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Should You Hire a Brand Consultant or a Branding Agency? How Brand Consultants Can Help Your Business?

As the #1 online brand audit agency, we have worked with lots of companies, branding, and marketing consultants. 

Brand management for Fortune 500 and successful SME companies is a very well-defined process. Unfortunately, this does not apply for most startups and new businesses, where borders of sales, marketing, and brand management are blurred, goals are undefined, and where self-proclaimed brand and marketing experts talk as much nonsense as a stand-up comedian.

In 2016, Mark Ritson published an article on Marketingweek.com, titled The seven unmistakable signs of a shit brand consultant. It is a very entertaining read – you will find the link at the bottom of this article. He is right. The brand consulting industry is full of crap. 

There are lots of professional brand consultants with an excellent track record, and working with one of them will make an amazing difference.

But let’s get back to the question of this post: should you hire a brand consultant or marketing agency? The short answer is yes – to help your team with stuff they cannot do.

When to hire a brand consultant or branding agency?

When starting a new company

First, you need to identify what you need help with. If you are starting a new venture, getting your plans checked with a brand consultant is a great idea. It is even better to have multiple opinions to make sure that you will not follow biased opinions. 

The 8 key steps of building your brand and marketing from scratch are:

  • Consider your overall business strategy
  • Identify your target clients
  • Research your target client group
  • Develop your brand positioning
  • Develop your messaging strategy
  • Develop your name, logo, and taglines
  • Develop your content marketing strategy
  • Develop your website

Your branding strategy needs to support your marketing and overall business strategy. Not the other way around. Good branding is not a business strategy, at least not one that will be sustainable.

Delegate branding tasks to different partners

Our advice is to get your business concept and business strategies and target clients right before approaching brand consultants – you do not want to discuss business strategy with branding people.

Branding consultants can help you develop a relevant positioning statement and corresponding messaging strategies. Once again, it is better to have multiple opinions to avoid following a biased strategy.

For name, logo, and taglines, you better consult with a creative agency instead of a branding professional. They will have more experience in colors, visual storytelling, and similar topics.

Website development should be done by a dedicated web developer, or a professional website development agency, based on the branding guidelines defined by the brand consultant, and approved by you.

It is a good practice to work with multiple contractors, experts, and consultants not affiliated with one other. Leaving all branding, strategic and website projects in the hands of one individual or one company carries a significant risk of getting it done wrong.

When rebranding a company

There are various signs if a business requires rebranding. Declining popularity, luke-warm social signals, no PR coverage, and eroding sales figures are just a few of them. 

Hinge Marketing defines the following reasons for rebranding:

  • You need to compete at a higher level or in a new market
  • Your brand no longer reflects who you are
  • Your firm is spun off from an existing brand
  • You have a legal reason compelling you to change
  • You need to simplify and focus your message
  • You have a new marketing team
  • You are launching a new service line

Rebranding a business is different from a brand refresh, which refers to the process of changing superficial visual elements such as the design of a company website, stationery, and logos.

Rebranding is the process of implementing fundamental, deep changes in corporate identity, that will shape brand perceptions. Historically successful rebrandings include Hugo Boss – the company that once produced Hitler’s SS uniforms. Less successful rebranding stories include Pepsi’s frequent brand updates trying to please a new generation every 8-10 years.

Company rebrandings are often part of major business updates that include changes in the overall business strategies – so in most cases, it cannot be managed separately from cure business functions.

As mentioned before, it is not recommended to involve branding consultants in the process until your company has established a new business concept or strategy. Only reach out to a branding consultant when your core business fundamentals are decided, and you are ready to move on to discuss how to present your new business to potential customers.

When your branding is not performing well

A “poor brand” is a brand that, for various reasons, does not resonate well with audiences. The communicated values may be weak or lacking, and the messaging may be all over the place. Brand identity, design, and the overall brand experience may be unappealing and not make sense.

Tell-tale signs of poor branding are:

  • Weak social media engagement
  • Customers do not get passionate about your company
  • High website bounce rate
  • Low e-commerce conversion rate
  • Your audience does not respond to your ads
  • Potential customers are confused

If you experience any of the above signs, you might consider reaching out to a branding consultant. The bad news is that most branding consultants will tell you something that reflects their own opinion – be constructive, or useless.

When your brand does not resonate well with your potential customers, the best thing to do is a brand audit.

Do a brand audit if your brand performs poorly

Your business success largely depends on how your target customers relate to your brand. The ability to audit and optimize brand effectiveness is essential for long-term progress – but most startups and SMEs do not have the skills or budget for such analysis.

Brand Auditor makes brand-focused market research fast and affordable. During the auditing procedure, thousands of people will visit your website or social media pages to leave score ratings and comments regarding what they like and dislike about your brand.

Leave basic web stats and social media statistics behind, and upgrade your brand management based on reliable and relevant customer perception insights. Similar systems are applied by Fortune 500 companies, including leading global brands.

We have several specialized brand audits available, including

How to identify a good brand consultant?

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Mark Ritson clearly outlines what a shit brand consultant looks like. 

But what are the signs of a good brand consultant? What to look for when choosing a brand consultant? Our experience suggests that the below qualities are shared by the best branding experts:

  • They understand, and do not want to change, your company vision
  • They talk a business language that you understand
  • Able to think with the mind of your customers
  • They have insight-driven knowledge
  • They start with a clear plan instead of “proven” playbooks
  • They understand marketing, design, and sales

The consulting business is full of charlatans. We are not saying that all brand and marketing consultants are fake, but you need to do your due diligence before hiring one. With practically unlimited information online, everyone can learn the basics of branding and pose as an expert. Some might do an online course but that alone does not make anyone an expert.

To make sure you hire a brand consultant who will be able to help to grow your business, dare to ask for references. Ask the consultant to talk about past projects, challenges, and successes.

There are very good brand consultants out there who you can trust.

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