The Pros and Cons of Working with an Agency for Brand Development

Hummingbird CreativeBranding & Creative, Thought Leadership

Has your company worked with an agency for brand development? When asked this question in Hummingbird’s 2021 research initiative, 69% of respondents answered, “Yes.”

Most were Brand Believers and Metrics Masters, of course. The Disengaged Doubters were least likely to have worked with an agency, but that’s not so surprising since they’re also the least likely to think about branding often.

Brand Believers likely see an agency partnership favorably because they believe so strongly in the importance of having a strong brand if an organization wants to be a market leader.

Metrics Masters may find an agency’s strength in branding strategy and metrics tracking to be the draw. Because Metrics Masters strategically define the customer journey and map out marketing initiatives to support every step of the journey, they may see an agency as a strong partner in developing those initiatives and strategies.

It’s true that those are some of the strengths an agency brings to its clients. In this post, we’ll dive deeper into those strengths…the pros of working with an agency for brand development. We’ll also take a look at some of the cons before sharing some tips for determining if working with an agency would benefit your business.

The Pros of Working with an Agency

Agencies tend to offer a team of people with different strengths, as opposed to hiring one person in a role inside a company. So, with the spend a company would normally use to cover one person’s salary, that company can buy a wealth of broad and deep expertise when working with an agency.

All the benefits of “outsourcing” also come into play:

  • Lower costs – Outsourcing often costs less than hiring full-time because you only pay for the services you need, and you don’t have to worry about the overhead costs associated with full-time employees.
  • No benefits expenses – Benefits expenses fit under “overhead costs.” Health insurance, paid vacation, retirement plans, sick leave, and more add up. When working with an agency, your company pays the agency directly and saves what it might’ve invested in benefits for new employees.
  • Less commitment – Hiring employees means going all in and committing to those workers. Working with an agency involves a contract, but your company can work with agency leaders to determine the time frame for the contract…whether it’s a short-term branding strategy and website redesign or a retainer agreement for ongoing branding and content delivery services.
  • More efficiency (not paying an employee for water-cooler talk) – Full-time employees receive pay for their time whether they’re at their desks working or in a coworker’s office chatting. The efficiency of an agency means billing for hours spent on your company’s project.
  • More strategic work that can be done by a diverse team of people rather than one employee – Bringing all their resources to their clients’ projects is a definite positive agencies provide. The diverse skill sets of team members offer unique perspectives that strengthen brand development and strategy.
  • Access to new skills/resources – The skills/resources of a team as compared to the skills of an employee or two…agencies have built their teams specifically for this purpose.
  • When a new project idea comes up, agencies can move faster – Again, the dynamic nature of an agency’s team is built for situations like this. They can often move faster and more efficiently because it’s in their nature.

The Cons

With all the pros listed above, it’s easy to understand why 69% of respondents in our survey said they’d worked with an agency before.

But it wouldn’t be fair to give you only the upside…all the benefits of working with an agency without pointing out some of the downside:

  • A company may feel they do not have as much control, therefore trust must be built.

When a company turns its branding strategy and development over to an agency, its leadership team can feel as if they’ve lost some of the control they once had. The agency is, in effect, relieving them of the need to have their hand in every aspect of the branding process, but to feel good about letting the agency guide the process, the company and agency must build trust between them. Trust doesn’t just happen, of course. It takes time and a solid commitment to communication.

  • There can be hidden costs, as most agencies are billing for time.

While agencies can save companies money, they can also be a source of hidden costs. A project may take longer than planned, need to be revisited, or need to be revamped altogether. When this happens, the additional costs can add up quickly. Communication is so important to keep projects on track.

  • Quality control can be more difficult.

Having a team of people putting all their strengths together on a branding project gives the benefit of unique perspectives, but the flip side can be a loss of quality. With so many hands in a project, consistency can slide. Team members may overlook important elements when they mistakenly believe the responsibility is someone else’s.

  • If the agency is not super-proactive, you can lose focus on projects, costs, and deadlines.

An agency typically serves a number of clients at once, juggling multiple projects at the same time. Without a proactive approach, the team could easily lose focus and miss deadlines. Communication between the agency and its clients will go a long way toward efficiency and timeliness.

How can organizational leaders determine if working with an agency would be beneficial for them?

For a company to work well with an agency, its leaders need to have a mindset of outsourcing. If a company’s leadership understands that the internal team doesn’t have the bandwidth or the marketing skills to do branding strategy and development well, then looking to an agency will be beneficial.

However, if the company’s leadership feels they cannot let go of the “technical” side of things and let the agency do the job of marketing without needing to know every technical detail of the business, it will not be a good match.

Learn more about our Thought Leadership Research Results: