When should you hire a brand consultancy?

The last 2 years have been mad. We’re all doing things differently and business has never been as strange. One thing we’ve noticed in our consulting is that some clients reviewing their brand values in house. And I get why.

The last two years have been an incredible accelerant for businesses. Business transformations that may have taken five years have been turbocharged to happen in one year. This in turn has meant that businesses are looking at themselves to see if the brand vision, mission and values that they started the decade with are still in line with where we are now. 

What we've seen is that these brand reviews are being done by internal teams. We totally understand why. Looking at your brand as a team is a nice way to bring everyone together and talk about the stuff that makes them distinct - in many ways, it’s the perfect tonic for the Covid times. 

What's been interesting is to see how this internal brand review process has ended up hitting a wall, while also going round and round in circles. It's at that point, we've been brought in to unpick and reevaluate that internal work done to date.

When we do go in and have that initial working group chat, what's striking is just how frustrated everyone is with their process to date. Squabbling, nit-picking, confusion over terminology, opinions over facts. If only they had brought us in at the beginning, life would've been a lot easier.

As a founder of a brand consultancy I’m bound to say this, aren’t I? But after seeing the evidence before me, it’s just too damned important an exercise to go through and I thought it would be useful to pen a few thoughts around why I believe this to be the case.

The first point is how bad could it be to review the brand with an internal team? In the short term, it could be fine. The downside of getting this stuff wrong isn’t immediately disastrous, if it’s disastrous at all. However, the key question to be asked is how much better could the commercial outcomes have been over the long term? How much value has been bled?  And given brand has been calculated as contributing anything from 10% to 60% of a business’s value, then I’d say it’s quite an important aspect to any business. One that needs specialist attention.

Defining your brand is really important - whether that’s starting from scratch or evolving what you’ve already got. These are the deep, foundational elements of your brand upon which you will (or should) base all of your marketing activity. Brand Strategy is Business Strategy. So it’s not something to be taken lightly or flippantly. It’s absolutely mission-critical.

So here are my top 5 reasons why you should hire a brand consultancy rather than having a go yourself:

1. This is valuable.

As stated above, brand is a valuable business asset, with the power to act as a leading light for EVERY business decision an organisation makes. Organisations should be willing to invest sizeable chunks of time and budget into this work - with professionals who know what they’re doing. Having a well defined, well-executed and consistent brand is key to an organisation’s ability to hold or increase margin and profitability over the long term. To think of brand in any other way is to undersell the value and margins of your own business.

2. We’re just better at it.

We live this every day. And we have crafted and engineered a process that’s been refined and honed over the last 20 years to make sure that we squeeze every last drop of goodness from the team of senior executives gathered in a focus group (which btw amounts to a shitload of time and value, so it better be good). Now, I’m not saying that clients can’t do this as well as us (or better), but given how valuable this stuff is - is it worth the risk?

3. Objectivity.

Probably the most important reason not to do this yourself. It’s impossible to remove your own in-built biases which taint the outputs. You just can’t be objective about the business from the inside out. I know I find it incredibly difficult to be objective about my own business and we bring in outside consultants to help us with specific issues. I enjoy the process and the challenge that these consultants always bring. And I’ve never come through one of these sessions and felt that it wasn’t worth the investment and the time.

4. You can’t participate and facilitate.

Linked to the point above about objectivity, but in a more functional sense, you can’t run the workshop as well as take part in it. There’s just too much being asked of you in both roles. Not to mention the preparation (see point 2). If you’re not sure how/what to cover in these sessions in the first place, then you’re never going to be able to contribute as well. 

5. What happens next.

This isn’t happening in a bubble - it all needs to be linked up in a coherent plan for activation. The output needs to feed into something coherent. The discussion guide used at the workshops has been carefully curated to ensure the output on the day conforms to the correct methodology for analysis. Otherwise what you’ve got is a folder full of notes and no idea of what comes next. It’s a process and I refer you to point 2.

There are probably many more reasons why getting outside counsel on your brand work is a worthwhile investment, but these are the five that immediately come to mind. Thanks for reading and hope to see you in a brand workshop sometime soon.