Choosing a rebranding agency to work with on your company’s project can be a tricky task.
There’s a lot of pressure resting on your shoulders if you’re the Marketing Manager or person about to make that crucial decision.
Choosing the right agency to rebrand your business will have a massive lasting impact on the shape of your company moving forward.
However, choose wrong, and you could end up blowing your marketing budget on something that’s considered by the board of directors as a massive waste of time, money, and effort.
After reading this post, you will know how to choose the best agency for your next rebranding project and avoid catastrophe!
Before we dive in, if you’re getting questioned by your higher ups about rebranding, check out our handy rebranding question and answer guide.
Let’s get to it.
Outline Your Project
Finding the right agency should start with you understanding what your company needs.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why are you rebranding?
- What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
- What the goals and objectives for the project?
- How much budget have you go to work with?
- When is the best time to undertake the project?
- When does it need to be ready to launch?
All of this and more is covered off in our rebranding brief.
Getting a solid brief pulled together for your project is a massive step in the right direction.
It gives your internal team something to rally around. And, it gives you something to take to your shortlisted agencies to help them understand your project.
Two of the questions above might seem impossible to answer without any sort of context.
Let’s assume you’ve never done this before. Here’s a bit of a primer on cost and timescales.
How Much Does Rebranding Cost?
Every single rebranding project is different. Different businesses have completely different requirements.
Let’s just say no serious agency is getting involved in a project for anything less than five figures. Rebranding a company isn’t easy, and takes a substantial amount of time and hard work.
Go to your big Madison Avenue agencies, or Central London agencies, and you could be easily into the six figures.
But investing properly at the start will hopefully ensure you don’t end up on the list of failed rebrands.
Again, it all depends on your requirements and the ins-and-outs of the project, but be prepared to invest a substantial amount of your marketing budget to make it happen.
How Long Does Rebranding Take?
“Every single rebranding project is different.” And on top of that, so is every single rebranding agency.
Some agencies focus on only working on a small handful of projects at a time, others have a wide range of clients they’re working to service at any one time.
Timescales are variable, but at a minimum, you should expect to invest at least 3 to 4 months into your rebranding project.
Again, it depends on the specific rebranding deliverables and if you’re looking at your website too. For the record, you should be working on your website alongside your rebranding project, otherwise it could go on forever!
Right, you’ve got the brief template, we’ve primed you on some of the answers.
Ready for the next step in the process?
Finding the Right Type of Agency for Your Project
This next part sounds easier than it is.
If you’ve never looked for an agency before, you might end up confused with all of the different terms flying around.
- Branding agency
- Brand consultant
- Creative agency
- Digital agency
- Marketing agency
The list goes on and on, and because there’s little to no barrier to entry in creative services, you have one-man-bands and small shops spinning up all over the place.
“Rebranding agency” isn’t a term that tends to get used. Digital agencies and marketing agencies tend to more on the SEO / digital PR side of things, whereas you get branding agencies that tend to work on a lot of rebranding projects (like we do at Canny) but dedicated branding agencies, less so.
Either way, the names don’t matter as much as what they’re capable of producing.
Find Some Examples of Work That Reflects Your Business
One of the first things you should try and do is immerse yourself in the world of branding.
Start out by paying attention to what’s going on around you. Look for brands and rebrands in your everyday life.
There are some great websites out there to cover the topic of branding and rebranding some depth.
Those websites are:
As someone involved in the marketing world, the chances are you’ve seen a lot of things like this already. Is there anything you’ve seen that has jumped out and caught your attention?
Make a note of it and move on.
Next up, we’re searching for agencies, but before we do that:
What Makes for a Good Rebranding or Branding Agency, and How Can You Tell One From Another?
It’s fair to say that there is an abundance of design agencies and branding agencies out there, so how can you tell a good one from a bad one?
Quality of Work
The first thing to look for when trying to make your shortlist design agency is the quality of work that they’re putting out.
Run through their portfolios and check whether they work on a project that you like the look of and are relevant to your business. Sometimes they don’t need to be relevant, but again if you’re involved in marketing, chances are you know what good design and branding work looks like.
Does their work look professional? Can you imagine real companies using it?
Oftentimes, agencies, especially smaller ones, might put studio lead design briefs out. This is work they’ve done themselves and not for a client.
For all it might look great, This does not give a true or accurate reflection of the work they can produce for clients.
Ask yourself when looking at their work what were the constraints, what were the goals and objectives, and what results have the agency achieved for the business.
Are They Established?
Asking how long an agency has been trading for is probably redundant. New agencies can be just as good as older agencies who have been established longer.
Having some background pedigree and maybe even some recognisable named clients can be testament to what they’ve been trusted with in the past.
