How Much A Branding Agency Costs And Why Branding Is Such A Business Essential
‘Branding’ is a trendy word, and deep down every business owner knows they need a great branding team to get their business where they want to go. The problem often lies in the fact that 1) ‘Branding’ is only thought of as a logo, 2) The understanding of what branding really means is messy, or 3) Branding is expensive.
The upfront cost of working with an experienced branding team can certainly be intimidating for many small business owners. But we’re here to tell you the investment is worth it if you understand what you need, prioritize the necessities, and really get clear on what branding is, through and through.
What The Heck Is Branding, Really?
Too often we find people calling their logo design business a “branding” company. And every time that happens, we cringe.
Yes, branding is logo design, but branding is not just logo design. Messaging is branding, but it’s not all of branding.
The business of working with badass businesses and crafting them into brands that pack a punch encompasses a whole lot more than just a logo or a sample message. From top to bottom, branding is everything that makes up who you are as a business:
- How you talk
- Where you talk
- What you look like
- Why you look like that
- Where you market
- Whatever makes you so damn different (and special)
Branding Can Get Spendy, But It’s So Damn Important
Branding rocks! It’s literally you and everything that makes up that you. But while we can say over and over again that a strong, powerful brand is essential for the success of business, the price tag can often blur that point of view. So why branding? What really makes it so damn important for long-term success?
- Branding is sure to give you a major edge in the competitive market department.
- A brand that’s well-defined and knows themselves can attract the customers they want (and the ones that can relate to that brand).
- Brands that are aligned with themselves, and then their customers, develop strong, long-lasting relationships with loyal fans.
- It gives a clear direction for future growth and plans.
- Branding determines a defined position in the market.
- And it will drive the promise and stance your brand is there to protect.
It can get spendy, but for the sake of your business 1, 5, 10, 20 years down the line, it’s worth every penny.
Here’s branding broken down into every little piece it really is and the process we, at Bareknuckle, follow to produce long-standing powerful brands.
Everything That Goes Into The Branding Process, And Everything That Comes Out
First Things First, Dipping the Toes
Before anything else, a branding agency must get to know you (as a business owner) and you (as a business). This dipping-the-toes step usually comes in an interview format where the agency will ask business owners and/or any other influential people involved in the business all kinds of questions: Why you’re starting this business, what you stand for, the process your company follows, struggles, fears, and so on. During this conversation, the agency will listen for key themes or personality pieces that shine through and take note for use later on in the branding process.
Market & Current Brand Research
The branding agency knows what the business does and has a general idea of the “who”, now comes the research. This step in the brand development process generally entails two things: 1) Market research and 2) Positioning and evaluation of the current brand (if it already exists). The first part deals with research rabbit holes of the competition in the industry, the trends of the market, and the history of other businesses that have succeeded or failed in the area. The second piece is usually a brand audit, or what we call a Brand Scan. A Brand Scan is a thorough examination of the existing brand’s strengths, weaknesses, values, and competition. And again, this second part only comes into play if the brand already exists.
Brand Personality – Who You Are
Every business has a story and some personality behind it, and in order to relate to customers (real people), that personality and story have to shine through. Based on that initial brand conversation, an experienced branding agency will pull out that personality and craft your perfect version of brand storytelling. For some businesses, it’s more on the professional side and for others, it’s full of fun, jokes, and reality. The important part is that it represents who your brand is and gives it a foundation to stand on and a story to leverage.
Naming (Strategy and Trademark Research)
As a human being, your name is a staple to who you are–the same goes with your business. Too often, brands slap a name onto their business without diving deep and giving it any thought or reasoning. Good branding agencies don’t play that game. A business name should have depth, flare, and give insight into what the operating business actually does, and is based on criteria determined by the personality of the brand. No, ‘The Tennessee Bakery’ is not a thoughtful name. A branding agency can help your business come up with something that’s memorable and meaningful–a name that makes its mark! Bareknuckle also has a trusted legal partner who completes trademark research and filing for our clients, something that is highly recommended in order to get through those legal hoops right off the bat.
Once the personality, the base of the brand story, and the business name are decided on, now comes the time to communicate what you do and who you are. Ready to use messages are meant to be seen by customers, and each message will use a tone (specific to your brand) and encompass the story, themes, and personality that define who you are. If a customer doesn’t get the gist of what a brand is all about by reading a brand’s homepage message, then that message isn’t doing its job.
Visual Brand Creation
Now that your brand has been defined, the visuals can be thought up. This is such a crucial piece of the branding process because too often we see logos being designed before the brand’s personality, tone, and messaging are crafted. The logo and all visual elements (fonts, colors, layouts, etc.) should be driven by the brand’s messaging and personality. For example, if a brand is uppity and prestigious, its logo, fonts, and colors must give off those same feelings.
