hat do you picture when you hear the phrase “brand agency”? A fancy, high-rise office space on one of the coasts filled with young professionals coming up with Super Bowl ads? Or a Mad Men-style setup where executives smoke cigars while they decide the next great, soon-to-be household name?
In reality, brand agencies are a little bit of both. At their core, they specialize in developing, managing, and enhancing the brand identities and strategies for their clients. Those can range from Fortune 500s to nonprofit organizations to startups. And typically, they all offer some version of the same menu.
If you’re a luxury client, however, like a medical aesthetic spa, wedding venue, winery, or high-end real estate agent, it’s important to find a brand agency that has specialized expertise in helping luxury brands develop and maintain their reputation through copy that sets the tone for an exclusive design aesthetic. Let’s break down what services a brand agency typically offers, and what you should pay special attention to as a luxury client.
1. Research, Including Markets, Audiences, and Competitors
The first step toward developing a strong, smart brand is understanding what the current business market is like, whom it’s trying to reach, what it’s trying to say, and what the competition is up to. This may also include a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to get a clearer picture of where the business stands relative to others in the industry.
Advice for luxury brands: One smart strategy here is to start at the end. What other luxury campaigns has a brand agency executed, and what were the final results? Success at the end of the day usually begins with diligent research and homework at the beginning. If you have a sit-down interview with a potential agency, ask them questions about your market, your likely audience, and your competition.
2. Brand Strategy Development
After all the market research is complete, it’s time to hone in on what the client’s goals are, including their brand positioning (luxury, eco-friendly, or adventurous, for example), target audience, messaging, and other key elements of their brand strategy.
Advice for luxury brands: You’ll likely have unique positioning and niche target audiences, and a brand agency can help you develop a brand strategy that reflects your values and speaks to your target market. After your partner agency conducts market research and identifies key opportunities, remember that you know your own brand best. Don’t be afraid to bring your expertise to the table to craft a strategy that feels right for your audience.
3. Brand Identity Design (Voice, Tone, Design)
This step in the process turns vision boards and plain text into logos, color schemes, fonts, and visual style. It’s also when a brand develops messaging that reinforces the visual style and resonates with its target audience. Examples of this include a tagline (BMW’s, for example, is “The ultimate driving machine”), as well as some early marketing messaging ideas, since one tends to lead to the other.
Advice for luxury brands: Campaigns for brands like yours often require a high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail in their brand identity and design. Here again, ensure that you’re developing your identity in partnership with your agency to develop a distinctive, elegant look and feel that will appeal to your target audience. Once you have your brand identity – show it off everywhere, from your website to your in-house signage and everywhere in between.
4. Brand Marketing and Communications
Brand agencies can help businesses develop and execute marketing and communications campaigns that effectively promote their brand and engage their target audience. Marketing campaigns can be executed several times a year and are most often tied to seasons, holidays, and new product launches.
Advice for luxury brands: Like other brands, digital channels are one of the largest ways to reach customers today. The key to success here, though, is knowing where your target customers are hanging out online. A good brand agency will be able to conduct that research and put together a strategy that leverages the latest trends, abides by best practices, and offers you a high ROI.
5. Post-Campaign Analysis
During and after marketing campaigns, brand agencies can help businesses gather and analyze data and insights about performance, engagement, and other KPIs that are determined at the start of the project. Analysis lets the client know what’s doing well, and where there’s an opportunity to tweak or try an additional tactic.
Advice for luxury brands: This is where a good brand agency’s expertise can help take your campaigns to the next level. Once they deliver this data to you, take a look through it and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the results you’re seeing. And remember, marketing campaigns are living creatures, so if you stumble on a road block, your agency will know how to adjust and get your back on the right path.
6. Brand and Reputation Management
This is a brand’s long-term maintenance plan: monitoring its presence and reputation online, ensuring consistency across all platforms, watching out for copyright infringements, and advice for when it may be time to change things up a little bit.
Altogether, this expertise can help businesses build a strong, memorable brand that sets them apart from the competition and resonates with their intended audience.
Advice for luxury brands: Perhaps more than others, luxury brands need to maintain a high level of consistency and quality in all aspects of their brand at all times – your guests expect no less. A brand agency has several ways to help ensure that your values and messaging are consistent and present in all the right places: One is monitoring your social media channels, and sometimes even handling responses to online comments. Another is public relations, a tactic used often by luxury clients to maintain their reputation. Whether an agency has this capability in-house or works with a trusted partner, a PR strategy that can connect you to the right media outlets, the right influencers, and the right event opportunities is an important part of your overall plan, and something typically exclusive to high-end brands.
How to Select the Right Brand Agency
Now that you know what a good brand agency will be able to offer you as a client, here are some things to consider when choosing a partner:
- Experience: Look for an agency with experience working with luxury brands or businesses in your industry. One that can demonstrate a proven track record in luxury branding will have a deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities associated with this market.
- Expertise: Assess expertise in areas such as brand strategy, messaging, design, and marketing. A strong agency should be able to present a team of experienced professionals from project management to accounting to creative.
- Creative approach: Review their portfolio and assess their creative approach. Do you like what you see? Is their aesthetic one that you can envision for your brand? Look at their work from a consumer perspective, and ask yourself if it speaks to you.
- Collaborative approach: Choose an agency that isn’t afraid of a collaborative approach to working with clients. In order to succeed together, they should be willing and able to listen to your needs, provide valuable insights and guidance, and work with you to develop a brand strategy that meets your goals.
- Reputation: Can’t hurt to look up some reviews and testimonials from past clients. What’s the agency’s reputation in the industry? Excellent customer service is just as important as a world-class brand strategy, and a strong agency will agree.
- Cost: Talk dollars and cents. How much will it cost to work with this agency? Ask them to deliver numbers, and ensure that their pricing aligns with both your budget and the value you expect to receive.
Hawthorn Creative has years of branding experience for luxury clients in a wide variety of spaces, including wedding venues, real estate, senior living communities, medical spas and more. Let’s sit down and talk about how we can help you outshine the competition.