Getting it Right — Choosing the best Brand/Design Firm
Brand consultancy is still largely craft-based activity, and the consultants themselves vary a good deal. Most are small and independent. There are bigger consultancies with a "safe" look and feel, however, their work is often bland and unimaginative.
The bigger ones are likely to be obsessed with process and so often complex jargon creating unnecessary mystery. The bottom line is however much process is involved, the best work comes from inspired thinking in both strategy and high-end well crafted design.
When you choose a company to work with make six judgement calls.
— Are the branding consultants intelligent enough to understand my business?
— Who are the designers and strategists I am going to be dealing with?
— Is there personal chemistry between you?
— Do I understand what I'm getting for my money?
— Are they great designers with fresh ideas and can they write about my firm's products and services with crisp clarity?
— Do they understand the world of digital and offer me something which will disrupt my competitors?
Every pitched offering to you will show process and good work from elsewhere, other case studies. However, the Achilles to look for in every case model you view is their ability to crack the core idea in the category.
If you've seen it before then it's not a brand.
If you've heard this story before then it's 'me too' wallpaper which will never be noticed. You want an agency with both immense intellect as well as being distinctive designers. Whilst design awards are some measure, the important views to gain in your judgement is, did the core idea resonate with consumers, with distinctive clarity, was the design beautiful and what did it do for the company in the category.
Advertising agencies would say they're brand experts, but invariably lack the intellectual patience to stand back far enough in the category or deliver highly crafted design. Their best use is to roll out your brand with tactical interpretations based on your blueprint. It's no secret why they’d rather use the title of planners than strategists.
The climate is changing fast where customers are looking for clarity and when they fail to find it they will reject your brand.
Many companies we find have too many brands, outlying orphans and historic anomalies, which should be unified. The key is to have an all pervasive value proposition and structured architecture which groups your different offerings within it.
Like building a baby it's usually the same gestation. A one-off investment with tweaks every few years. The returns will take 3 to 5 years so it's not for the fainthearted. You should capitalise the change cost and amortise it over time.
The rewards will be better revenue and more sustainable margins which should begin kicking in year two.
If you can time a new product in re-launching your brand then such innovation helps to underpin your new value proposition. Of course you're going to be concerned at what its going to cost you. There is only one reliable way to establish the value of your brand and it is to see what people will pay for it. If it doesn't achieve a premium in your category or at worst arrest market share loss then don't invest.
My experience over many years suggests price premiums are possible in the category of upwards from 8% in commodities to as high as 25% in value added products.
The only two major risks in brand investment are to under deliver the promise, or launch a brand and not sustain it through good management and continuing energy.