Visual Brand Guideline Book
Once all visuals are defined and are backed by strong themes and a well-told story, guidelines for all the elements of the visual brand should be presented. A book of visual brand guidelines will outline the dos and don’ts when it comes to using visuals. These are also helpful for handing off to outside designers or marketing teams. The guidelines will show fonts options and when to use them, brand colors that are to be used to keep the brand cohesive, and logo variations. Guidelines are essential for keeping everyone on the same page and maintaining consistency across the entire brand.
Initial Fleet of Marketing Collateral
Now comes the strategy behind marketing collateral. Based upon the places your audience will commonly see your brand in the real world, marketing collateral that makes a great first impression will be created. Whether it’s signage, expo booth design, sales presentations, business cards, brochures, or whatever it is for your brand, assets are designed and delivered. Then the brand can utilize these pieces and ensure that every customer’s first experience (and every experience after that) is consistent and whole-heartedly that brand.
To put all of the above information in visual form, here it is in a pyramid:
That’s a whole lot of stuff that goes into branding, so how much does it cost?
Sure, we all want something that’s affordable, and it doesn’t mean we’re cheap necessarily. Affordable is smart and you’re lying if you say you don’t consider going with the affordable option over the sky-high expensive one if the quality is comparable.
Most likely, you’re doing the same when it comes to seeking an affordable branding agency. The problem is, “affordable” can be a tricky word. When it comes to something affordable in the world of branding, there are certain things to look out for–red flags that should steer you away and make you reconsider.
Here are some common red flags to look out for in the world of branding:
Affordable Branding Example #1
Branding Agency A is cheaper than anything you’ve found elsewhere, and their work looks good! It seems too good to be true … and right you are!
- Red Flag #1: Branding Agency A tells you they’ll do a full rebrand, top to bottom, of your company for $1,200. BUT when it comes down to the contract, you only see line items for 1) Visual Branding, and that is all. Call it what it is, branding trickster. You do logo design, and that’s it.
- Red Flag #2: OK, logo design is all you’re getting–fine. But then when the logo ‘package’ is delivered to you, you get ONE png file that’s way too small. Unusable.
From the very beginning, these red flags were waving left and right. Pay attention and investigate the work an affordable branding agency is actually going to do for you and make sure you understand the ins and outs of the work you’re paying for.
Affordable Branding Example #2
Branding Agency B seems cheap, but they also seem to be offering up A LOT. They’ve promised messaging, logo design, marketing collateral, full website design and programming, social media content creation, brochure design, video advertising production, execution of all email marketing, hell, they even said they’d do it all within a 1-month time period. Oh, and did we forget to mention they’re a team of two?
- Red Flag #1: When it came down to it, this situation seemed like a whole lot of empty promises. All of this work done in 1 month by two people? Will the outcome be quality?
- Red Flag #2: We’re not saying it can’t be done, but a team of two having the time, equipment, and knowledge to do all of this work so quickly seems like a stretch. Maybe they’re outsourcing? If that seems like a possibility, are they sharing that information with you? When you ask, they refuse to tell you who they’re handing work off to. For all you know, they could be outsourcing to unqualified vendors, and then how will you know the type of work you’re going to get back?
Make sure to get ALL the information you need to make sure the work you’re paying for is being done right, with attention and quality. If the situation seems fishy, it probably is–the last thing you want is a half-assed brand.
Brains Are Billable Too!
And please, please, please don’t forget, like just about anything in this world, time is money! Oddly enough, the concept seems to be overlooked or forgotten far too often.
TIME IS FREAKIN’ MONEY!
Yes, that means the time a team takes to get around the table and think up the layout of your homepage costs money–not just the time actually designing that homepage. The time it takes to answer everyday emails, keeping your business in the loop about the brand that’s being kindled up for you see, that time costs money. That creative hour before any writing even happens (It’s called strategy and brainstorming!) costs money.
Brains are billable. Time is billable. Don’t forget that when it comes to the cost of working with a branding agency.
The Total Cost of Branding for Small Businesses
OK, for real this time–here are the numbers. Remember that branding agencies, their prices, and what they offer will differ from company to company. Be sure to consider your location, the experience of the company you’re hiring, and what they have to offer, and always weigh the necessities of what you need right now and what can wait until you have a larger budget.
Initial Interviewing / Onboarding
Market & Brand Research
$1,350 – $3,600
Name (Strategy and Trademark Research)
$1,200 – $3,400
$825 – $2200
Visual Brand Creation: Includes Logo
$2,640 – $7,920
|Visual Brand Guideline Book||
$800 – $4950
The Best Branding Agency In The Biz
Not to toot our own horn or anything, but Bareknuckle really does do it all when it comes to branding, and we’re not afraid to share that with our clients. Sure when it comes down to branding as a whole, from top to bottom it can be spendy. But what’s important to remember is where your brand currently (if at all) stands, what’s crucial to your right now, what your budget really is, and where you cannot afford to skimp. But if you want our advice, whatever you need now is worth the investment.