When you're starting a business, one of the most important decisions you'll make is what it will look like. Basically, your visual identity/branding.
Visual identity is not just about aesthetics:
- Consistent branding is associated with a 33% increase in revenue (Lucidpress, 2009)
- Adopting a signature brand color can increase brand recognition by 80% (Reboot, 2018)
There are a lot of branding agencies out there, and it can be difficult to know which one is the best fit for your business. Each agency has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it's important to find one that aligns with your own values and goals. Choosing which branding agency to put in charge of your visual identity can be especially tricky if you’re running a startup.
In this article, we'll explain how to choose the best branding agency for your startup.
- Why branding should be a priority for your startup
- What to look for in a branding agency
- Where to find branding agencies
- How to prepare for your next meeting with a potential branding agency
- 10 questions to ask your potential branding partner
- A branding solution especially designed for startups
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Why Branding Should Be a Key Priority for Growing Startups
As you reach out to potential investors and early adopters, you’ll probably figure out why branding should be one of your top priority. After all, it's what people will see and associate with your company. This is especially important if you’re in an overcrowded market, where hundreds of brands look practically the same.
All in all, well-branded companies tend to be more successful. There are several reasons why, but these are our favorite three:
- We all like beautiful things. A brand that appeals to its audience’s aesthetic taste is giving it a reason to engage. If you’re a newcomer, a beautiful visual identity can be a magnet for curious potential customers.
- A solid branding isn’t just about colors and fonts. It’s the visual manifestation of a worldview, a mission, and a set of values. 64% of women and 68% of men feel emotionally connected to their favorite brands (Consumer Thermometer) and visual identity plays a key role in making it happen.
- A good visual identity feels “expensive”, shows that there are resources and dedication behind the company, and builds trusts. This is especially important when reaching out to potential investors and early adopters.
Now you know how a competitive visual identity can help you achieve your goals. So, let’s dive into how to choose the branding agency that can make it happen.
What to Look for in a Startup Branding Agency
First, you need to decide what you want from your branding agency. Do you need them to create a logo and brand kit? Or are you looking for a complete rebranding? Once you know what you need, start by narrowing down your options to agencies that specialize in those solutions, and that fit your industry.
Next, take a look at their portfolio. Do they have a record of success with startups? And finally, don't forget to look for references and reviews from past clients.
But, what should you expect to find? We suggest you prioritize branding agencies that:
- Are efficient and fast
- Align with your aesthetic standards
- Can offer you predictable and transparent pricing
Let’s take a closer look.
Efficiency and speed
Branding projects can take months. But they don’t have to. Especially if you’re an up-and-coming company that needs something good enough for you to hit the market.
Branding projects are usually made long and slow by:
- The need to adapt the brand to several real-world applications
- The need to design brand guidelines that large teams can understand and apply effortlessly
- A long history of brand iterations, providing a rich backlog of information about the brand
- The expectation that the final product will remain in use, totally unaltered, for as long as possible
Your startup is operating in a fast-paced environment and doesn’t have any of the needs and characteristics that turn branding projects into high-stakes 12-month ordeals.
You’ll want your branding agency to create a visual identity that you find beautiful. That can seem pretty obvious, but it’s worth mentioning.
You may find that most brands in your niche gravitate towards a certain aesthetic. And, as a result, you may choose an agency that has mastered that look.
Following trends can be rewarding in the short-term. But consider that your brand’s first impression should be genuine and different. It’s not wrong to choose a branding company that can give you a look-and-feel that feels true to you, even if it goes against your industry’s grain.
Pricing Predictability and Transparency
Just like branding projects can get unnecesarily long, they can also get unnecesarily expensive. Especially if you’re bootstraping your company, it's important that you have a good understanding of how much the project will cost upfront. There should be no hidden fees or last-minute surprises. The agency should also be able to provide a detailed timeline so you know what to expect along the way.
How to Find the Best Startup Branding Agency
There are many ways to find a good branding agency.
We recommend you:
- Browse design platforms
- Leverage your network
Browse Design Platforms
A great way to find a branding agency is to browse design platforms. Many agencies showcase their work on platforms like Behance or Dribbble, so this is a great way to get a sense of their style and see some of their best work.
Once you've compiled a list of agencies, take a look at the ones that have worked with startups in your niche.
Leverage your Network
Ask your colleagues if there’s any agency they’d recommend. Aside from directly asking, consider sharing your search on social media.
Once you’ve found a couple of agencies that may work for you, we recommend you:
- Create a shortlist
- Ask yourself some important questions about your project
- Get in touch with each agency and book a call
In the next two sections, we’ll share what questions you should ask yourself about your project, and which you should ask the agencies you meet with.
How to Prepare for a Meeting with a Potential Branding Agency
Before meeting with agencies, we recommend doing a little self-discovery. At this point, you probably know you need to refresh your brand. But, are you aware of what you need exactly?
- What assets would you like the agency to create, aside from your logo? For instance, would you need a pitch deck template?
- What’s your budget?
- Are there any deadlines restricting your timeline?
- What’s your priority?
- What communication channels would you prefer to share with your agency?
10 Questions You Should Ask Your Next Branding Agency
Let’s say you’ve booked meetings with a couple of different agencies. You’ll find that those meetings can be quite different from one another. One company may hook you up with a sales rep who pitches the service and doesn’t ask many questions. Other agencies will connect you with a member of their creative team, who explains their process in depth.
How can you make sure you end each meeting with the information you need to make the right decision?
It can be tough, but don’t worry. Below are 10 questions you should ask your next potential branding agency. By asking these questions, you'll get a better idea of whether or not they're the right fit for your business.
We suggest you ask:
- What's your process like?
- Have you worked with startups before?
- What’s your pricing model?
- How long do you expect this process to take?
- What deliverables do you usually include in your branding projects?
- How will you communicate with me during the project?
- How would you like to handle revisions?
- How do you define success?
- Will you give me access to the project’s source files, so I can edit them in the future if I need to?
- Who will stay in touch with me during this project?
A Branding Solution at the Speed of Startups
Startups have unique needs that conventional branding processes don’t usually meet.
Branding is often a long and expensive process that aims for a perfect finished product.
This is the right approach when working with corporations or long-standing businesses. But it’s not the right approach for startups. For startups, a visual identity is a toolkit for content creation and community-building. And it’s better done than perfect. But what if it could be both done and perfect?
At Postdigitalist, we developed Firestarter, a branding solution that equips startups with everything they need to hit the market and make an impactful first impression. Curious? Learn more or check out our design case studies.