Why hire a brand agency?

The business value of hiring a brand agency

Why would anyone hire an agency to do their brand strategy for them? Particularly in this age of authenticity, data-centricity, and content-driven dialogue, when business and brand strategy are tied so closely together.

In our experience, businesses benefit from having both a depth in experience and a higher altitude in perspective on brand strategy that you can only get from having an outside team. If brand strategy is left as a marketing function, brand will be cut at the shoulders and knees, and unable to drive real business outcomes across all areas: HR, Operations, R&D, Sales, Service, and Marketing. After all, brand left to just a marketing campaign, which should leap off brand elements but is bounded by short-term sales goals, isn’t really brand at all.

I recently asked a few of our clients, all at the VP, CMO, COO, or Founder level across a range of start-up, mid-market and Enterprise organizations, an open-end question of when they think outside help is required. I repeatedly heard three things that correspond with our experience, as well. Go outside and hire a brand agency if you want:

1. Deep expertise,
2. Perspective and
3. Dedicated time for a fast-tracked solution.

1. Deep Expertise: Enlist experts who have worked on strategy for hundreds if not thousands of clients across a wide range of company types and sizes

“I've used an agency for project-based work that requires a specific skillset that wouldn't make sense to hire in-house for a full time role.” – Stephan, COO, Former CMO

“I have had the most success hiring agencies to help develop/build corporate branding, messaging and positioning. IMO this is often successful because this work is what I consider “fundamental”. To do these projects right requires a massive effort, but once complete the overall messaging framework and brand guidelines serve as the springboard from which every other marketing message flows.” – Tamara, VP Marketing

Deep brand expertise comes from working across a variety of challenges, opportunities, and types of businesses. These aren’t skills you need every day. Often, you just don’t have the right talent in-house, whether that’s by design or because you don’t have a long-term need for these skills; and, these skills may not sit within one or two FTEs, but require more of a team approach, with only a few hours or weeks needed from a wide variety of skill sets.

Clients can reap a lot of benefits from bringing in an agency that’s spent time in other categories solving similar challenges, or bringing Enterprise insight to a start-up, or a growth hacking approach to an Enterprise. Having a team work on your naming or architecture who have named hundreds of products or services, or completed dozens of portfolio management projects, is going to bring incomparable expertise and perspective to your project. The same goes for positioning – for example, our team has a combined number of insights + positioning projects of 500+. You’re going to benefit from having experts leading that work who know the pitfalls that come with the different choices you have to make.

Strategy isn’t a yes/no or zero sum game; it’s about optimization for the most impact. So, experience counts for a lot, as it provides comparison and best practices that most companies wouldn’t have if they were to go it alone.

2. Perspective: Outside strategists are the antidotes to navel-gazing and can inspire and bring together teams mired in the day-to-day

“It’s very hard at times to be day-to-day and still maintain objectivity and not hear what you want to hear.” – Mark, CMO

“Often times we get too close to the products or services we sell and bringing in an agency with industry expertise often helps us to look at or think about strategic business initiatives in a different —and better—way.” – Tamara, VP Marketing

“Both to support or stretch talent in the organization, and when we are talking to ourselves too much.” – Nicole, VP Digital, former COO and VP, Marketing

At its most simple, strategy is seeing the forest for the trees. Within that vision, it also means understanding and admitting where you are (point A), being able to identify where you want to go (point B), and then navigating from point A to point B efficiently, while bringing along your entire organization.

So, the very first reason to hire an agency to do your brand strategy is because you can’t always see the full picture when you’re in the frame. An agency can more easily see past politics, historical patterns, the daily routine, and internal hurdles – to point out the gaps and obstacles in your way. If engineering and sales don’t see eye-to-eye, or if service and product are misaligned, then a proven third party can be particularly helpful in surfacing and mitigating differences within cultures. An agency can also help you see things you may not have on your radar, and see them from a customer’s perspective.

3. Dedicated Time: Having a focused team can be instrumental in building momentum and tackling a lot in a small amount of time

“Did my team have the time to produce something at the quality, and within the time-frame, we needed?” – Michael, Executive Director/Founder

Forming, clarifying, or evolving a brand is often work that has to be executed with momentum in mind. It can’t be sprinkled between the day-to-day requirements of an organization. An outside team can help push that work through in a timely manner, without slowing down running the business.

Working with a brand agency can add a refreshing perspective, can reinvigorate a team in the trenches, and can augment internal teams with a depth of expertise you don’t use or need every day.

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