If you’re in the creative or marketing services business, the one thing you can’t afford to ignore is your brand.
Besides your work, your brand is the only thing separating you from a sea of similar competitors.
In a field where every business offers the same services, how you look, sound and feel - your brand - is the only way to stand out.
But how exactly does a creative agency brand itself? Is it as simple as being creative? Or is there more to a creative agency brand?
In this post, I’ll discuss how the world’s leading creative agencies brand themselves, and how you can do the same.
Regardless of the size or age of your agency, your clients, website visitors and social followers already have a perception of your brand.
Far too often, there is a mismatch between this client-side perception vs. how you see (or want to see) yourself.
Branding is essentially aligning this client perception with your self-perception.
Before you dive into a deeper brand resurrection, run a thorough brand audit. Analyze every aspect of your brand, its current perception, the state of individual elements and the cohesiveness of the brand as a whole.
Doing this will help you understand your current positioning and make changes for the future.
Here’s how you can run a brand audit:
1. Question Your Clients
Understanding how your clients, website visitors and social media followers see you as an important part of any brand audit.
There are multiple ways to go about this. You can:
- Create an online poll and offer it to all website visitors, email subscribers and social media followers.
- Interview clients to understand how they perceive you and your brand.
- Listen-in on social media conversations and track keywords to see how people describe you.
In terms of insight, interviews will give you the most data but are also the hardest to arrange. Online polls are easier to run but yield limited data.
A quick and dirty way to get insight is to use a social media monitoring tool to see how people are talking about your brand. Look for keywords that describe positive or negative brand experiences.
If you have a large number of followers, you can use a social listening tool such as SocialMention to see the sentiment and keywords people are using in relation to your brand.
If you take the interview/poll route, some questions you can ask are:
- Do our website or brand experience stand out from others?
- Do our values and philosophy come across clearly in our communication?
- Why did you decide to partner with us? What role did our brand play in this decision?
Track all responses in a separate spreadsheet. We'll come back to this later when we start building our brand.
2. Evaluate Your Competitors
Your clients will judge your brand in opposition to your competitors. Therefore, it makes sense to make competitor brand evaluation a part of your brand audit.
Start by listing your key competitors. Categorize them on the basis of:
- Location, i.e. whether they serve local or global clients
- Specialization, i.e. whether they are a full-service agency or focus on a niche.
- Age/revenue/client roster, i.e. whether they are an established or fledgling agency.
- Target market, i.e. what kind of clients they serve (established startups, Fortune 1000 companies, etc.).
From these, identify your direct and aspirational competitors.
Direct competitors are agencies that share your size, niche and target market.
Aspirational competitors are larger agencies that you aspire to emulate.
Evaluate how these competitors have branded themselves. Collect screenshots of their website, social media presence, and marketing collateral. Sign-up for their email lists, read their blogs and follow them on social media.
- What kind of copy do these agencies use? Are they funny, serious, quirky or professional?
- Is there consistency and cohesiveness in their brand messaging, copy and design?
- Does their brand image align with their target market and price point?
Although it is usually used for consumer goods, doing a Centrality-Distinctiveness (C-D) map for your competitors might help too. In this analysis, you chart competitors into four quadrants (Unconventional, Aspirational, Peripheral, Mainstream).
For example, here’s a C-D map of beer brands based on their price:
This HBR article has more details about running a C-D analysis.
Take copious notes from your competitor brand analysis. While it is great to be distinctive, sometimes the most effective branding strategy is to copy your competitors - at least in parts.
3. Analyze Your Existing Brand
The third step in the brand audit is to identify what you think of your own brand. Is this perception conveyed through your marketing collateral?
To answer this question, start by collecting every element of your brand. This should include:
- Logos, social media imagery, etc.
- Website design and copy
- Social media messaging
- Sales collateral such as brochures, rate sheets, etc.
- Marketing collateral such as eBooks, whitepapers, case studies, etc.
- Blogs and email newsletters
- Email signatures, style guides, communication plans, etc.
Essentially, any part of your agency that touches a client should be a part of your analysis.
Once you’ve collected all these elements, evaluate them on the following criteria:
- Consistency, i.e. whether you have uniformity and cohesiveness across all brand elements.
- Clarity, i.e. whether your positioning is conveyed through your brand elements.
- Expectations, i.e. whether your brand identity aligns with your client expectations.
Any element that isn’t consistent with the others or doesn’t convey your values breaks your brand experience.
Identify all such elements before you move on to the next step.
4. Identify Where You Are, Where You Want to Be, and Where You Should Be
The final part of the brand audit calls for introspection. Before you can create a new, revamped brand for yourself, you need to figure out what kind of agency you want to run.
This is neither an overnight exercise, nor can it be done in isolation. You’ll have to do some significant soul searching to pinpoint your values and vision (and conveying them through your brand). Involve your entire team and seek input from stakeholders outside of your agency (including investors and clients) as well.
The important thing here is to align what kind of agencies you want to run with the kind of agency you can run. A great agency is built when your interest matches with your expertise and market trends.
I can’t overstate the importance of incorporating market trends into your new brand identity. Latching onto a developing trend (VR, drones, mobile, social, etc.) can help you create a unique brand and stand out from competitors.
At the same time, also take stock of the expertise you currently have access to (both in-house and freelance). If you want to rebrand yourself into a niche, you need to ensure that you have the expertise for it.
This part of the brand audit doesn’t have much in the way of roadmaps. You’ll have to introspect and find answers on your own.
Once you’ve identified this, write down your values, mission and philosophy clearly.
Use this to guide your efforts as you move into the next section - actually building your agency brand.
In the first section, you undertook a brand audit to understand where you are and where you can be.
In this section, I’ll share actionable advice for crafting a brand, including examples from successful agencies.
1. Discover Your Brand
Regardless of what you call it - “philosophy”, “values”, or “vision” - your brand is essentially a distillation of how you approach your work.
This is also where you should start your brand building efforts.
If you've done the brand audit, you would already have an idea of what your brand is, and what you want it to be. This next step takes the process of discovery even further.
Start by evaluating the following:
- The kind of clients you've attracted so far
- The kind of clients you'd like to attract
- What do your employees have expertise in? What do they enjoy doing the most?
- Are there any gaps in the market you could serve? Any emerging technologies you could master?
- What do you - or your employees - hate doing the most. This is an oft-ignored question but is the foundation of a great agency - you can't build a business around something you don't love.
With this raw data, start sketching in your brand. A good way to do this is to create a short, punchy mission statement.
The mission statement can be something as simple as Barrett’s “be the best advertising agency in the world”:
The rest of your vision document will revolve around the mission statement. For example, Mighty expanded its mission statement - “Brand Greatness Through Creative Solutions” - into this broader vision statement:
Combined, the mission and vision statements are the what, why and how of your business.
2. Balance Explicit and Implicit Branding
Your brand is a combination of what you say and what you don’t say.
The former is your copy, your ‘about us’ page, your ‘vision’ page, etc. This is where you explicitly tell people what your brand is about.
Think in terms of keywords - bold, fun, youthful, vibrant, sophisticated, intelligent, etc. - something that prospective clients can scan through to get an idea of your brand.
For example, here’s DuncanChannon’s about page:
The copy makes it clear in no uncertain terms that the agency helps brands move on from their old ways and discover new identities.
Beyond this, there is an implicit component of branding as well.
This is your design, your list of clients, your work, your image selection, etc. - things that you don’t say.
Your goal should be make this implicit component align with your explicit brand statements. If you say that you are youthful but have a website stuck in the 2000s, you aren’t really doing your brand justice.
