As a branding firm specializing in building brand identities, we frequently write estimates for brand research and strategy work. These may come from start-up firms who need to build a new brand identity, or established companies that are ready for a more professional and comprehensive branding strategy. They may be part of a specific design project (ie research leading up to a new logo or web site); or may be a separate research project.
At some point the question always comes back to: How much does it cost?
As a service-based business, estimating the costs of brand research work ultimately comes around to: How much time does it take?
Therefore, the question is really: How much time should you spend on branding research and brand strategy?
I’ve heard of large companies progressing through 12-month brand research plans that cost more than $100,000. On the other hand, there are many examples of businesses who move ahead with a logo design, new web site or a full marketing campaign with hardly any research at all.
With large scale branding research programs, a branding firm is usually hired to do a multi-pronged investigation to help gain a better understanding of:
- the current brand identity
- the internal (employee, owners) vision of their own brand
- how current customers or prospects view the brand
- how competitors position their own brand
- where are their disconnects between internal and market perceptions
- where are there gaps in the market’s landscape
- which of these gaps meshes with the current brand’s strengths
Is the cost of branding justified?
In the end, is the cost of brand research and strategy work justified?
The two ends of the spectrum are not good.
There are companies who blow so much of their budget on brand research and they would have been better to use a portion of that to execute on some branding upgrades or general marketing activities. On the other hand, many small businesses invest little or nothing in brand research and end up spending money on the execution of branding campaigns that are out of sync with their offerings or the marketplace.
Finding the right value for your organization depends on the complexities of the marketplace, how well-defined your own offerings are, and on your overall budget. You can work through a complete punch list (above), or you can focus on certain areas.