We are all inundated with brand experts, branding agencies, corporate brand architects, brand strategists, freelance brand designers, design thinkers, and brand “gurus” who insist that they have the golden touch and can create and plan your brand for you. I have heard of agencies telling clients that “they were hired to do this, so step back and watch the magic.” If so, it is essential to understand this claim may not only be disingenuous—it's dangerous.
Although everyone may mean well, and it may seem like the easiest solution; the truth is that no one is in a position to build a brand on your behalf without a ton of input from you. Believing that you can hand over your brand and it magically return, having captured your voice, heart, and values, is the first misstep in understanding how a brand works. Your brand must come from you. The voice, art, and visuals must reflect you. Brand building is not a passive exercise; you must be an integral part of the process. If you are serious about developing a truly impactful and representative brand, hiring a company that will work collaboratively and defers to your instincts is key. Doing anything else will damage your brand and risk having to do it all again. Measure twice, cut once.
Unfortunately, the term “brand” is often overused (and grossly misunderstood). It's common to hear that a company has rebranded when it actually updated, revised, tweaked, or changed its logo. That is simply an identity refresh, not a rebrand. A proper rebrand would involve developing a new company name, strategy, core focus, as well as the visual and messaging throughout every platform, package, and ad-space. For an established brand, that is a risky move, but sometimes necessary. Hiccups, such as a “name” emerging that is the same as yours but has negative connotations. An example of this would be an old client of NLC, the International Society of Endovascular Specialists, which used the moniker "ISES" for short. You get the idea.
Why branding can be dangerous
An effective and authentic brand makes you vulnerable; values transparency opens you up to the world. If you don't live up to what you say you are, you are exposed as a fraud. You cannot hide from what you are communicating to the world. You are expected to live up to your promise. If branding isn't done correctly—and authentically—the result will most likely be confusing, misaligned, and dishonest. This taints the perception of your business. Reputation, the public perception, is a core part of your brand, and once lost, is hard to rebuild.
The design and marketing role is significant. Your team needs to dig deep and question everything you represent and the values of your business—or at least they should. Freelancers are notorious for disappearing or not understanding what all encompasses a true brand, so finding a professional agency is vital for a growing business. Under the transactional model, the creative does not have a long-term investment in your company. However, an extraordinary agency will champion your brand every chance they get. Your success is their success and having you as a long-term client is essential. Be sure to choose one that always has your back and is more interested in doing it properly and exceeding expectations over their bottom line.
You've got this. If you need help or advice, give us a call. Happy to help EVEN if you don't hire us. :0)
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