Taking the example from DuncanChannon further, this the image that greets you on their homepage:
This isn’t just any stock image; it’s a finely crafted picture of the agency’s staff in a unique setting. Everything from the clothes to the decor is old fashioned. Yet, the people - and what they are doing - is decidedly fresh and youthful.
In other words, this image implicitly conveys DuncanChannon’s explicit brand statements - to help brands discard the past and discover new identities.
Keep this balance in mind when you start crafting your brand identity.
3. Take Inspiration From Your Competitors
While you should strive to stand out, what if your competitors have found the perfect recipe to reel in your target clients?
Taking inspiration from competitors isn’t always a bad thing. This is particularly true in highly competitive industries where there is a lot of demand for a prospective client’s attention.
The theory - as this paper argues - is that standing out from similarly-matched competitors draws customers’ attention to previously ignored elements of the transaction. It also dilutes the customers’ attention across multiple variables - called the “dilution effect”.
As Yi Zhu and Anthony Dukes, writing in Harvard Business Review, note:
“Because in an information-rich world, consumers can be easily distracted; many competing marketing messages can dilute consumers’ attention and undermine perceived differentiation among competitors.”
Then there is also the fact that your successful competitors have likely already tested the best possible approach to their target market. If all data shows that large businesses equate the color blue and the Garamond font with a “professional” brand image, you aren’t going to get far by taking a contrary approach.
Study your competitors. Take special note of:
- What kind of clients they attract, and
- How they present themselves to these clients
Look for client-image alignment. If a competitor says that they worked with Disney to create a fresh, bold and youthful redesign, is there anything about their brand image that showcases these values? If yes, what colors, fonts, copy, and UX did they use to showcase these values?
Take these as inspiration for your own brand, especially if you want to attract the kind of clients your competitors have.
4. Ensure Consistency
Look at any of the world’s most powerful brands, and you’ll see a familiar refrain: they’re all remarkably consistent in their brand messaging.
Think of Coca Cola’s familiar logotype, Nike’s swoosh or Apple’s half-bitten apple. You can recognize these brands in an instant because of the sheer consistency of the brand presence.
As Kevin Keller of Tuck Business School writes:
“Maintaining a strong brand means striking the right balance between continuity in marketing activities and the kind of change needed to stay relevant.”
In real-world terms, consistency for an agency means three things:
- Consistency in design
- Consistency in copy
- Consistency in communication
Every element of your brand that touches a client should have a consistent and cohesive message. If your brand colors are green and blue, your blog, logo, Twitter cover image, and even email signatures should have the same colors. If you describe yourself as “bold and youthful”, your website copy, tweets and emails should echo this character.
Most importantly, you should have consistency in communication with all stakeholders. Come up with a communication plan with a clear style guide everyone on your team can follow. Any client-facing messages should follow this guide.
For inspiration, look at brand identity guidelines from respected brands. Here’s Apple’s identity guideline for starters.
5. Showcase Your People, Projects and Passions
In a business where your people are your product, showcasing them becomes a core part of your brand.
There are two facets to this:
- Showcasing the creative output of your people, i.e. your work
- Showcasing the culture, knowledge and expertise that makes the above possible
In the context of creative agencies, #2 becomes even more important since creative thinking often springs from a culture that fosters it.
So how do you showcase your culture and make it a part of your brand image?
One solution is to embrace social media. Make your social presence, especially all visual-heavy channels such as Instagram, a part of your brand identity.
Use these channels to showcase client projects, side-projects, company culture, and anything that shows your interests, ambitions and beliefs.
For example, UsTwo shares pictures of its team activities on its Instagram page:
WolffOlins has a regular feature called #woweekly where it shares interesting art projects:
And MotherLondon shares pictures that underpin its socially conscious positioning:
You’re essentially giving clients a glimpse of what your people are actually like - what interests them? How do they unwind? What are their (and by proxy, yours) passion projects?
Social media is a fantastic vehicle for doing this.
