Branding is an art, but with an optional side of science, pricing a branding job is tricky (and we’ll get to the burgers later).
When you ask a range of agencies and/or freelancers for a ballpark estimate for a branding project, you will get a wide range of figures.
This is simply because everyone does it slightly differently.
What you get quoted for a branding project is going to depend on a lot of different factors.
- The size and scope of the project
- The size of your business
- The size of the agency you approach
- The experience of the agency you approach
- How busy the agency is
- The agencies location
- The desired outcomes
- Your competition
- Market saturation
- Your USP
There are many more, but we’ll only look at some of these in this post.
The size and scope of your project.
Is this a new brand, a rebrand or an evolution of an existing brand?
How much work do you want to do?
Is this just the logo and a basic set of visual guidelines, or are we getting into images, tone of voice, messaging and so on?
The size of your business.
Many agencies don’t quote so much on the size of the project but more on the size of the business.
If you’re a FTSE 100 company, an experienced agency will probably quote you significantly more than they might for a local charity, for example.
The size of the agency you approach.
Bigger agencies charge more money.
That is not always true, but the bigger the agency, the higher the operating and staff costs; this will directly influence the charges.
Conversely, there are a lot of smaller boutique agencies out there that value their work very highly and quote as such.
The experience of the branding agency.
This is another significant factor in what a branding agency charges.
If they have worked with a wide range of household names, they are experienced, which comes at a cost (doesn’t automatically mean they are better).
A smaller agency with less well-known clients can’t command higher fees as they don’t have famous names in their portfolio (which doesn’t mean they won’t deliver a fantastic solution).
Agency experience is often more about mitigating risk than creative output.
If the project goes south for some reason, the person who commissioned the experienced agency can place the blame at the feet of the agency as they ‘managed to do it well for famous brands A, B and C.
The result could be the opposite if they risked it with a maverick agency with not as much experience.
How busy the agency is.
If an agency is quiet, you may find that their pencils are sharper when they cost-out a project.
If they are busy, you may find the opposite as they are so jammed with projects, they don’t need the work or simply can’t deliver it to your timescales.
Sensible agency have flexible charging structures as quoting projects is an operational part of running an agency: profit, loss and the bottom line come into play.
The agency location.
Where a studio is based directly affects their overheads.
If an agency is based in its own studio in Soho, its overheads are likely to be a lot higher than an agency with a studio in a rural location.
Where they are based doesn’t really affect the work’s quality, but it may influence the fees they need to charge for it.
The desired outcomes.
If you want to go from zero to hero in a matter of months, it will cost you more money.
If you are a startup that no one has heard of, this will be expensive if you want to make a lot of noise in your sector and build equity quickly (design alone will not do this).
Being realistic about what design alone can do for your brand and managing expectations is fundamental.
You will need to at least match your competitors, and if they are established and have been brand-building for years, you will need to look like you are on par with them.
This goes for all your marketing communications, not just your logo.
Having a ‘better’ logo than a competitor rarely translates into being a serious competition to them.
So it follows that if your competitors have great branding, solid visual identities, websites and so on, you’ll need the same, which means investment.
Similar to the previous point in some ways.
If you’re a me-too product or service, achieving cut-through and attracting customers to your service or product is hard work.
Branding and design will get you so far in this process, but there will need to be a fundamental point of difference to be successful.
That brings us to your USP.
Being the same will get you nowhere.
Whatever you are selling, there needs to be something unique about your offering otherwise, all the branding and design in the world will not get you to where you want to be.
So what has any of this got to do with burgers?
If you’ve approached several agencies for a branding project quote, you’ll probably have found that the charges vary significantly.
This can leave some people wondering why and what to do next.
Take, then, the humble burger.
You can pick up a burger at some fast-food change for less than £1.50 or visit your local gastro pub and have a burger for £18.
That’s an 1100% difference in cost.
They both contain beef, a bun, maybe some lettuce, tomato, and sauce, so why are they so different in price?
Firstly, you may well eat the fast-food version in your car, whereas the other comes with the gastro-pub experience, staff and table service.
Secondly, whilst they are technically both beef, one may be from a standard supplier, and the other is a more expensive option from a local beef herd a mile away.
Thirdly, one is made and cooked by a machine, and the other is prepped and cooked by a professional chef.
But does one taste better than the other?
That’s the question! Nothing can be better on a particular day than a quick, dirty burger.
On another day, you can visit a gastro pub, spend loads more money and come away wishing you’d hit the drive-through instead.
And how does this relate to branding projects?
In reality, few of us eat at expensive restaurants every night of the week, but when it comes to your branding – the most seen aspect of your business – it makes sense to invest in the best.
Unlike food, which always has a fixed price for a fixed product, branding charges are fluid.
Choosing what to eat is often budget-based, and choosing a design agency to work on your brand should be too.
This is why it’s crucial to be upfront about your budget when engaging a design agency.
Designers hate nothing more than preparing a proposal for a client only to be told that it’s over budget when no budget was outlined in the first place.
It wastes their time and yours.
So when choosing agencies to engage, look at the sort of work they produce and the types of clients they work for: are they similar to you and is the scope of work similar to what you need?
If it is, get in touch and tell them, right off the bat, what your budget is.
This way, the branding agency can make some choices:
- Is the budget provided workable for the agency
- Is the budget sufficient to meet the expectations and objectives laid out in the brief
- Are they interested in working on this project, irrespective of the budget (for example, for a charity or good cause)
- Whether or not they are a good fit for you
You can give a fixed spend or a range when you provide a budget, and it will ensure that you get the best attention from the agency from the very start of your engagement with them.