If you’re the CEO of a company in need of a brand refresh or a rebrand, you’ve got some big decisions to make. Similarly, if you’re a marketing executive trying to convince your CEO that hiring a branding agency is the right move, you should be prepared to present a rock-solid case. The question on the floor in both scenarios goes something like this: Why do we need to hire a branding agency? Can’t our current marketing agency or internal marketing team handle a rebrand?
To answer these questions, it’s important to start with an understanding of exactly what branding is—and what it is not. Specifically…
Branding is Not Marketing (and Vice Versa)
Branding and marketing are two interdependent yet distinct areas of expertise. Neither is necessarily more valuable than the other, but the differences between them are important.
Branding defines who you are as a company by asking the big questions:
- Why are you in business beyond making money?
- What is your company’s mission, vision and core values?
- Who is your ideal customer? Why do they buy from you?
- What is your brand’s optimal market position?
- How do you make and keep your brand promise?
- What is your brand essence?
Branding defines your company at the most fundamental level by answering these important questions and more. By contrast, marketing gives you the tools to communicate the answers to these questions to your audience. Branding is the long game, the big-picture strategy that effective marketing campaigns are built on. Over years of consistent, reliable customer experience, branding creates the value that marketing is designed to extract.
The Value of a Branding Agency
To further understand why hiring a branding agency is a smart decision for any company in need of a rebrand, it helps to take a look at the unique areas of value that a branding firm can offer.
A Strategic, Unbiased Perspective
Rebranding isn’t the type of initiative that can be successfully accomplished by an internal marketing team—even the best marketing team. A rebrand requires a big-picture, strategic approach, as well as an outside perspective. It isn’t realistic to expect an internal marketing team to do an objective assessment of the brand they’ve helped to shape.
Nor is it possible for such a team to survey the competitive landscape from an unbiased standpoint. The very things that make an internal marketing team valuable for an organization (passion for their work and dedication to their company) make them unsuited to the task of optimally repositioning it within the competitive landscape. This something best left to a third-party expert.
A branding agency’s ability to do a big-picture analysis of your organization from an all-important objective perspective is what allows them to bring your brand to life in dynamic fashion.
Most branding agencies also offer the benefit of having worked in a broad cross-section of industries. An internal marketing team is designed to specialize in its given industry, which is great for marketing purposes. Branding requires a broader perspective, however, because your brand isn’t confined to the industry in which it operates. Brands affect and are affected by stakeholders across business, political, social, and cultural spheres.
Cross-industry experience enables branding agencies to bring new ideas into an industry. It’s only with this type of fresh perspective that many brands are able to meaningfully differentiate themselves from the competition. Just because an agency’s portfolio doesn’t include direct experience in your industry should never be reason enough to rule them out as a partner. What’s more important is their proven ability to solve the unique challenges of brands across a broad spectrum of industries.
Unique and Proven Expertise
Just as branding is distinct from marketing, branding agencies offer unique areas of expertise that you won’t find working with a digital marketing firm or an internal marketing team. Critically, branding agencies provide best-in-class research, strategy and identity services.
Research is critical to rebranding. Very few companies have an in-house market research team and not many marketing agencies provide these services either. When it comes to the strategy required for a rebrand, there’s a big difference between a brand strategist and marketing strategist. The latter is a critical role if you hope to get the most out of your new brand after you launch it. But only the former can provide the big picture expertise needed to identify opportunities for differentiation within the competitive landscape and optimally position your brand for long-term success.
Finally, the type of design expertise needed to create a powerful corporate identity is not within the wheelhouse of most graphic designers—even talented individuals who have decades of design experience under their belt. When you hire a branding agency, you get a design team that specializes in the creation of dynamic brand identities founded on research and strategy.
Beyond their individual talents, a branding agency’s team has likely worked on dozens, if not hundreds, of rebranding projects before yours. They’ve developed a well-established process over the course of those projects, fine-tuning it along the way. By hiring a branding agency, your company gets to reap the benefits of that process, which means you’re less likely to encounter the type of expensive and time-consuming slipups that can happen with a less qualified partner.
Ongoing Brand Management
A branding agency’s value will remain long after you launch your new brand. In fact, all your marketing efforts will be more effective—and therefore less expensive—following a rebrand. In addition to giving you more bang for your marketing buck, however, a branding agency represents an invaluable partner long after your rebrand is complete.
No one will know your brand better than the agency that partners with you to define it. With this in-depth familiarity, a branding agency can help orchestrate the creation of powerful marketing campaigns designed to amplify competitive differentiation and solidify positioning. When it comes to marketing, nothing is more important than a cohesive and consistent experience across touchpoints. For businesses whose model doesn’t include an all-important brand manager position, a branding agency can serve as just that, ensuring that your brand is reliably maintained well into the future.
Entrepreneur, author, and activist Dan Pallotta once said, “Brand is everything, and everything is brand.” This might sound like a lofty assertion, but in a sense it’s true. Your brand is how your company is perceived—by its customers, its employees, its shareholders, the media, and the world at large. In an age when perception is reality, your brand is your company’s most important asset. For this reason, when it comes to your brand it’s critical to partner with an expert. Why hire a branding agency? The better question might be: why would you want to hire anyone else?