Of course, you’ll want to have your standard “Work” and “Culture” pages on your website as well. But social media gives you a chance to show, not just tell.
There is a lot more to building a strong creative agency brand. These tips, along with a comprehensive brand audit, will give you a strong grounding in creating your brand.
From there, you can adapt, evolve and craft a brand that encapsulates your vision.
How did you go about creating your agency brand? We’d love to hear your thoughts and insights in the comments below!
How to Build a Creative Agency Brand for Your Agency? ›
- Start With a Brand Audit.
- Question Your Clients.
- Evaluate Your Competitors.
- Analyze Your Existing Brand.
- Identify Where You Are, Where You Want to Be, and Where You Should Be.
- Building Your Agency.
- Discover Your Brand.
- Balance Explicit and Implicit Branding.
- Promote Yourself. ...
- Partner Up – Even with the Competition. ...
- Build More than Campaigns – Build a Product. ...
- Don't Wait for Referrals – Actively Ask for Them. ...
- Don't Give Lost Clients the Cold Shoulder. ...
- Revive PR to Build Inbound Links and Brand Awareness. ...
- Warm up to Cold Sales.
Successful agencies are filled with people clients really want to work with; the kinds of people who make an effort to listen to them and understand their point of view. They are honest with clients and set expectations from the start. Sometimes they give clients what they need rather than what they say they want.How do you build an advertising agency? ›
- Legally establish the advertising agency.
- Obtain necessary licenses and tax requirements.
- Obtain funding.
- Establish a location.
- Create a website.
- Create social media profiles.
- Have a tech stack that simplifies the operations of your small business.
There are three most commonly used hierarchy organizational charts for agencies, the traditional model, matrix model, and pod system. This is a preference of many large agencies offering a variety of services.How do I get clients for my agency? ›
- Find Niche. ...
- Imply Services On Ideal Client. ...
- Communicate With Your Audience. ...
- Understanding Target Market. ...
- Build Your Presence Offline. ...
- Leverage Online Directories. ...
- Be Visible On Social. ...
- Marketing Blogs.
Letting the amount of attention, care, and creativity decline will lead clients to believe that they aren't as important as they were before, which will lead to discontent with the product they are paying for, and eventually they will move to another agency.What is a creative branding agency? ›
Essentially, a great creative agency offers a fusion of branding and communications with digital marketing and graphic design. Ultimately, they help companies engage a wider audience through their marketing channels, whether it's via commercials, social media, or through print ads or events.How do I succeed in advertising agency? ›
- Emphasize Personal Relationships with Clients. ...
- Explain What You Do Easily. ...
- Have a Consistent Track Record of Matching Audiences. ...
- Solve the Key Problem for the Client. ...
- Ask For Referrals. ...
- Embrace Social Media. ...
- Attractive Website And Using SEO.
- Great Staff. A marketing agency's success is dependent on the skills and success of its staff. ...
- Good Communication. ...
- Creativity. ...
- Ability to Execute. ...
- Problem-Solving Skills. ...
- Strong Online Presence. ...
- Mastery of Data. ...
- Global Branding.
How do I start an advertising agency with no money? ›
How To Start A Digital Marketing Agency With NO MONEY! ($0How does an ad agency make money? ›
Agencies often offer advertising services to help the client broadcast the campaign they've helped the client create ... Typically, agencies will take a percentage of the ROI from those ads, which is one way to make extra revenue. In the same vein, agencies can also run ads for their own company.
- Find a co-founder. ...
- Figure out your unique value proposition. ...
- Flex your brand power. ...
- Hire these three roles first. ...
- Resist the temptation to hire cheap labour and interns. ...
- Implement systems and processes. ...
- Don't burn people out. ...
- Don't micromanage; make your people the stars.