This though, isn’t the be all and end all.
It was my business Looking for a branding partner, I would definitely be interested in seeing their track record.
A Word of Warning
Design and branding awards mean jack shit.
In the design and branding world awards are easily manufactured or bought. So don’t pay too much attention to agencies claiming to be award-winning.
Creative agencies are by their very nature creative people. Therefore it’s easy to see how they may get creative with their own brand positioning and marketing language.
I repeat, pay no attention to agency awards unless you’re prepared to do your full research into them. Some are great, but more often than not, they carry no weight whatsoever.
Searching for Rebranding Agencies
Like we’ve already mentioned earlier in this post, the term “rebranding agencies” isn’t really used.
You want a branding agency that has a lot of experience working on rebranding projects. Or an agency that offers rebranding services.
So where do you start your search?
Google and Search Engines
Defaulting to Google is probably the easiest option.
Thing is here, is you’re going to get the advertisers and people paying for PPC. I’d skip on past them, and see who’s coming up organically. They’re normally more relevant!
Decide whether proximity matters to you. Covid changed the world, making it smaller than ever, so this is completely your call.
Two things to consider:
- Do you imagine needing an excessive amount of face to face time? (Most agencies will travel anyway)
- Is local knowledge a factor in the success of your rebranding project?
Unless you’re a local business targeting local people (yes, that’s a League of Gentlemen reference) – then it’s probably not a big consideration.
Also, if you’re in a major city, the chances are you can get more for your marketing budget outside of your area.
I know Canny’s rates are often up to a 1/3rd cheaper than London based agencies.
If you’ve not heard of Dribbble, it’s essentially a showcase of “pretty designs” made by designers and agencies.
It’s good, but it’s often not functional design.
However, it serves as a great directory and makes finding agencies easy!
Agencies You Admire
Remember when we said to find some work you liked earlier?
You can always contact the agencies that made that work too!
If you get stuck trying to find who made it, try using Google’s Reverse Image Search feature.
Your Own Network
The best way to find a branding agency to partner with on your rebrand is by tapping your own network.
Chances are, one swift post on LinkedIn, or reaching out to other marketers or founders you know will help build up a great list of agencies to check out.
This way you can get personal feedback from people too.
Once you’ve got a list of agencies to check out, it’s time to move on.
Check Out Their Portfolios
Hopefully at this stage you’ve got 10 or so agencies on your list to take a look at.
So how do you go about analysing them?
Check Out Their Website
This is the first touchpoint I’d encourage you to engage with. Ask yourself:
- Does their website look good?
- Is it interesting?
- Do they offer the services we need?
- Is their site updated regularly?
- Do they share industry thoughts and insights?
At this juncture, I’d be looking to remove any agencies who are instantly giving you a negative impression.
Their site is slow to load, and when it does, it’s full of crazy things, spinning @ symbols and the like. Or worse, it’s built on a terrible free site builder. Agencies should be making their own sites.
Check Out Their Work
While you’re on their site, you’re going to want to check out their work. Afterall, what use are they if they can’t produce the goods?
But try and get out of the mindset of:
“That looks nice.”
You want to be looking for the problem, the solution they came up with, and the results.
Professional agencies go beyond creating good looking work, and get into work that solves real world problems.
Pay close attention to statistics and real business metrics. Things that could change the game when presenting to your Board of Directors!
Look for Testimonials
Testimonials in the design world run the risk of being a little like awards. Not worth a thing.
If there are testimonials on an agency’s website, check whether they’ve listed out the person’s name, position in the company, and included a photo.
Then a cursory glance at LinkedIn will help you spot any forgery a mile off.
If you want to get really James Bond, drop them a message and ask what they were like to work with and whether they would recommend them!
A better way of assessing reviews and testimonials is likely through Google Reviews. Search the agency’s name, then check the information panel on the right.
Those reviews are slightly more difficult to forge.
Once you’re done with your digging, move on.
Follow Them on Social Media and Subscribe to their Mailing List
Following your shortlisted agencies on social media is often a good way to immerse yourself in their world.
It’s not a perfect mechanism for judging or removing people from your list, but it can give you a great insight:
- What are they sharing?
- Are they posting regularly?
- If not, why not?
- What do they seem like as people?
- Can you imagine yourself working with them?
Social media can give you all these sorts of insights!
And, join their mailing list too. Are they putting out good content there too?
Putting out good content is a good insight into how they operate and think. If they value thought leadership, chances are, they’re actively engaged in the industry and have a reputation to uphold.
Ready? Time to get brutally honest.
Narrow Down Your Selection
At this point, I’d imagine you’re sick of looking at agencies.
