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How Do You Judge Marketing Firms?

Different companies have different types of branding expertise. For instance, we (a brand consultancy) primarily focus on market research informed brand positioning, strategy development and brand equity measurement. We want to help organizations differentiate themselves in meaningful ways. That requires a deep understanding of marketing research, consumer behavior and marketing strategy as it relates to business strategy.

Some companies focus on brand identity development. For the majority of people, this translates to names, logos and taglines.These deliverables require strong graphic design and copy writing abilities. They also require deep brand identity experience if the name, logo and tagline are to work in all situations over time. Some companies  call themselves branding houses, but they are primarily good at developing creative (graphics and copy) for marketing communications materials and campaigns. At their core - they are advertising agencies. Many of those agencies are better in some media than others, for instance print versus television versus web-based. Few agencies have the strategic abilities needed for the development of robust brand strategies based on deep consumer insight. Other branding companies (mainly consulting firms) focus on brand equity measurement (quantitative research), brand asset valuation or inside-out branding, all of which require an entirely different set of skills, including OD (organization development/design) skills for inside-out branding.

So how does one determine which organization would best serve your needs? First, you must carefully assess your needs so that you know what you are seeking. Once you have done that, you should make your selection based on the following:
  • The types of branding projects they have done most often and most successfully (e.g., brand audits, brand strategy development, brand identity systems and standards, advertising campaigns, simple logo design, etc.)

  • The types of people they employ and which of them would be assigned to your project (e.g. marketing researchers, brand strategists, graphic designers, copy writers, direct marketing experts, web marketing specialists, account executives, social media experts, etc.)

  • Ask for specific, detailed client case studies coupled with client contacts for those projects so that you can confirm with previous clients just what the organization/consultant did, how they did it and what its outcome was.
The bottom line: If an agency has a hammer, it will treat everything as a nail. If it has a screwdriver, it will treat everything as a screw. Find out what tools, skill sets, and types of projects the agency or consultancy has focused on. In this way, you will know whether they are capable of helping you.

Finally, watch out for companies that "knock your socks off" with highly polished and compelling presentations delivered by their business development team, a group that you are likely not to see again after the business pitch. Ask to meet the people who will actually be assigned to your project. If they are labeled 'Guru's' be sure you know what their actual level of involvement with your brand will be.

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