So, you’ve got a feeling that your branding isn’t working. No matter how focused you are as a business leader, re-branding is generally accompanied by a lack of clarity. From the start, the ‘brand value conundrum’ makes the process of branding difficult - it’s nearly impossible to rationalize how much you should invest in branding.
Depending on the brand’s strategic proposition, and the relevance of the current brand mark and other identity elements to that strategy, the scope of branding work required can vary dramatically. You should find a branding design agency that has already worked with businesses, brands, and budgets of all shapes and sizes. This is why it pays to talk through your branding needs with a professional agency to understand the correct approach.
While some business and marketing leaders position themselves as managers of brand change with a hip skill set and experience in this area, for most people, the branding process is unfamiliar, ‘once in a career challenge.’ So how do you know if it’s the right time to update your branding? What exactly is involved? And how much should you reasonably budget for this process?
Below we’ve set-out the factors involved in determining the price of branding projects and a table of indicative costs.
There can be several reasons one may want to re-brand - it could be driven by defensive or offensive business strategy. Each scenario brings unique challenges that are critical to ensuring the right brand strategy is utilized moving forward.
Branding is so much more than designing a logo, and accordingly, more expensive. This is why so many graphic designers have positioned themselves as branding experts. Branding or re-branding is a process that must always include:
- Market Insights. Truly understand your customers and the market in which you operate.
- Brand Positioning Strategy. Determining the right approach for positioning your brand for success and a road map for achieving that
- Brand identity Design. How will your brand look? What should the visual language communicate?
- Go-to-Market Brand Identity Implementation. What tools do I need to engage with my target market?
Each step of the re-branding process calls for specific types of expertise and experience from researchers, brand strategists, brand identity designers, marketers, digital strategists, ad creatives, architects, and communications professionals. There isn’t an agency in the world with all of this expertise under one roof, and neither is this necessary.
The right branding agency will have in-house expertise on managing insights (bringing in the right researchers to uncover the market insights that will direct the brand strategy), at least one experienced brand strategist (not a designer wearing a brand strategy hat), specialist brand identity designers experienced in translating the multiple facets of brand strategy into a visual language (how the brand looks) and brand mark assets. A well-resourced branding agency will then supplement that in-house expertise with specialist partners who work in an integrated manner and can ensure your brand is brought to life in every word and everything you do.
There are almost no other industries where such a huge quote discrepancy in business costs exists, as does in the branding industry. A total branding project could cost you $250 for an online logo up to $200,000 when working with one of the larger global branding agencies. With this type of extreme variation, how do you start to work out what the right level of investment should be?
The good news is there are some clear guidelines and several concrete factors that establish how much branding projects should cost. Understanding this reduces the reasonable range somewhat. As we discuss the costs below, we will provide a price range that considers these variables.
Like every other business investment decision, rationalization of how much to spend must relate to an increase in profit as a result of that investment. Clients should consider the reason they are embarking on the branding work by quantifying the upside. Business goals, such as increasing market share and charging a premium by more effectively owning a differentiated proposition, successfully launching a new product or service, or attracting investors are all examples of the type of return achievable from a successful branding project.
Within the specialist brand agency category, the size and experience of an agency can impact what they charge. Small-to-medium, independently owned agencies typically sit at the middle to lower end of the scale, with larger, global brand agencies at the upper end of the scale. When it comes to branding, agency size matters less than experience and skill-sets.
While all projects should include the crucial four steps - insights, strategy identification, identity design, and activation - even within this framework, the scope can vary significantly.
- Primary research can easily cost $40k-$80k if you need insight into different audience segments and locations. In contrast, a smaller organization may be able to use existing industry data and save upwards of 90% of the cost needed to develop market insights.
- Strategy Definition deliverables can also vary depending on factors such as brand architecture, number of stakeholders, number of customer segments, product portfolio, products, brand naming, and preferences for extensive, detailed or summarized reports of top-line brands.
- Brand Identity Design scope can also vary depending on brand architecture and the number of applications in which creative concepts are applied for presentation. In essence, this is typically driven by stakeholder requirements.
- Go-to-market Activation can also vary significantly. Internet-based businesses need to focus predominantly on their online brand presence - while retail businesses at the other end require in-store design, point of sale features, online store design, social media, local area marketing, ad campaigns, staff uniforms, menu or in-store graphics, packaging, and beyond.
The costs below reflect each stage of a complete branding process, which may or may not be what you need. They’re provided as an indicative guide to what an experienced and appropriately skilled agency will charge, and are not intended to be seen as a quote for our services. Every project needs to be broken into specific processes and deliverables to ascertain the costs involved before a quote can be provided. These costs can also vary depending on the busyness of an agency and their hunger to win the project in question.
- Market research and insights – $5,000-$80,000;
- Brand strategy – $12,000-$25,000;
- Brand naming – $5,000-$12,000;
- Brand identity design – $20,000-$35,000;
- Go-to-market implementation – $10,000 or more.
When budgeting for a branding project, the cost of activation or implementation production should not be underestimated. Replacing signage, re-building web sites, re-tooling packaging, updating staff uniforms, reprinting sales and marketing collateral, re-fitting shops, and more all come with high costs that need to be included in the branding project budget as a whole. While these costs can quickly add-up, most businesses budget to reprint and update these elements semi-regularly. A well-planned branding update will work within these budget cycles to minimize additional spending.
To sum it all up, you should be financially and informationally prepared for branding. This process is neither cheap nor quick. It may take quite a while until you and your branding agency decide on a proper branding concept and settle on a workable budget. So make sure to be patient and tend to the other business endeavors that have to be taken care of. Once everything is settled, trust the experts to do the right thing, but don’t stay on the outside too much - your presence in the entire project will help guide it in the direction you want it to go from start to finish.