So, it’s time to narrow down your selection.
Personally, if you started with a list of ten potential agencies to work with I think it’s time to reduce this list down to five.
The first thing to do, is get rid of the agencies that didn’t have outstanding reviews from the people you reached out to, or no positive reviews to show at all.
Then, strike out those agencies whose work or website didn’t grab your attention in the way you’d hoped.
And finally, if you still have a few too many, go with gut feel.
That’s where reviewing social media, email newsletters, blogs, and thought pieces comes in.
If you like what they’re putting out and can imagine yourself working with them, keep them on the list. If not, it’s time for them to go!
Make Initial Contact
Shortlist in one hand, rebranding brief in the other, it’s time to make initial contact.
A piece of advice I’d share at this stage is to use email or a contact form on their site.
The agency environment can often be frantically busy. Trying to call will often result in you ending up frustrated, or starting your relationship with them by interrupting someone in the middle of what they were doing.
Also, it’s the 21st century. Who calls anyone on the phone in this day and age anyway?
When sending an email, I wouldn’t ask for a quick call to discuss.
Picture receiving this email:
“Hey Agency X,
I’d like to discuss our rebranding project with you.
That sort of email is the type of email that often goes ignored or is last in a pile of promising enquiries to reply to.
Try something more like this:
“Hey Agency X,
Love the work you did on The Acme Corporation project. We’re looking to rebrand our company and think your team might be a good fit for us.
We’ve already prepped a rough Rebranding Brief, which I’ve attached to this email.
Could you please take a look at it, and let me know whether it’s worth setting up a call to discuss?
This type of email stands out in the inbox.
You’ve shown them you’re researching their agency, not just using a scattergun approach.
And you’ve done a lot of the initial leg work already, so they can look through your requirements, timeframe, and budget, assess whether it’s a project they can facilitate – and then come back to you with clear next steps.
Once you’ve made contact with your shortlisted agencies, it really is over to them.
You’ve done a lot of hard work and research up to this point, so make yourself a cup of tea and relax. Try not to think about it.
Here’s how I’d imagine things to go with five agencies:
The chances are three or four will reply, one is stowed off and doesn’t reply, and one may or two may not have ability or capacity to do the work.
But, that leaves you with three to proceed to the proposal stage with.
A few things to keep in mind at this point are:
- How long does it take to get a reply?
- Is the reply comprehensive or a little generic?
- Do they seem excited and motivated to do the work?
These things can be good indicators of the situation the agency finds themselves in.
If it takes them a long time to reply, they could be swamped with work. Take that as you will. Are they too busy to deal with you?
(Probably not, they’ll just schedule a later start date.)
Alternatively, they are swamped and couldn’t fit you in. Or, your email didn’t spark immediate interest so they took a longer time to respond.
If the reply is comprehensive and you can tell they’ve been over the brief in detail, I’d be marking a big tick in their win column. You’ve taken the time to prepare the brief, they’ve taken your enquiry seriously and put in a lot of their time to respond properly.
If the reply is a generic response asking for a call, it’d set my Spidey-sense off. If you’d have wanted a call without context, you would’ve called them to start with.
And finally, if they seem excited and motivated by your project – pay real close attention to that! Genuine interest and excitement goes a long way.
You’re looking to form a partnership that lasts for a long time, not just a one-and-done scenario. Genuine interest and excitement into your company and situation will serve you well in the long run.
The agencies’ responses are the first chance they have to engage with you. Ask yourself, are they engaging enough?
Compare Responses and Make Your Decision
The different agencies on your shortlist will want to handle the next steps differently.
You’re likely going to come up against one of several scenarios:
- No Reply
- Request for a call / meeting
- Acknowledgment and denial
- Acknowledgement and quote
If the agency doesn’t respond within 5-7 working days, bin them off. They’re not interested, or they’re too busy to reply.
Request for a Call / Meeting
This is the typical scenario. If they’ve been through your brief and want to set up a call or meeting, go for it.
This means they’re engaged, and want to bring you onboard. And any agency worth their salt, won’t proceed to a proposal or quote without speaking to you first anyway.
Acknowledgement and Denial
Sometimes, an agency will flat out deny a project. And that’s fine! That means you’re not a good fit for them or they’re not a good fit for you.
Better to find that out now than once contracts have exchanged hands.
Acknowledgement and Quote
This can happen too. If your brief is super detailed and doesn’t need any clarification whatsoever, you might get a trigger happy agency replying with a quote.
This isn’t a bad thing, but I always imagine quotes like this to go sideways quickly when the project gets underway.
Having your rebranding brief ready is always a good thing, but you should always expect to take a call with your agency shortlist.
