| Branding, Marketing, Startups

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BrandingResearch-costsAs 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.



  1. Dan Knauf | November 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    I feel like a lot of small businesses underestimate the importance of brand research and just act when something feels right. Maybe the small business owner feels they have enough knowledge of the brand going in and think they don’t need to research. They may also feel they don’t have a large enough budget for brand research if they are a start-up. You’re right though about needing to come up with a list of what needs to be researched and how extensively. Brand research is extremely important, but you don’t want to spend all your money to the point that you then can’t afford to execute what you just researched.

  2. Tracy Diziere | June 1, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    When it comes to brand, especially defining your business or service offering name–or how you talk about what you do–I think it’s too risky to move forward with hardly any research at all. Any marketing strategist or agency who has your best interests in mind and wants you to succeed will recommend validating assumptions to ensure your investment is sound.

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