Why Do Agencies Exist? To Build Your Brand
In a previous blog post on the Basics of Branding, I talked about the importance of a company’s public identity and laid out a strategy for branding that involves several major phases.
The first phase is a mental process: thinking about branding. You start by defining the promise that you will make to the public, and its basis for your company’s authentic identity – what you actually are, and will be, to the customers you serve.
The next phase in that strategy is to communicate that brand image – that promise – clearly to the public, through marketing and your interactions with the media. We’ve talked a lot about this stage in various blog posts.
The third phase is living up to the promises that you make through branding, making your brand authentic.
Let’s talk a little about how to move through these phases in the smartest way possible – to get the best results, and to spend your time and resources without waste.
Often, when a business is new, or is reaching out into new markets with an eye towards scaling up, there is a sense that working with an agency is something you do later, when you have big resources, a large operation. As a result you structure your branding as in figure 1. But from a branding standpoint, this is putting the cart before the horse. When you are emerging is when you need to have the unified planning and messaging that an agency provides more than at any other time.
In another post I mentioned the old axiom, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” If you’re making your first impression with an inconsistent, or contradictory, message, if you are using your own resources to present your company’s face to the world and not working from an organized and uniform strategy, you can damage your brand before you even have a chance to establish it.
Using un-coordinated, smaller resources to manage your marketing can appear to be more cost-effective at first, but without the overseeing organization of a solid branding strategy, you can severely damage the public’s perception of your company. Later on, this mistaken idea the public has of who you are can be very difficult to undo. You can cost yourself business, and place yourself in a position of having to mount a massive campaign to change public perceptions.
The cost of ignoring brand identity early in the process is often not only far more than the investment in a well-designed branding campaign would have been from the beginning – sometimes, it is fatal. History is full of examples of companies that have had to completely change their corporate identity to get a second chance at that first impression.
For this reason, we believe very strongly that having an agency involved in the process from the first, conceptual stage is not only important, but crucial. You may want to continue using smaller and separate resources with specialized expertise for various parts of your business and marketing strategy, but they should be operating under the kind of strategic and consistent guidance that a good agency can bring to those efforts.
The kind of solid brand image that makes customers think to themselves “They promised me this, and they delivered, I’m going to recommend them to others!” doesn’t happen by accident.
Branding isn’t just about consistently delivering on your promises, it’s about making consistent promises from day one.