In today’s day and age, “branding” unfortunately seems to be just another buzzword that gets lost in the midst of leadership and marketing conversations.
A brand, however, isn’t just a logo and the concept of branding doesn’t stand alone. Your brand—and the conditions refined within them—should stretch horizontally throughout your entire business. This obviously isn’t something that can be taken lightly, especially when you consider that an ideal brand will touch everything.
With that in mind, the branding process can be daunting to approach whether you’re building or rebuilding your identity. It’s for this reason that it’s a wise to invest in recruiting trained professionals to oversee, guide or actively lead your efforts.
In your search, you’ll probably try your hand at narrowing down the selections on Google. You’ll try certain terms and begin examining the options. But when you’re looking at these options, what should you be looking for?
Here’s what to look for in a Pittsburgh branding agency:
#1: A Branding Process
The foremost item you should be able to cross off of your list is a branding agency’s process. A developed process is important for two reasons.
1.) Process Means Structure
Firstly, a developed process indicates that the agency has a framework for guiding you to your ideal brand identity.
Some may argue that brand cultivation should be a “free-flowing,” process-less chain of ideas and events. I’m not advocating against out-of-the-box ideas, but it’s difficult to channel creative ideas without a way to guide your thinking.
Brand development often involves key members of an organization in one room. Without a structure, what tends to happen is what I like to call the “boardroom squabble,” which is a vomit of every possible problem each team member can think of. Although it can reveal a lot about the needs of a business, when left unchecked it becomes a spiraling conversation that strays from the task at hand—brand development.
An agency should be able to channel these disagreements and perceptions constructively to help steer the future of the brand.
2.) Process Sets Expectations
Secondly, a process helps you know what to expect from the service provider you’re working with.
A branding agency’s process enables an agency to be able to give an educated guess on several important factors that every business needs to know.
Two of these vital items are: how much it will cost and how long it will take.
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#2: Boardroom Manner
Branding requires involvement from an organization’s key team members. As I mentioned above, what often happens when all these team members assemble in one room is absolute chaos.
A concern of yours as you evaluate your possible partners is how well a branding agency can control a boardroom. They need to be able to mediate the conversation and continue directing it towards an end goal. Your time is valuable, so your branding partner should be able to make the most out of it.
#3: Strong Copywriting Talent
A red flag is an agency who claims to do “branding,” but doesn’t have impressive copywriting capabilities.
50-percent of all branding is writing. Once you establish who you are, what you do and what your role in the world is has to be properly conveyed.
Here are just a few vital brand identity pieces influenced by writing:
- Narrative: your business’ history, profile and other descriptive storytelling mediums
- On-page marketing copy for websites
- Marketing materials
#4: A Talented Design Team
The other 50-percent of branding is visual design. A branding agency that doesn’t have a design team, or a design partner, should be avoided at all costs.
This is probably the most recognized and renown output of branding. The strength and interaction your brand has with the world will be dependent on the design team you work with.
They must be able to bring your logo, colors, business cards, letterheads, marketing materials, packaging and other identity pieces to life.
Evaluate Their Portfolio
To get a feel for their capabilities, take a look at their portfolio. Do you like what you see?
#5: Website Design and Development Expertise
Nowadays, a compelling website is non-negotiable. Branding will influence the look and feel of a website, but at the end of the day, it takes a team with strong development capabilities to do it right.
Websites are a common area for pitfalls during a branding project. There’s a lot that can go wrong, especially if a redesign is occurring.
Your branding partner should not only be able to create a visually dynamic, responsive website to reflect your brand, but they should also be experts in search engine optimization, user experience practices and all of the nitty gritty technical details that are important not to overlook like:
- Properly redirecting old URLs to new ones
- Setting your site up with Google Analytics, heat mapping and other monitoring tools
A lot of branding agencies claim to do website design and development, but how well they pull it off can vary a lot.
Press Into the Level of Development Depth
What is the level of development depth for their team? Is it just an add-on service, or are they disciplined, detail-orientated developers?
Here are some questions to ask:
- How long have you offered website design and development?
- What are your website design and development values?
- What does your development process look like from start to finish?
- How will you make sure our website redesign doesn’t wind up with broken links and penalties?
Responsiveness is important. It’s a key to a successful branding process and a strong relationship.
- If you reach out, how long does it take for you to get an answer?
- What is the on-going communication like this?
It’s important to like the agency you select. It sounds kind of corny, but the branding process requires collaboration and consistent communication. That’s a lot of person-to-person interaction, and if you don’t like who you’re working with, it’s going to be a long and miserable process.
When you narrow down your list, set up an in-person meeting.
- Do you hit it off with the point of contact? Their team?
- Are these people you’re going to enjoy working with? That you’ll trust? That you wouldn’t mind grabbing some Starbucks with?
Use This Criteria to Guide Your Search
If you can comfortably check these items off of your list then you’re well on your way to finding the right branding agency for you.