Things you need to know when hiring a branding firm

Finding the branding firm right for you is hard - almost as hard finding the right date. One may be a friend of a friend very hard to break up with; one will ask for significant commitment upfront; another will ghost you when times are hard. And we haven’t even started on preferences, features and characteristics.

Over the many years we’ve worked with innovation-led tech companies we’ve seen the same thing time and again. Clients come to us exhausted, suspicious, and confused about the branding process. It’s the same story every time. Founders and marketing execs have starved their budgets to invest in a rebrand only for the process to be confused, the metrics unclear, and their patience worn thin.

Many tech founders are self-made, talented individuals focused on building a product they believe will sell itself - until it doesn’t. Why? Because products don’t sell themselves, brands do. Investing in a brand is investing in your business. You can’t develop an entire brand strategy with quick fixes and sprints. A brand strategy is the foundation of all marketing activities, the activities responsible for selling your product. Take shortcuts early and you’ll pay the price further down the line. Yup, it’s frustrating.

It takes time to make the decision to get your brand in place and pull the trigger. And when you do, be prepared for a long ride. There are different options when it comes to branding -- you can do it in-house (which mostly works for B2C companies with in-house art direction or large firms with enough fire power), use an external supplier, or a combination of both.

If using an external supplier for any re-branding elements picking the right branding firm is crucial. After all, the best way to enjoy a journey is to pick a partner who doesn’t annoy the hell out of you, you will be spending a lot of time together after all.

The path to hiring a branding firm right for you starts with doing your homework. So if you’re reading this you’re on the right track.

Steps to hiring a branding firm

The agency - client relationship is a two way street. Your success is dependent on finding the right supplier, and their success is dependent on your achieving your goals. Most branding firms rely on relationships, reputation, and referrals for new business. So how do you make sure to find the right agency match for your company?

Get inspired

Read up about best branding firm practices from the top global agencies -- such as Pentagram, JKR, or Sagmesiter & Walsh. Their work and thought leadership will help you get excited about the process. Your goal is to look for agencies with relevant experience, a strong portfolio and reputation and exactly the services you require.

Do your homework

The next step is to look into agencies that specialize in the services you need. Branding is a complex process and different firms often have different focuses -- some may provide Naming but not Marketing; some create strategic brand frameworks but steer clear of ongoing content production. The go to platform for browsing and filtering agencies according to services is Clutch. Referrals are also highly recommended in this space (remember the 3R’s - relationships, reputation, and referrals?).  

Collect references (but remember what you do)

Building a portfolio of references saves time and reveals your creative aspirations, but when it comes to corporate branding leave personal preference at the door. Everyone has a favourite brand, afterall building a strong emotional connection is the ultimate design goal. It’s fine to be aspirational and a good agency should want to challenge the status quo, but if you’re in the B2B cloud solutions space avoid referencing popular DTC consumer brands. Warby Parker and Allbirds have impressive and respected identities, but their aesthetic is unlikely to speak to business leaders the same way it does their own customers. Certain styles are prominent in industries and often for good reason.

Define clear goals and limitations for the project

Be extremely clear when it comes to project goals and ensure there is consensus within the leadership team. If you do not have a clear idea of what needs to be done the agencies cannot be expected to do so.

The three main values you have to define for the project are: how much money are you willing to spend; how long do you want the project to take; what would you like to get out of the project (metrics or deliverables).

Branding is a complex service involving research, strategy, creative and production, If you’re new to the process it is likely you’ll be unaware of the numerous workstreams involved. Even the smallest of scope adjustments can turn into a time and money drain if not properly estimated in the first place. For that reason few agencies will begin work without a defined and approved scope of work. The main sources of conflicts in the agency world are scope changes after a sign off - often a lack of coordination on the client’s side can turn a perfect relationship into a mistrustful one.

Be realistic

Branding firms often joke their work can be two of three things: good, fast, cheap - but never all three. Although tongue in cheek there is an element of truth at play here. Consider what your priorities are and be prepared for the outcome. If you’re in need of a new brand in weeks some agencies may dedicate their whole team to the cause, but be prepared to pay for it. On the other hand if you’re restricted financially a more relaxed time frame may be the solution to helping you achieve your goals.

Reach out to multiple branding firms

Finding the right firm is like working through a marketing funnel: cast a wide net to obtain agency portfolios, pick 3-4 agencies, set up intro calls and begin the vetting process. In addition to an overview of their processes you will want to request relevant case studies, client references and service proposals with timelines and budget estimates.

Introductory calls

On intro calls let every shortlisted agency know your project goals, the bigger picture, company dynamics and business goals. Be honest and transparent the way you’d like your future relationship to be. These people will be more than just service providers. Over time they will become partners, allies, ambassadors and supporters. Provide each agency with the same scope and limitations and compare across timing, budgets, deliverables and supporting services.

