Identity, Strategy

How much bang to expect for your buck?

Somewhat ironically for an industry that’s all about colour, the issue of budgeting for design and branding projects is often something of a grey area.

In our view that’s not because of any lack of consensus on the price and value of things – it’s mainly because the terms ‘branding’, ‘re-branding’ ‘brand development’ and so on cover such an enormous range of elements and activities.

At the most basic level the development of a brand identity might amount to little more than creating a logo and incorporating designs in a range of traditional and online media. Indeed, that is very often seen, almost always wrongly, by the uninitiated as the definition of branding.

At the other end of this very wide and multi-faceted spectrum, of course, are the industry horror stories about notorious and colossal re-branding projects that went wrong – and the equally colossal expense associated with some of them. The 2001 rebranding of Royal Mail as Consignia is one that comes to mind. It cost a staggering £1.5 million to launch – and although it was almost 20 years ago, that’s still a terrifying sum. Especially when you consider that just a year later, they accepted defeat and invested another £1 million in re-re-branding themselves as Royal Mail.

Any agency worth its salt will appreciate that and will be happy to give you a reasonably detailed breakdown of the costs involved once you have provided a detailed brief.

Unless your company is an international giant, however, there’s no need to think in these ‘megabuck’ terms. Think instead of defining terms and specifying the scope of the job at hand with your agency or prospective agency right from the start. That’s even more important when weighing up competitive proposals – otherwise you may well be comparing apple with oranges.
Of course you’re a business and you need to manage your costs to remain profitable. Any agency worth its salt will appreciate that and will be happy to give you a reasonably detailed breakdown of the costs involved once you have provided a detailed brief. Similarly, as a client, you’ll appreciate that the agency needs to charge realistic rates for its professional services (the old adage that you get what you pay for is as relevant in this context as everywhere else). But don’t worry – even you’re new to working with creative agencies, you’ll find that managing your expectations as to the correct number of ‘bangs per buck’ is all part of the daily routine.

So don’t be afraid to ask exactly what their particular interpretation is of each element of your project… As we mentioned above, the term ‘brand development’, for instance, could range from little more than a logo design to a 360-degree exercise addressing every aspect of your current and future branding needs. This might include developing the name of the brand itself, along with associated domain and trademarking issues, the overall visual brand identity and development of the brand guideline document that ensures your brand’s consistent and coherent use across every application in every medium. Again this is where discussing your needs with your agency is vital. On one hand you’re investing in your company’s future and that requires something of a ‘leap of faith’, especially if you expect your visual identity to be used and implemented by many different designers or marketing team members over the years. On the other hand, if usage is going to be fairly restricted, you won’t want your agency to go to the expense of a highly detailed ‘brand manual’.

In summary, in this context, there’s no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ and, knowing that, any good agency will be happy to discuss what’s required to meet your company’s individual challenges and present you with proposals for a custom-tailored response that meets your needs – and your budget.

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