What should my branding cost?
So you’re at start-up/running a growing business/recently merged/feeling the heat from new competition/just stepped into the big chair and you’ve got a sense that your branding isn’t working for you. No matter how clear-minded you are at leading your business, the task of re-branding is generally accompanied by a sense of confusion and lack of clarity. Right from the very start the ‘brand value conundrum’ is at work, making it difficult to commercially rationalize how much you should invest in your branding.
Our 25 years of branding experience have taught us that each project is unique. Depending on the currency of the brand’s strategic proposition and competitive positioning and the relevance of the current brand mark and other identity elements to that strategy, the scope of branding work required can vary dramatically. We’ve worked with businesses, brands and budgets of all shapes and sizes, which is why it pays to talk through your branding needs with a professional to understand the right approach.
Below we’ve set-out in detail all the factors that play-out in costing branding as well as a table of indicative costs.
Whilst some business and marketing leaders position themselves as managers of brand change with a skill-set and swag of experience in this area, for most the task of branding is an 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 what you should reasonably budget for the process?
How do I know if my branding needs to change?
There are some indicators that your brand might need work, such as:
• Shrinking market share or revenues.
• Any change in business strategy that impacts the direction of the business.
• The identification of confused, contradictory or inconsistent marketing messages.
• Disconnect from target audience.
• Flagging client or customer loyalty.
• Damage control after any significant incident that has impacted the standing of the business.
• New entrants in the market
• Poor brand recognition
• Negative social sentiment.
We recently wrote about this in more detail in an article called; ‘How do I know if my branding needs to change?’.
Branding is so much more than designing a logo, and accordingly more expensive – which is why so many graphic designers have positioned themselves as branding experts. Branding or re-branding is a process that must include:
01. Market Insights – Truly understand your customers and the market in which you operate.
02. Brand Positioning Strategy – Determining the right approach for positioning your brand for success and a road map for achieving that
03. Brand identity Design – How will your brand look? What should the visual language communicate?
04. Go-to-Market Brand Identity Implementation – What tools do I need to engage with my target market?
Who do I need on my branding team?
Each step of the re-branding process calls for specific expertise and experience from researchers, brand strategists, specialist brand identity designers, marketers, digital strategists, ad creatives, architects and communications professionals. There isn’t an agency in Australia with all of this expertise under one roof, and neither does there need to be. 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 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 to ensure your brand is brought to life in everything you say and do.
And the big question – How much should I pay?
In few other industries is there such a huge discrepancy between the cost a business may be quoted as branding. A total branding project could cost you $250 on 99 Designs through to $200k working with one of the global branding agencies. This is kind of like asking a few builders to quote on building your house and getting price ranges from $2,500-$2m. With this kind of inconsistency, how on earth can you even start to work out what the right price is?
The good news is there are some guidelines and a number of factors to what a branding project should cost that reduce the range some-what. As we discuss costs below we will do-so providing a price range to allow for these variables.
The Branding Value Equation
Like every other business investment decision, rationalization of spend must relate to increase in profit as a result of that investment. Clients should consider the reason they are embarking on the branding work with a quantification on the upside. Business goals such as; increasing market share, 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.
Working with a client in the feminine hygiene category recently, the business upside from brand re-positioning and packaging re-design was to be picked-up by a National pharmacy chain and the two major supermarket chains in Australia. Our brand work with TOM Organic has seen them stocked in a number of national pharmacy chains as well as the major supermarkets, increasing sales by more than 40 times in an 18 month period with no significant additional marketing spend.
Agency Size and Experience
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 lower end of the scale, with larger, global brand agencies at the upper end of the scale.
Whilst all projects should include the four steps of Insights, Strategy Definition, Identity Design and Activation, even within this framework the scope can vary significantly.
• Research for consumer brands can cost in the range of $60k-$80k, where a smaller organisation may be able to use existing industry data, saving 90% of the cost of developing market insights.
• Strategy Definition deliverables can also vary depending on factors such as brand architecture, number of stakeholders, number of customer segments, product portfolio, product or brand naming, and a preference for extensive and detailed or summarized top-line brand report.
• Brand Identity Design scope can also vary depending on brand architecture and number of applications on which creative concepts are applied for presentation – which is typically driven by stakeholder requirements.
• Go-to-market Activation can also vary significantly. Online businesses who predominantly need to focus only on their online brand presence, while retail businesses at the other end of the scale require store design, point of sale, online store design, social media, local area marketing, ad campaigns, staff uniforms, menu/in-store graphics, packaging and beyond.
The costs below reflect each stage of a complete branding process, which may or may-not be what is right for you. They’re provided as an indicative guide and are in no way a quote. Every project needs to be broken into specific process 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.
01. Market Insights – $5k-$80k
02. Brand Strategy – $8k-$45k
02A. Brand Naming – $5k-$20k
03. Brand Identity Design – $15k-$40k
04. Go-to-market Implementation – $15k+
When budgeting for a branding project the cost of activation/implementation production should not be under estimated; replacing signage, re-building web sites, re-tooling packaging, updating staff uniforms, reprinting sales and marketing collateral, re-fitting shops, etc. all come with significant cost implications that need to be included in the overarching branding project budget.Whilst these costs can quickly add-up, most businesses budget to re-print and update thee elements semi-regularly. A well planned branding update will work within these budget cycles to minimize additional spending.
What if I don’t have this much budget?
That’s a tough question, but there can be ways to re-cut the process without compromising the outcome. Simplifying some of the steps, using the collective knowledge for feel of the market in place of research, developing one or two concepts rather than the standard three can provide a professional outcome for a lesser budget.
However, selecting your agency on cost alone can provide a false economy. Finding an agency who can do the work for $5k may sound like a good deal, but I caution against investing what is still a significant sum of money in doing the job wrong. Over the years we have spoken to many clients who have been convinced by investors and agencies hungry for work that there is a cheaper way to brand, only to realize at the end of the process that the work is unable to achieve the businesses goals. These clients find themselves in an even more untenable position having spent a large chunk of the budget they have, with three months of time-frame gone and being no closer to the end point they need to get to.
Recently a start-up client schooled me that “he’d rather spend $40,000 on a brand that only needed to attract four new clients to pay for itself, than spend $5,000 on a brand that adds no real value to his business”.
His point was succinctly made; the right brand is an investment that pays for itself over and over again, year after year.
An important question for all businesses looking to create a brand is; ‘How many sales would I need to attract in order to justify the cost of branding professionally?’
Every business goes through different stages of evolution, each with its own financial restrictions. The reality is some stages of business cannot justify the required budget for a full branding project. If this is the case, then its important to lower your sights and simplify the demands for your project. Rather than developing a fully integrated brand you might simply refine your positioning to engage the market, or rather than creating a strategically directed and multi layered new brand identity you might look at re-designing your logo and brand colours to appear more professional and appeal to your target audience at a surface level.
Whilst this will not assist you in taking significant steps to develop a brand to drive your business, it will help you to get to the next stage where you may well be able to justify the branding project spend.
What if I do have the budget?
Whilst every agency approaches this type of project in their own way, in every case you should clearly understand how any brand development work will build value for your business – brand building is business building.
Obligation Free – One Hour – Brand Diagnostic Session
- Clarify your critical brand components; Product/service expertise, Core customer, Competitors & Compelling point of difference.
- Identify your current brand challenges and opportunities.
- Chart the best way to overcoming those challenges / capture the business value within those opportunities.