A business or a product identity is the overall impression that a company emanates. It is the very first step in building a business and can be a difficult process due to the variety of deliverables you need to think of.
Consequently, you may want to seek the help of an agency to help you with branding. But as much as there are deliverables, there are a lot of services and processes too, making it confusing to decide exactly what you need, or how it should be done.
Since every business is at different levels, agencies should offer you services adapted to your stage, without systematically providing a one-size-fits-all strategy. Many tend to offer you “the whole package” when in reality, you may just need a logo and can work on your catalogs yourself, for example.
This is why you must be clear about what you want when approaching an agency to work with you, requiring only services that you truly need.
Part 1: Process and services.
What do I need to know?
Do I need a global strategy? A simple logo? A web-design? A rebranding?
If you feel you are in this situation while researching branding services, wondering how it all works, then this article will surely help you as it will explain in 2 parts, the branding services, and the deliverables.
This should be particularly useful for readers that may not have the correct branding budget to outsource everything to an agency and wish to cut costs efficiently.
Ready? Let’s dive into the first part, the services, and the process.
01. The discovery.
First and foremost, the discovery session is a mandatory phase for any branding work.
Here is our opportunity to learn more about your business, your goals, and what brand image you wish to share with your audience.
Teams from both sides should participate, whether it is virtual, or in person, so we are all on the same page. These roundtable sessions are an essential part of any project because they provide a solid foundation for goals, strategy, and route to market.
We go through the branding questionnaire we've prepared for our clients to determine what the project entails, discussing the competitive landscape and the market in which you operate.
We also keep the projected laser focused by establishing ideal clients and building an ideal customer persona, as we go.
After reviewing the business sides of things, we check visual styles to give us a sense of what types of brand identities would be appropriate for you and what would not.
At the end of the Discovery Session, everyone understands the goals better and can move forward without any misconception.
PRO TIP: You must make certain that this phase is included in your project. Without it, you will certainly be lost. The Discovery Session makes sure that everyone is involved and understands the project correctly.
02. The market research & benchmarking
Market studies come next. They help gather market data and conduct competitor analysis. This process surveys the market that you operate in, on a geographical level, and an industry level. “What is trending globally, what is working, what is not?” should help you understand the industry — “What is popular here, who are my competitors, how do I position myself” should help you understand your geographical market.
Make sure to gather insight on both levels, as it will help you determine your position within the market and help you build up a profile of your potential customers. You can then seek to establish contact with prospective customers and learn about their habits and preferences.
In particular, this kind of marketplace research can help to drive decisions later in the branding process. This phase will help drive decisions later during the conception of your brand identity.
PRO TIP: Start-ups and SMEs, should definitely make market research to at least have a proper idea of the marketing they are entering. Larger companies should monitor their customer behavior frequently and analyze their market to adapt accordingly.
This service is crucial in any branding project as it helps us determine how to differentiate your company from your competitors, outside your product, or services.
We are asking ourselves who are they? — what are they doing well?— what are they doing poorly? — Do you like their approach? — How do they position themselves? — and most importantly, why would people choose you over them?
We look for answers by conducting research on your competitors’ communication strategies, and their visual assets. Comparing, filtering, and figuring out what can be done better.
Through this research, you sometimes learn new things that make you question the course you're taking, whether you can provide something extra, or whether you are somehow different.
It can also give you more confidence about your business being better than the rest, which builds even more trust in your services or products.
Creating pretty visuals isn't enough to create a successful brand. This is a misconception many companies have about branding services. Branding is the art of understanding a company's value and positioning, within a specific market, to build a unique identity that will drive higher interest towards it.
PRO TIP: It does not matter if you are a small business or a giant, analyzing new and old competitors, their behavior, and their strategies, will help you keep up and stay in the race.
04. The brand identity.
The most important part of your branding journey.
Your brand identity refers to the overall look and feel of a brand or its marketing efforts to build recognition with both potential and existing customers. Here, we create a uniform visual language that appears in all of your company’s touchpoints, so you are granting your customers the opportunity to get to know you.
Brand identity includes a logo, color palette, and style guide, yes, but also dictates your advertising concepts, your store decoration, your product lines, or your staff uniforms. It will imprint your brand identity into your customers’ minds, if built right, and is the most powerful asset of your company.
Because it is such an important part of your business throughout its life, professionals should handle your branding so you can start the best way possible.
PRO TIP: Not sure about the relevance of good branding? Just look at the difference in price between a simple white T-shirt, and the same T-shirt with the logo Nike on it. Branding is extremely valuable and should not be overlooked.
05. The web design and development.
Some might be surprised that web design and development may be part of the branding service, or at the very least, complement it.
Not so much when you understand that a website is the interactive embodiment of your brand and that it allows your potential customers to experience it online. In fact, branding, web design, and development are frequently requested together as it is much simpler for an agency to design and build an online product based on a branding they also created themselves.
Now, this one is of course optional as it is a whole other service on itself. But it was important to pinpoint that a web design and development service included in a branding proposal is not unusual and if you have the budget, you sure should optimize your time by combining both services.
PRO TIP: We do not recommend building a website using software builders without any knowledge in UX/UI or SEO. A website is a long-term investment. You are better off starting with a perfectly designed and optimized one, that will drive traffic and give higher conversion rate.
05. The relationship development.
More than a service, and we apply it to everything, we believe the relationship an agency is willing to have with his clients is what makes or breaks its value.
As mentioned earlier, investing in an agency should not be limited to simply get deliverables. It should function as an extension of your business, looking after your best interests during the time it is hired. An agency should have the capacity to go the extra mile, if it means increasing your success rate. It should also know when to impose its expertise, and when to implement your feedback.
On the other hand, agency do expect their clients to understand its position. There are works that cannot be done without the right budget. Services limited to a specific scope of work. Results that can vary based on many outside factors.
Working with an agency is really like working with a partner (which is why WWDA defines a "client" as a "partner") and it is worth 10x the price if your relationship with them, is right. It takes patience and understanding but it could be a determining factor in your success.
PRO TIP: Do not hesitate to ask questions about previous works and relationships to analyze what type of agency you are facing. Look at how they talk about clients, how they approach your project, and how they interact with you.
Part 1 conclusion.
Now that you have a better understanding of all the services that branding encapsulates.
Where can the branding budget be saved?
Each of the services mentioned previously is key to elaborating proper branding and should be handled by professionals. The deliverables, on the other hand, can be wisely selected to optimize your costs, depending on what you really need or what you can do yourself.
In the next part: Branding deliverables and scope of work, we detail each deliverable provided in the Branding service and give you a better idea of what you should outsource and what not to.
It is coming next so stay tuned!