How Do You Structure a Creative Agency? - YouTubeWhat are the 3 departments in a typical advertising agency? ›
Whether large or small, advertising agencies typically have three main sections or divisions–account services, creative teams, and media specialists.What is the most common form of agency structure? ›
The Integrated Form of agency structure is the most common form of agency structure because it has various benefits. Integration is one of the most important aspects of the success of a business organisation. They are various departments in an organisation that works closely and are interdependent on each other.How can I get big clients? ›
- 1) Find clients through your workplace.
- 2) Find clients through business organizations.
- 3) Tell friends and family you'd like more clients.
- 4) Advertise for clients.
- 5) Get clients through your personal activities.
- 6) Get clients through referrals.
- 7) Get clients through social media.
- Ask for referrals. ...
- Network. ...
- Offer discounts and incentives for new customers only. ...
- Re-contact old customers. ...
- Improve your website. ...
- Partner with complementary businesses. ...
- Promote your expertise.
- Your network is your net worth. ...
- Connect with other agency owners/find other businesses within your niche. ...
- Create a value offer like a complimentary social media audit. ...
- Invite prospects to a free social media workshop. ...
- Check out Upwork or Fiverr.
Some agencies fail because there is just not enough demand for the services they sell, at their particular price point. Do your homework, and know current service demand and market rates. Then, build your service offerings accordingly.
What are the problems faced by advertising agency? ›
- Too slow at adapting to digital changes. The digital revolution has changed every aspect of the marketing world. ...
- Not asking questions. ...
- Being the same on different channels. ...
- Not securing enough budget. ...
- Failing to determine a selling point.
1. Research shows that the most common reason that companies switch agencies is the change in a high level marketing decision-maker at the client organization. And almost every agency in the world has experienced this first hand.How much do creative agencies make? ›
What's Your Advertising Agency's True Profitability? The average marketing agency earns a net profit margin between 6 and 10 percent — with digital agencies reporting even higher margins around 20 percent. Corporate advertising agencies, in some cases, report margins as high as 40 percent.What is the difference between a creative agency and a marketing agency? ›
Hence, while creative agencies help to illuminate marketing ideas, marketing agencies strategize, create, and deliver the right content to the right people: With their defining distinctions established, what are the various other differences between a creative agency and a marketing agency?What are the types of creative agencies? ›
- Full Service Digital Agency.
- Digital Agency.
- Design Agency.
- Interactive Design Agency.
- Advertising Agency.
- Design Innovation Agency.
- Focus on a Specific Market. ...
- Increase Your Web Presence with Online Directories. ...
- Use a lead magnet for your agency. ...
- Develop Case Studies from Your Successful Clients. ...
- Become Your Own Client and Market your Marketing Agency. ...
- Simplify Your Project Management Processes.
- Focus on a specialization.
- Build your agency around a “Personality”
- Focus on building a brand.
- Become your own client.
- Find strategic partners to increase your growth.
- Hire based on fit, not (just) resume.
- Hire (and fire) at the right time.
It's a competitive industry, but with time and effort, it can be profitable as well. If you're not already on top of the digital marketing game, now is the perfect time to get started!Which agency characteristics are most important? ›
- Curiosity. ...
- An Ability To Multitask. ...
- Time Management. ...
- Resourcefulness. ...
- Discipline And Accountability. ...
- Purpose And Passion. ...
- Grit. Grit is one of the overlooked qualities a new agency hire must have. ...
- Humility And Hunger.
- A sizable portfolio and/or list of past clients. ...
- Experienced and specialized team members. ...
- Social proof and a strong industry reputation. ...
- Similar core values and company culture. ...
- A well-designed website. ...
- They don't make outlandish promises.
What are the types of agency? ›
- Advertising Agency. An advertising agency is a one-stop-shop for advertising your product or business. ...
- Branding Agency. ...
- Creative Agency or Design Firm. ...
- Digital Agency. ...
- Marketing Agency. ...
- Media Agency. ...
- Public Relations Agency.
