You’ve likely wasted money on firms, agencies, and consultants who under-delivered if you’ve been in business for any length of time.
It’s easy to get taken advantage of when you’re unfamiliar with all the options and brand consultants out there.
When it comes to branding, don’t be pennywise and pound foolish.
When trying to find a bargain on something like your branding, which increases your future earnings potential, you could be getting taken for a ride.
There are no immediate benefits that you can analyze to understand whether or not the brand consultant you’re paying is actually effective.
What’s more, a brand is difficult to change once it’s established.
You want to make sure you’re working with someone who will help you establish the right branding from the beginning and not someone who’s just trying to make a quick buck.
What does a branding consultant do?
Brand consultants help companies create, build, and maintain their brand identity. With the right brand identity, a business can effectively create campaigns that target customers on every brand awareness level.
These brand awareness levels include brand recognition, recall, top-of-mind, and brand preference.
They work with businesses to develop brand strategies, create branding guidelines, conduct market research and creatives, and create and manage marketing and advertising campaigns.
Creating branding strategies is one of the main tasks of brand consultants.
A brand strategy is the foundation of any good brand identity.
The brand strategy should answer three questions:
- Who are we?
- What do we do?
- What do we stand for?
- Whom do we serve?
- How do we serve them?
The answers to these questions will help you determine the brand promise, character, architecture, position, and target market.
Creating brand guidelines
Another task of brand consultants is to help businesses create branding guidelines.
Brand guidelines are a document that contains all the information necessary to ensure that your brand is used consistently across all channels.
The guidelines should include your brand’s mission statement, values, messaging platform, logo usage, brand voice, and brand identity standards.
These are important as your business grows, hire outside help, or if you plan to franchise your business.
Brand consultants will help you develop these guidelines so that you can maintain a consistent identity across all touchpoints.
Conducting market research
Another common task of brand consultants is conducting market research.
Market research is essential to understand your target market, what they want, how they make decisions, and their pain points.
This information will help you create marketing and advertising campaigns that are more effective and efficient.
The worst thing you can do with your branding and marketing efforts is to guess.
You want to make sure that you’re making data-driven decisions so that you can allocate your resources in the most effective way possible.
A branding consultant can help you stand out from competitors with strong brand creatives.
They will help you develop your brand’s visual identity, including your logo, color palette, typography, and brand voice.
They will also help you create marketing materials, such as website design, brand guidelines, business cards, and presentations.
While design tools like Canva and website builders like Weebly are great starter options, they have their limits.
If you want to create a professional and high-quality brand identity, you’ll need the help of a branding consultant.
Creating and managing marketing campaigns
Brand consultants can help you create and manage marketing campaigns.
A brand consultant will develop a strategy for your campaign, create the creatives, and manage the execution.
They will also track the campaign results and provide you with insights so you can improve your future campaigns.
A brand consultant can help you with all aspects of your branding, from strategy to creative development to marketing campaign management.
Brand consultants take steps above advertising agencies when it comes to brand-focused marketing.
Brand consultants are the ones who create long-term brand strategies, not just short-term campaigns.
When it comes to branding, brand consultants should be your go-to experts.
Creating a brand that helps build your business is not a set-it-and-forget-it task.
It requires ongoing effort to maintain and improve your brand identity.
This is where brand management comes in. Brand consultants can help you manage your brand so that it continues to support your business goals.
Just as your customer’s expectations and needs evolve over time, so will your brand.
Your brand identity should be updated regularly to reflect the changes in your business.
A branding consultant usually outperforms general management consulting firms when it comes to brand management.
Brand consultants deeply understand how brand strategy, creative development, and marketing campaigns work together to create a strong brand identity.
If you want to make sure your brand is a success and always working for you, brand management is something you should not ignore.
Avoid a branding consultant who shows these signs
Now that you know what a brand consultant does, it is time to show you the signs that indicate the ones you should avoid.
This is the most common type of brand consultant. They will make grandiose promises about what they can do for your brand without any evidence to back it up.
They might say things like, “I can help you triple your sales in the next six months!” or “I guarantee that I can get you to the top of Google search results!”.
These are empty promises that no brand consultant can truly deliver.
A brand consultant is not in control of these things, and they should not make promises that they cannot possibly keep.
They Don’t Ask Questions
A good brand consultant will want to ask many questions about your brand, business, and goals.
They need to understand these things so that they can develop an effective brand strategy for you.
This can be referred to as a brand analysis.
This can take multiple forms, but a brand consultant should always be asking questions so that they can get a better understanding of your brand.
They Don’t Show Their Work
A good brand consultant will want to show you their work.
They should have a portfolio of past projects they have worked on, and they should be able to share case studies with you.
This will help you understand the quality of their work and whether or not they are a good fit for your project.
Some brands may require NDAs, but when it comes to visual industries like branding, their portfolio should be easily accessible.
