You should be able to answer this one, for example if you were a car parts manufacturer you could say “I manufacturer brake pads.”
- Who are we here for? This is your target market. Who do you serve? Who do you want to serve? We get really specific here, breaking down demographics such as turnover and location right through to specific customer needs.
- What makes us different? A vital part of any branding agency’s process. The differentiation question. What makes you different to your competitors? Why would someone choose to pay more to work with you? Differences must be differences. The most common answer to this question… “we provide good service” So what? Your competitor down the road says the same thing.
- What’s our personality? This sometimes get a laugh. You can’t talk about a business like it’s a person. Why not? Your prospects and customers do. Using the example of Waitrose again, we would define their brand as sophisticated (a little bit/a lot posh), honest, ethical and knowledgeable. Branding agencies will look at your business objectively, using your target market to match their expectations to your brand personality. If your target market expects a high end experience your personality should match that.
- What do we value the most? These are your values and should match your brand personality. If you’re sell a utilitarian DIY product then a ‘value the butterflies’ quote probably won’t work here. Brand values often direct the business in decisions about which clients to take on and which products and services you will offer. These values will often be shared with your target markets to create deeper relationships.
- Why are we here? All of the questions above lead to this. Why are we here? The question everyone tries to answer in their personal lives, applied to your business. Why do you exist? This isn’t your mission statement. This should be unique to you. Not a generic “we’re here to make our clients lives better.” How? Why? Good branding agencies will work with you to define a clear value proposition that leaves no doubt in your’s or your customer’s minds about what your business was put on this planet to achieve.
Branding Agency Services
Agencies exist in all shapes and sizes. Design agencies help with creative design tasks. An advertising agency will specialise in buying ad space and creating compelling adverts. Branding agencies consider every aspect of your business. Getting to know your business inside out, they consider naming, logos, tone of voice and marketing communication.
Some areas branding agencies specialise in include:
- Market research
- Brand strategy
- Brand identity
- Brand positioning
- Communication strategy
- Strategic branding
- Customer profiles
- Packaging design
Why do successful businesses large and small use branding agencies?
Establishing or rebuilding a brand is a difficult task, often requiring the help of experts. Large and small businesses alike use the services of branding agencies to establish themselves in their markets. The main reasons businesses choose to work with branding agencies include:
- Competitive advantage: Large businesses have been investing in branding for years because they see the difference on their bottom line. Small business markets are becoming increasingly saturated and so differentiation becomes increasingly important. With ‘me too’ businesses popping up almost daily, small businesses who are investing their money with branding agencies are benefiting from competitive advantage
- Speed of change: Although branding and rebranding can be managed in house by marketing departments, branding is a specialised area of marketing requiring many hours of research, design, strategy and thinking. One thing that most businesses don’t have is time. Working with a branding agency can shorten the time taken to get the brand right and start communicating more effectively.
- Reach new target audiences: Often businesses apply a scattergun approach to communicating with their target markets, sending out random emails, calls and printed material in the hope some will stick. Businesses who invest in a relationship with a branding agency create a consistent communications strategy allowing them to communicate with new prospects effectively and efficiently.
What should you look for in a branding agency?
Once you’ve answered the “what do branding agencies do? question (thanks for reading this blog!) and see the value of working with an agency the challenge of finding the right one to work with begins.
- Who are their past clients? Do they have relevant industry experience?
- Look at their branding processes, it shouldn’t be a mythical thing that only Einstein would understand.
- Is there a personality fit? You’re going to have to work with these guys.
- Have a budget in mind. Pricing across the branding agency industry ranges massively from hundreds to hundreds of thousands. Price shouldn’t be your only consideration but the agency needs to be right for your budget.
Branding agencies have been around for years but in that time things have moved on at a rapid pace. One thing that hasn’t changed is the need to invest in branding, even if you just take some time today to sit down and run through the 6 questions of our branding process yourself.
Hopefully we’ve answered the much asked “what do branding agencies do?” question in this post.Finding the right branding agency can be a difficult task so if you have any branding related questions, we’re always up for sharing advice and examples from our experience working with our clients. One of our brand values is to always share our knowledge by being open and helpful.