This step by step guide should help you hire the right agency for you. When evaluating agencies, make sure to compare them across various characteristics, such as their portfolio; their performance with other clients; their promise, requested budgets and process. Remember, you are choosing a partner for the long haul. One ready to take responsibility for the project and commit to achieving the results your team are looking for.


How do vision and mission statements impact a company's long-term direction?

Effective vision and mission statements should ideally constitute important tools in formulating a company’s strategy. They should largely remain unchanged through the years, though a significant pivot may bring about new vision and mission statements. Together, they work to define the focus of the business and how it impacts the world. 

The vision statement is a representation of your company’s view of a better world. The mission statement reflects how it sets about to achieve this vision. They work together to create internal alignment and help with strategic decision making. When planning for the future, developing new products, or experimenting with new strategies, teams can perform a quick check against the vision and mission statements to ensure that these initiatives are aligned with the essence of the brand. 

In short, the vision and mission statements are powerful tools which can and should impact decisions across the organizations, making them important factors in a company’s long-term direction.

How does brand strategy influence the overall success of a business?

Your brand strategy reflects how your brand sees the world and its role within it. It is the framework that, ideally, should guide all your communications (both external and internal) and audience touchpoints, i.e. each interaction an audience member has with your business. 

Having standardized communication across all channels and touchpoints makes business processes smoother and positively influences your client relationships, ensuring you develop strong, long-term connections with your customers. It also simplifies strategic decision-making and aligns your team. All these factors are vital to the success of a business.

How do messaging frameworks help communicate your brand message effectively?

Messaging frameworks are structured guides that outline the core messages, value propositions, and differentiators of a brand. They ensure consistency across all communications, from marketing materials and social media posts to customer service interactions. By defining key messages that resonate with the brand's target audiences, messaging frameworks help ensure that a brand’s communications are clear and memorable. 

They also help organizations stay aligned internally and ensure that each member, regardless of their role, understands what the brand’s key message is and how to communicate it effectively. This internal alignment is crucial for presenting a unified brand image to the outside world.

What specific elements contribute to a brand's verbal identity?

A brand’s verbal identity should align your team on how your brand communicates and how this communication changes depending on the situation. It defines a specific and recognizable language through which your brand can deliver its message to your audience or audiences.

Typically, a verbal identity includes some, or all, of the following elements:

Brand personality: This captures the human traits or characteristics that your brand embodies, such as being adventurous, sophisticated, or reliable, which help shape how your brand is perceived.

Brand voice: The brand voice reflects how your brand reflects its personality across all communication channels.

Brand tone: While the brand voice remains consistent, the brand tone can change depending on the context of the message and the audience being addressed, ranging from formal and professional to informal and friendly.

Messaging frameworks: These are strategic tools that outline the key messages your brand intends to communicate to its different target audiences, ensuring that all messaging is aligned with your brand's mission, vision, and value propositions.

Messaging examples: These provide specific examples of how your brand's messaging might be applied in various scenarios.

Style and grammar guidelines: These outline your preferred spelling, grammar, and style, ensuring that your communication is consistent across the board. 

What are some key considerations when developing a tone of voice for a brand?

The first and most important consideration is the brand’s personality. While businesses are functional, they still communicate with people – and people primarily connect with stories and personas. Your brand’s personality will define a set of human characteristics which reflect how it sees itself in the world. By giving your brand these human attributes, you are making it both distinctive and easier to identify with. The tone of voice should reflect your brand’s personality.

It’s also important to consider your target market and your audience’s expectations. While having a distinctive tone of voice is important for memorability, there is such a thing as being too different. If all brands in your segment adopt a serious, professional tone, and you would like to be fun and playful, there is certainly space for that, but consider very carefully why you are doing it.


No items found.


How do brand guidelines ensure consistency in visual identity across different platforms?

Brand guidelines are a key tool for maintaining a consistent visual presentation across various platforms. These guidelines typically outline the main use cases where the brand's visual identity will appear and provide comprehensive rules and standards.

The guidelines include detailed instructions on how to use the brand’s assets, such as logos, color palettes, typography, and imagery. This ensures that anyone using these assets, whether they're designers, marketers, or external partners, can apply them correctly and consistently. 

It’s crucial that the entire team is familiar with these guidelines. It’s important to get team buy-in on the visual identity and ensure that the guidelines are easily accessible. When the whole team understands and follows the guidelines, the brand's visual identity remains unified across all touchpoints, enhancing brand recognition and trust.

How does visual identity differ across industries, and how can a brand ensure it stands out while remaining authentic?

Visual identity varies significantly across industries, shaped by both the industry norms and the unique aspects of each brand. Understanding where your brand stands in the competitive market is essential when crafting a visual identity that both stands out and remains authentic.

Industries have distinct visual trends that are often expected by consumers. For instance, financial services brands typically adopt a reserved, traditional look with a color palette dominated by blues and greys. In contrast, skincare brands often go for a lighter, more colorful approach with pastels. Being aware of these industry-specific trends is important because it helps to decide how much your brand should differentiate itself from these norms. This differentiation should be based on your audience's expectations and your brand's unique value propositions.