If a brand consultant cannot show you their work, it is a red flag that you should avoid them.
They Don’t Have Experience
A good brand consultant will have experience working on branding projects.
This experience can come in the form of working at a branding agency or working on freelance branding projects.
The key here is that they have experience with brand positioning.
Just being able to create outstanding visuals like logos and websites is not enough.
The brand consultant you hire should deeply understand how to position a brand in the marketplace.
Before working on the visuals, they should understand the target audience, the competition, and the overall marketing strategy.
The identity of your business should likely not rest on the shoulders of someone inexperienced.
They don’t understand marketing
A good brand consultant should have a deep understanding of marketing strategies.
They should understand how to reach the target audience, craft a unique selling proposition, and create marketing materials that sell.
Without general marketing expertise, it will be difficult for a brand consultant to develop an effective brand strategy.
They might be able to create amazing visuals, but if they don’t understand marketing, the visuals will not matter.
Remember that brand consulting is a solid complement to your marketing departments.
You want marketing professionals to execute your campaigns and have your brand consultant help shape those marketing campaigns.
They should work together to create a cohesive marketing strategy that will help your business reach its goals.
If you’re unsure whether your brand consultant understands marketing, ask them about their thoughts on digital marketing strategies like content marketing, social media marketing, or email marketing.
What should I look for in a brand consultant?
Now that you understand the bad signs, there are a few positive signs that a branding consultant knows what they’re doing:
They have business acumen
A good brand consultant will also have a strong understanding of business.
They should be able to talk to you about marketing, sales strategies, and operations in addition to design. This understanding will allow them to create a brand that aligns with your business goals.
They understand the difference between marketing and branding
Many people use marketing and branding interchangeably, but they are not the same.
Marketing is what you do to promote your brand and generate leads.
Branding is what you do to become recognizable and memorable and create a lasting impression.
A good brand consultant will be able to explain the difference and help you develop strategies for both marketing and branding.
They have a process
An experienced brand consultant will have a process they use with their clients.
This process should include research, strategy, and implementation.
They should be able to walk you through each step of the process and explain how it will benefit your business.
They understand trends
A good brand consultant will keep up with the latest trends in branding and marketing.
They understand that tends change and will know how to align your brand with current trends while not locking your brand into a trend that could quickly become outdated.
They do things differently
Many brand consultants have similar spiels and offer similar services.
A good brand consultant will stand out from the rest by doing things differently.
It is a positive sign when they can create something different and new for their own brand consultancy.
This could be in how they approach branding, the services they offer, or even how they interact with clients.
They should be able to show you how they are different and explain why their approach is better for your business.
It feels right
You have likely talked to several brand consultants or plan to.
Make sure to do your research when looking for a brand consultant.
Check out their website, social media, and marketing materials.
And most importantly, ask around and get referrals from businesses that have used their services.
When you find a brand consultant that has all of the above qualities, you can be confident that you’re working with someone who knows what they’re doing and can help you take your business to the next level.
How much should I pay a brand consultant?
Going through a consulting firm, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $300 an hour.
If you’re working with an independent branding consultant, rates can range from $50-$150 an hour.
In some cases, a branding consultant may be willing to work for a fixed fee based on the scope of the project.
This could be a good option if you have a small project or specific goals in mind.
It’s important to remember that you do get what you pay for when it comes to branding consultants.
So, if you’re looking for someone to just come up with a new logo, you can probably find someone cheaper.
But, if you’re looking for someone to help you develop a long-term branding strategy that will give you a competitive advantage.
You’ll need to be willing to pay for someone with the experience and expertise to do the job right.
When should I hire a brand consultant?
If you have a product-focused business, such as something that will compete on the shelves of stores, you’ll want to ensure your brand is where it needs to be from the start. On the other hand, a service-based business is more about what you can do for your customer, and visuals like logos and brochures matter, but it’s not as crucial in the early stages.
That being said, there are a few key times when you should consider hiring a brand consultant:
- When starting a new business
- When launching a new product
- When rebranding
- When wanting to enter a new market
- When experiencing flat or declining sales
Is it better to hire brand consultants or brand managers?
While a consultant will run you about $100-$300/hour, and a manager’s median annual salary will be $50,000-$100,000 a year, not including health benefits and other associated costs.
A consultant can be helpful to get you started or for a specific project, but in general, it is better to have someone in-house who understands your brand and can help guide it on a day-to-day basis.
If you’re a small business just starting out, you may not need the full-time help of a brand manager and can get by with hiring a consultant as needed.
You can consider transitioning to a full-time brand manager as your business grows.
When looking for a brand consultant, it’s essential to find someone who is experienced, knowledgeable, and has a proven track record.
It’s also essential to ensure they are a good fit for your business.
You’ll quickly realize the benefits of working with a brand consultant who can help you take your business to new heights.