How To Select The Right Branding Partner
There are countless options of partners when branding your business. However, there is usually one great solution for you depending on
(1) the stage of your business,
(2) the importance of branding in the success of your business,
(3) the type of services your need, and
(4) the amount of funding you have available.
The main types of Branding Partners are:
A) “Prestige” Branding Agencies
What They Are:Prestige Branding Agencies offer branding, digital, advertising, and content services by top talent at a high sticker cost.
Who They’re For:Venture Capital-Backed Firms and Companies Worth Over $50 million
The Details:Agencies like Red Antler, Collins, and the now-defunct Gin Lane, are immensely talented agencies that have a proven track record of successfully branding countless buzzy startups and rebranding Fortune 500 Companies. They work across identity, web, advertising, content creation, and more. Basic brand identities at these firms can cost upwards of $200,000, but you have access to top tier talent and get a level of confidence in the final result being world-class.
B) Boutique Branding Agencies
What They Are:
For Companies That Want Top Tier Brand Identity Work Plus Additional Services Like Strategy, Copywriting, Photography, and Web Design. Work & Strategy
Who They’re For:
Boutique Branding Agencies are small firms, usually between 4-20 employees, that offer a full suite of branding services across design, strategy, content, and/or copywriting.
The biggest advantage of working with Boutique Branding Agencies is the ability to work directly with top talent and often the owner(s) of the agency. These agency owners are usually top talent at big firms with impressive experience.
In contrast, when working with Prestige Branding Agencies, you often will be handed off to different team members than those who originally sold you their services. In addition, Boutique Branding Agencies, while often not inexpensive, offer top-tier work at a more reasonable value.
Another important advantage of working with Boutique Branding Agencies is their breadth of services. Unlike Branding Studios and Freelancers (detailed below), Boutique Branding Agencies often specialize in more than design. They marry identity work with brand strategy, content creation, web design, web development, e-commerce, copywriting, and more. These additional services are essential to building a unique, meaningful, compelling, and memorable brand.
So, if you want high-tier work and services that extend beyond a visual identity, but don’t want to spend $200,000+ to hire a Prestige Branding agency, then Boutique Branding Agencies are likely the right sweet spot for your company.
C) Branding Studios
What They Are:Studios of around 2 designers that specialize solely in graphics and visual identity.
Who They’re For:For Companies That Want a ‘Beautiful Enough’ Brand Identity Without Investing in Strategy
The Details:Without investing too much money upfront, companies hiring Branding Studios can receive beautiful identity work from often very talented designers. Clients get to work directly with the designers, which can be an advantage to business owners that are savvy with brand strategy themselves or know exactly what they want. Also, by skipping the early steps of brand strategy (which is invaluable to many businesses), this is usually a faster option than working with Branding Agencies. Finally, the reduced cost of a studio versus an agency can make them a good option for businesses that are still figuring things out and will likely have changes to their business model or brand in the near future. However, Branding Studios rarely offer a full breadth of services that companies may need, including copywriting, website design and development, photography, and more.
D) Branding Freelancers
What They Are:Individual Designers who can help you develop basic brand elements.
Who They’re For:Companies or individuals who need something nice enough, but not very unique or special, at a low price point.
The Details:Freelancers can be a good option if you’re launching with a minimal viable product or you need to put something fast together to test interest in your product at an early stage. However, working with a single freelancer increases the probability that your branding will not be exceptional, may be flawed and might need to be redone. In addition, working with freelancers will require much more personal involvement, time, and effort on behalf of company principals.
E) Crowdsourcing sites like 99 Designs
What They Are:
Websites that crowdsource designers to produce logos.
Who They’re For:
Companies who just need a logo and don’t care if it’s generic.
If you simply need a logo and don’t care how unique or special it is (perhaps for a very early stage of your business), this might be a temporary solution for you. While you often get many options to choose from, don’t expect too much in terms of quality.