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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. No matter how clear-minded you are at leading your business, the task of re-branding is generally accompanied by a lack of clarity.

Right from the very start the ‘brand value conundrum’ is at work, making it difficult to commercially rationalise how much you should invest in your branding.

Our 30 years of branding experience have taught us that each project is unique. Depending on the currency of the brand’s strategic proposition, 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 agency like us to understand the right approach.

Below we’ve set-out the factors involved in costing a branding project and a table of indicative costs.

Thinking about branding? Best to have a chat with us first.

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 can be all manner of reasons to re-brand driven by defensive or offensive business strategy. Each scenario brings with it unique challenges that are critical to ensuring the right brand strategy moving forward.

What’s involved?

Branding is so much more than designing a logo, and accordingly more expensive – which is why so many agencies and designers position 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.

Most agencies don’t have 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 in the cost a business may be quoted for branding. A total branding project could cost you £250 for an online logo through to £250k working with an experienced branding agency.

With this kind of inconsistency, how do you start to work out what the right level of investment should be?

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, rationalisation 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 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.

Agency Size and Experience
When it comes to branding, agency size matters less than experience and skill-sets.

Project Scope
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 local brands may be able to use existing industry data and anecdotal 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.

Indicative Budgets
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 to what an experienced and appropriately skilled agency will charge.

01. Market Insights – £5k -80k
02. Brand Strategy – £8k- 25k
03. Brand Naming – £2k- 12k
04. Brand Identity Design – £7k- 25k
05. Go-to-market Implementation – £10k+

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.

A well planned branding implementation timeline will serve to minimise additional spending.

What if I don’t have that 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 we would 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 realise 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.

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 compromised approach is unlikely to assist you in taking significant steps to develop a brand to drive your business, if done correctly it may help you 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.

A Little About Us
We’re an agency with deep expertise in helping brands find their compelling point of difference. For more than 30 years we’ve paired strategic tools with beautiful design solutions to help hundreds of businesses across a range of categories stand-out, transform and grow.