Starting a marketing agency is tough, especially if you have little experience in the marketing industry. But with the right strategy and accommodation for these important points, your business has the potential to take off.How much does it cost to start a digital marketing agency? ›
Depending on where you live, licensing costs may vary. So will the cost of a business checking account. Usually, you can get one for $20 or less a month. So there: You can run a digital marketing agency on as little as $300 a month.How do I start a social media marketing agency with no experience? ›
- Set Your Business Goals. Before you decide to do anything, you've got to do some planning. ...
- Define Your Target Audience. ...
- Build an Online Presence. ...
- Get Visible (AKA Getting Leads and Clients) ...
- Define Your Growth Plan.
|1||Fallon London Limited||31.56|
|2||VCCP Group LLP||28.67|
|3||Krow Communications Limited||26.17|
WPP is the world's largest advertising company by revenues, and employs around 190,000 people in 3,000 offices across 112 countries.How do agencies charge their clients? ›
“Advertising agencies make money by charging their clients an hourly fee for their services. In addition to the fee, an agency places a mark-up on the price of all outside service work that is used, such as type, printing, photography, video production, etc., to complete a client's project.”What does it take to start your own agency? ›
- Step 1: Determine the services your agency will offer. ...
- Step 2: Decide if you want to focus on a niche. ...
- Step 3: Choose a location for your agency headquarters. ...
- Step 4: Name your agency. ...
- Step 5: Decide on your creative agency structure, and start hiring. ...
- Step 6: Establishing your creative agency fee structure.
An independent agency is generally organized as a board with a chairman to control administrative and procedural matters. An executive agency generally organized and run under the purview of an executive appointee.What is an agency organizational chart? ›
Organizational charts (or hierarchy charts) are the graphical representation of an organization's structure. Its purpose is to illustrate the reporting relationships and chains of command within the organization.
How large should your marketing team be? ›
The headcount within marketing teams varies considerably based on the size of the organisation. Companies from 1 to 49 employees have an average of 3 people in the marketing team. At the opposite end of the spectrum, companies with 5,000 employees have an average of 45 marketers.What is creative boutique agency? ›
'A creative boutique is an advertising agency which is considerably smaller than a full-service agency and offers a specialized set of services to its clients. ' Unlike large full-scale agencies, creative boutiques do not have multiple worldwide locations, with huge payrolls.Which department is the heart of advertising agency? ›
The ad copy is very significant and is called the heart of the ad because it conveys the ad message to its consumers without any deviation. The copy team includes copywriters and supervisors who use their creative skills while preparing an ad copy.
The creative department of an advertising agency is responsible for developing and designing the campaign for the client across various mediums. Their job is to come up with ideas which create a demand for the customer's product within their target audience.What are the 4 types of organizational structure? ›
The four types of organizational structures are functional, multi-divisional, flat, and matrix structures.What are the 3 types of organizations? ›
Three forms of organizations describe the organizational structures that are used by most companies today: functional, departmental and matrix. Each of these forms has advantages and disadvantages that owners must consider before deciding which one to implement for their business.How do social media agencies get clients? ›
- Your network is your net worth. ...
- Connect with other agency owners/find other businesses within your niche. ...
- Create a value offer like a complimentary social media audit. ...
- Invite prospects to a free social media workshop. ...
- Check out Upwork or Fiverr.
Get more clients today
Finding clients for digital marketing and sales needs is the main focus for all B2B and B2C companies. Use open directories, social networks, website extraction, and lead databases and tools to find highly-targeted enriched leads and start your personalized email campaigns today.
- Guest Blog. ...
- Business Cards. ...
- Networking. ...
- Professional Website. ...
- Testimonials & Case Studies. ...
- Guest Speaking Opportunities. ...
- Social Media – Twitter Lists. ...
- Content Marketing & SEO.
- Social Media. ...
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ...
- Local Media Ads and Listings. ...
- SEO. ...
- Listings in Agency Directories. ...
- Marketing Contract Aggregators. ...
- Influencers. ...