1. Know What You Want. Do you need to re-brand your company? Are you looking to re-design one product or a full product line? Knowing this before your initial meeting may save you time, energy and money. Are you ready for a full re-design? Are your customers ready?
2. Know Your Company as Well as Your Product. Are you able to communicate your company’s mission? Has it changed from the time you first developed it? Should you reconsider it in light of changing market conditions?
3. Understand Your Designer's Core Strengths. Not all designers are created equal. Some agencies have a lot of expertise in one field (such as outdoor marketing) and not a lot of experience in another (such as package design). Be sure to interview several agencies before you make a decision. Some effort up front to find the right fit could save you money and headaches in the end.
4. Involve Your Branding Agency From the Start. Involve your agency at the onset of your brand process and keep an ongoing dialogue of your goals and objectives.
5. Be honest. Be direct. Designers work for you. They listen to your wants and needs. Don't sugarcoat what you don't like and don’t be afraid to ask questions or express your lack of knowledge in this area – that’s why you hired them.
6. Create a Detailed Creative Brief. Designers work best when the end goal of the branding effort is well defined. The time you put into this exercise upfront will help expedite the process later on.
7. Set Clear Budget Goals From the Start. A set budget is a critical piece of information for your agency. Be realistic about what you can afford. This will help ensure their recommendations are in line with your abilities, and prevent wasted time and inflated expectations.
8. Stay Open to the Unexpected. Allow yourself and your designers to dream big from the onset, if only to reign in the process later based on your agreed upon budget. Sometimes the best ideas come out of a free flowing creative process.
9. Think Impact. A successful branding effort can influence your company's overall business strategy. Tell your agency what impact you want to achieve from their creative process, and don’t limit this thinking to just logos and color palettes.
10. Trust the Creative Process. Remember, you have hired a branding agency because they have talent and expertise in this field. If you follow these tips, set clear objectives and remain involved in the creative process, trust your agency to do their job.
This article is part of our Project RE:Brand web series in which small businesses undergo brand makeovers from design experts.
Please leave your branding questions as comments below and check back for responses from our experts. (Note - this feature is currently not available on mobile devices.)
Stefan Boublil is the Creative Director at The Apartment, a NYC-based creative agency offering fully integrated branding, marketing, architecture, packaging, and interior design services. Watch Stefan and his lead designer Lisa Simpson provide branding advice to an OPEN Cardmember in our special web series, Project RE:Brand.