• C.E.K. & Partners

Avoiding Pitfalls: Questions to Ask When Selecting a Branding + Marketing Communications Agency


In our recent post the Value of Insights we talked about quality. All too often, clients come to us to be the “fixers” when they sought out a brand solution that was fast or inexpensive. In the long run, they didn’t fully understand what the brand agency was offering them or get to know the team who would be servicing their brand.

We believe in asking the right questions to really understand any given scenario. Thomas Watson states it best: “The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.”

We have worked around the world at leading global agencies; we know the new business spin. And we’re providing you a list of questions that will help you make informed decisions as you select the right agency.

Questions to Ask When Selecting a Branding Agency

What’s Included in the Proposal?

  • Similar to buying a car, one needs to understand what is included in an estimate. Does the estimate represent the base price or the more expensive model that includes additional features and functionality? What does the estimate really include?

  • Is the proposal comprised of hourly rates? If so, remember a senior person at $250 an hour for 1 hour is more efficient than a junior person at $100 for 4 hours.

What’s the Assigned Team’s Expertise?

  • All too often it is a borrowed expertise, meaning that it could be a former VP who held the expertise—even though she has since moved on, the agency “owns” the work or case study. Or the case study may be that of another division or sister agency, whose team won’t be servicing your brand. When an agency references a certain expertise, who on the team actually holds that expertise, and are they servicing your brand?

  • Often a junior employee joins a meeting to listen in, without actively contributing. Remember, this is billable time for the agency that you are paying for. Will your brand act as a “training ground” for any of the agency’s team members?

  • What is the work you are seeking to complete? Does the approach for the engagement align with the rigor you need? And, does the agency have the expertise, or is it an ancillary service that falls outside of the agency’s wheelhouse?

  • While an agency may have 90-100 employees, a select 5-8 employees are really involved and working on your brand from kick-off to completion. Do you really need to pay the overhead for all this talent on the bench?

  • Who will service your account when one of the agency’s employees suddenly quits or is restructured out? What is their expertise?

Does the Agency Offer Diversity of Thinking?

  • Does the agency have one institutional perspective, meaning that everyone looks to adhere to a certain mindset, model or process instead of identifying the right questions and the right frameworks to design the right solution? Or, are the same tools and templates leveraged to approach different problems?

Will Your Business Be a Priority?

  • Depending on the size of the agency you work with, they may have anywhere from 20-30 active clients, meaning each strategist or account manager could oversee anywhere from 6-7 active brands—at one time. Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or one in a sea of many? How will you know you are a priority?

  • Is the agency’s model customer-centric and flexible enough to service your account by bringing in the right experts outside of their dedicated employees?

When Selecting a Branding Agency What Criteria Do You Use?

What is important to you? And how easy has it been for you to distinguish one agency’s offerings from another?

C.E.K. & Partners is a market research and branding firm that helps build brands, create meaningful connections between brands and their customers and accelerate business growth. Our senior team holds expertise that spans custom research, brand strategy, story telling and design. Our clients love our model that offers diversity of thinking.

We can be reached at +1.404.345.6447.


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