Brands of modern day are complex.
They express, communicate, connect; they form their own understanding of more than just what they are. They are personified, embodying an identity influenced by teams of marketers and consumers alike. As one of these marketers, you are likely well aware of how involved brand management and strategy can be. It’s not simply a matter of logos and slogans. It’s not just consistent typography and coloring. It’s all of that and more, from look to feel.
At some point in the development and/or management of a brand, companies will look outside the four walls of their internal team. With fresh perspectives, touch points across a variety of businesses and focused expertise, brand agencies can serve as a team’s third arm of sorts. In an ideal partnership, this is certainly the case.
When it’s not the case, there could be any number of factors at play derived from one or both parties. Sometimes, these types of situations are unavoidable and completely unforeseeable from the get go. More often than not, however, hindsight will reveal any number of red flags.
In the midst of hiring for an agency, properly vetting for the right proposal and accompanying team is key. Avoid future headaches with these six things to avoid during your brand agency search.
#1: Being Unsure Of and/or Not Communicating Your Goals
Your search for a brand agency is fueled by something. That something might be a rebranding project that’s proven too hefty to keep in-house. It might be to scale growth exponentially in the upcoming year. Or maybe a new product release requires its own out-of-the-box, digital-first campaign upon launch.
Whatever the reason, have it clearly defined internally before you even begin to bring outside voices into the mix. Make sure relevant employees are well-versed and engaged with goals at hand. Set realistic expectations and lay them out clearly during the vetting process.
#2: Leaving Out Decision-Makers Until the Last Minute
Quite possibly worse than being wishy-washy on goals is not looping in appropriate parties until the last minute. This can certainly be a quick damper on any agency search party. Not only can doing so delay formerly established timelines—it can derail contracts altogether.
As you begin to work through proposals and set up introductory calls, provide higher-ups with regular and transparent updates. Most agencies will be more than happy to accommodate additional stakeholders if it means avoiding unwanted surprises or backing out of agreed upon contracts at the last minute.
#3: Vague Production and Budget Methodology
From the agency side of things, it’s safe to assume that you’ll be provided with a proposal at some point during the process. Within this proposal, the agency should not only detail a solution to the problem you’re wanting them to solve: they should also provide context around how they’ll go about bringing their ideas to life.
This context will likely be realized in the outlining of various tactics, a production schedule, and budget. If any of these pieces are missing or vague in nature, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Assuming that the agencies you’re meeting with have worked with similar brands in the past, they should have well-established methods by which they operate and can readily speak to.
#4: Lack of Proactiveness
In searching for a brand agency, you certainly don’t want to align yourself with one of know-it-alls: eager to offer cookie cutter ideas without any interest in what your company actually needs. On the other hand, you don’t want to work with a team of yes-men and women either.
During discovery calls and meetings, remain conscious of how willing and able an agency is in producing unique ideas. If all they appear to do is regurgitate information you’ve already provided them with and lean on your suggestions, you may want to reconsider.
You’re paying an outside party for a reason. And that reason should come through loud and clear in how they can both talk the talk and walk the walk.
#5: No Relevant Work
Case studies and testimonials are persuasive for a reason. Amidst a lot of talking and ideating, they provide tangible examples of what an agency is capable of.
Whenever possible, it makes sense to align your brand with agencies that have familiarity with your industry and/or presented problems. This doesn’t mean there won’t be exceptions to the rule, however. If an agency seems promising but can’t immediately speak to your line of business, just make sure they can translate past experience into relevant strategies for your brand.
#6: Asking Too Few Questions
Prior to meeting with different agencies, do a bit of homework. Familiarize yourself with their website, purpose statements, past work, and staff experience. Doing so will set you up to dig deeper into their specialties.
There’s no such thing as too many questions, especially when they help generate curiosity on behalf of your team. Establishing a partnership is one thing, but establishing a relationship is what will elevate your work alongside any agency to maximum efficacy. On the reverse end, make sure that interest in your business is mirrored by those you’re interviewing.
Final Thoughts: 6 Things to Avoid During Your Brand Agency Search
Brand agencies are a dime a dozen nowadays, which makes the search process that much more complicated but all the more important. Take the time to lay a solid foundation at the start and your business will reap the rewards down the road.
What have been some of your biggest frustrations to arise when searching for an agency?