Once you’ve had the calls, and the proposals are in, it’s time to make your final decision.
First ask yourself:
Are the Quotes Comparable?
When we talk about comparing quotes, we don’t mean just cost comparisons. Especially when it comes to rebranding, you get what you pay for. Whilst going on Fiverr and getting a quick job done cheap can be tempting, it can often do more harm than good.
For a true picture of what the quotes are offering, and how much ‘bang for your buck’ you’re getting, take a look through our rebranding deliverables and services page and see which quote covers off all of the essentials best.
It is vital to not cheap out on your rebranding agency budget, because getting your rebrand wrong can become more costly to repair the damage done than it would have cost to pay competent professionals in the first place!
Which Looks Best on Paper?
When you’ve really narrowed down your choices, go back and compare each agency’s work side by side. As you go through three or four examples of work you’ll start to develop an impression of the agency’s aesthetic sensibilities and typical directions.
Which work suits you and your brand best? Which design choices would resonate best with your audience?
The aesthetics and impressions that each agency gives from their previous work is vital in making the decisions around which agency to select.
Another good way to decide who looks best on paper is to look for testimonials and what previous clients of the agency have said about them.
Although testimonials and reviews are completely subjective and should be taken with a pinch of salt, they are a good litmus test for how good an agency is to work with on a project.
If there are any discrepancies between services or deliverables, again, put them side by side against the Canny rebrand deliverables and services list and see if anything vital has been missed. If there are vital things missing from one offering or another, is it something you’d rather not miss out on? Is it something that the agency could include?
There are plenty of things to consider and side by side comparisons, or putting things into pros and cons lists can be very helpful. Presenting things in a logical fashion is a really useful way of helping with your decision making process, but one of the best ways to decide is to just go with your gut.
Go with Gut Feeling
I’m a big believer in gut feeling decisions. I think in today’s world ‘just knowing’ something is entirely underrated, but I find that with a bit of introspection you tend to know deep down what will be best for your company.
Your gut feeling is led by the little subconscious intangibles that your brain will pick up on without you even noticing. Think about a time where you’ve met with an agency or external provider and the meeting was super positive and you just felt at home.
There are a lot of things people can fake, or sidestep with salesy jargon, but faking passion and genuine interest in a project is much harder to do. At the end of the day you are inviting an agency into your business, and you’ll potentially have to work with them for the long haul depending on the scope of the project.
Who did you get on with the most? Who had a better overall general feeling? Who seemed like you’d work well with? This isn’t necessarily about friendliness, as plenty of people have friends who they’d hate to work with!
On the other hand, if you don’t find the agency friendly or welcoming in the first instance, you’ll likely find them difficult to work with along the project.
Either way, your gut will know!
Start Building That Relationship
Once you’ve chosen your agency, don’t rest on your laurels. Putting in the work to build up that relationship as early as possible will pay off tenfold in the long run. As long as you’re open, friendly, receptive to new ideas and prepared to be involved in the conversation whilst still respecting the expertise of the agency you’ve chosen, you’ll set yourself in good stead.
You are spending your budget and putting a lot of faith in the agency, but don’t be too prescriptive. Work with the agency, not against them, to get the most out of your budget. Most agencies will be able to offer services or insight into various different parts of your business, and so make sure to leverage their expertise in as flexible a way as possible to really get everything you can out of the relationship.
At Canny, we often hear from previous clients just to ask a question about web design, or to get a bit of guidance about a developing business opportunity or potential engagement.
Because we work across a variety of industries, agencies can often offer perspectives that not many other people have. Developing a friendly working relationship with your chosen agency is as much your responsibility as it is theirs, but it will be far more valuable long term to your business!
Conclusion: How to Choose the Right Rebranding Agency For You
Choosing the right agency will have a truly transformative positive impact on your business. Especially when considering the in-depth complexities of rebranding, and the minefield of brand identity, audience demographic, brand dilution and other important considerations, choosing the right agency is vital.
Equally, the wrong choice can be catastrophic! The difficulty when considering this is that it also tends to be a risk/reward scenario- the more trusting you are, and the more faith you put in your agency, the greater the reward.
Sometimes this can feel like handing over the keys to the treasure chest or letting the agency off their leash, but it’s well worth it.
With a lot of creative freedom and the right agency in the driving seat, the long term relationship you can cultivate with an agency can be invaluable.
Make decisions with both your head and your heart, don’t go totally wild and throw all logic out of the window but don’t be afraid to trust your instincts, and it’ll put you on the path to success.
And if you want to experience the best first meeting of a rebranding agency you’ll ever have, get in touch with Canny Creative today and let’s set up a call!