For example, a financial services brand that emphasizes its use of innovative technologies might choose a more digital-oriented visual language. Similarly, a skincare brand that focuses on scientific innovation might benefit from a more science-based visual language.

How does competitive benchmarking influence the development of a visual identity?

Competitive benchmarking is important in developing a brand's visual identity as it provides insights into the market environment. By examining the competition, a brand can better understand its unique value proposition and strengths. This understanding is crucial in identifying what sets the brand apart from others.

With this knowledge, a brand can lean into its unique strengths when crafting its visual language. This approach ensures that the visual identity not only looks appealing but also reinforces the brand’s distinct point of view and competitive edge.

What are the key considerations when creating visual concepts for a brand?

The visual identity of a brand should quickly and clearly reflect its strategic positioning. Designers begin the process of creating visual concepts by immersing themselves in the brand’s strategy to extract key narrative themes. These themes are then translated into a visual language that employs both emotional and aesthetic elements to communicate the brand's messages. This translation is crucial as it shapes how the audience perceives and interacts with the brand.

When developing visual concepts, it's important to make sure they align with the brand's strategy and fit well within the competitive landscape: demonstrating key differentiators, but still fitting into the industry at large. The visuals should also be suitable for the mediums they will be used in. Whether for digital, print, or physical applications, the choice of medium can greatly influence how the visual concepts are designed.

How does visual identity contribute to brand recognition and trustworthiness?

Visual identity is key to boosting brand recognition and trustworthiness, especially in busy markets. When a company maintains a consistent visual brand across different platforms, it becomes easier for customers to recognize and remember it. This consistency is crucial for standing out among competitors.

Having a consistent visual identity also shows professionalism and attention to detail. These qualities make customers more likely to trust a brand. When a brand looks the same across all touchpoints, from websites to products and ads, it tells customers the brand is reliable and serious. This builds trust and makes customers more likely to pick this brand over others that may not look as professional or consistent.


What are the advantages of having a well-designed and user-friendly website for a business?

The business landscape has changed dramatically since the pandemic. Now, your digital footprint is definitely at the center of most business growth strategies. A well-designed website allows companies to connect with users in an effective manner, ensure customer loyalty, and expand business - among other benefits.

Website design is the key ingredient to digital success, alongside well-functioning SEO tools, connected backend, and user-friendly strategy. A user-friendly website for your business will:

  • Increase user engagement and conversion rates
  • Improve SEO and searchability of your business
  • Improve retention rates
  • Make your business more credible while making your brand more memorable
How does the design of a website impact its accessibility to users, including those with disabilities?

In website design, "accessibility" refers to whether a site is designed in a way that is inclusive and usable by everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. 

This may include important site characteristics such as text-to-speech functionality, video captions, alternative text tags for images, enhanced with good design practices of intuitive navigation, straightforward copy. and others. Accessibility is integral to website performance and user experience.

How can businesses ensure consistency and credibility across their website, brand, and marketing materials?

To achieve consistency and credibility across all your collateral, you need to ensure that the brand message - both verbal and visual - is compliant with your brand guidelines. This can include:

  • Using the correct tone of voice principles across all communication channels to differentiate your brand personality

  • Communicating consistent messaging and key differentiators on all platforms

  • Ensuring that key visual elements (logo, color palette, typography, imagery) on your website, marketing, and sales materials are aligned with each other

What are some common pitfalls to avoid when designing and developing a business website?

According to a 2024 web statistics report, a staggering 75% of business credibility is attributed to various web design decisions. In order to improve your website’s trustworthiness, avoid the following common design mistakes:

  • Not prioritizing accessibility: One of the biggest design mistakes out there is overlooking web accessibility principles on your website.

  • Not investing in responsive design and customization: With the majority of global traffic coming from mobile and tablet devices, lack of responsive design and customization can break a business.
  • Prioritizing aesthetics over function: Compromising user experience in favor of flashy aesthetics will dilute your brand message and user journey to the required call to action.

  • Lacking clarity in messaging and navigation: Clear navigation and messaging will reduce the friction users may experience when landing on your site as they are trying to get a clear picture of what your business is.
How does website copywriting contribute to user engagement and conversion, and what role does SEO play in this?

The goal of web copywriting is to guide your users through their web journey while providing information, engaging with and converting them into buyers. Each section of your site shapes the visitor perception about your brand and affects their buying decisions. 

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a practice of creating engaging and persuasive content that not only appeals to your users, but also incorporates relevant keywords and techniques to attract organic traffic to your site.

To start writing SEO-friendly copy for your site, you can:

  • Manually conduct keyword research by checking what competitors are ranking for
  • Use SEO software like SEMRush to investigate new keyword opportunities
  • Make sure to review keywords frequently as their popularity changes often and you want to keep ranking for competitive terms.

Get in touch

Inspired? We’d love to connect and explore ways to collaborate.