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What a company should look for in a brand design agency


What a company should look for in a brand design agency


Building good partnerships can lead to shared benefits and better work, but how does a business know which agency to pick? Kate Richardson shares what qualities you need to look for in a brand design agency.

Marketing is all about relationships. The ones you make with your clients plus the type consumers have with different brands. But not all relationships are created equal. When you’re looking to team up with a brand design agency you should be avoiding a fling. What you need is a partnership.

This goes both ways and should be as much the goal of the agency as it is your objective as a marketer or company owner. Ideally, you’d team up with an agency that acts as an extension of your team and shares your goals. You want them to care as much about the outcome and the impact of the projects as you do.

This is true collaboration. 

A partnership is long-term and something that becomes an evolving story between client and agency. Continuing partnerships can create better results and have shared benefits. 

In 2019, a World Federation of Advertisers survey of major multinationals found 65 percent of senior marketers and procurement executives thought a long-term relationship was critical to better work. The research found that not only did agencies typically produce better work when retained, but also that respondents were far more likely to rate the work of their agencies as excellent or very good if they’d retained their services rather than hired them on a project basis. 

Creating a true agency-client partnership means working side by side, navigating challenges and changes together, and even adapting to changing circumstances during a global pandemic.      

Want to find the perfect brand design agency partner? Here are the four roles they need to nail:

They should be great listeners

The ideal team at an agency will pay attention, listen to what you’re saying and understand your goals. Their role is to distil your knowledge of the company and what it is you want to achieve into tangible and effective, insight-led ideas and solutions. 

But it’s not just about understanding you. An agency also needs to be able to delve deeply into the mindset of consumers and understand what makes them tick to develop meaningful insights and strategies.

As an example, we worked with Dairy Australia and our research partners to define a strategy to engage consumers and unite the industry, conducting in-depth one-on-one interviews to establish people’s propensity to act on food issues, with a dairy lens applied. These foundations led to an extensive quantitative research study focussed on the attitudes and behaviours of 2,750 Australians. The findings enabled us to develop a unique attitudinal segmentation model to better reflect the way people engage with food issues and understand each segment to more effectively develop brand and communication strategies that could afford the dairy industry greater social license.

The objective was to build trust and relevance. As a result, the recent Lewers Trust Tracker from January 2021 shows that the campaigns have delivered a 16 percent increase in trust for Dairy Australia over the past 30 months. These are the kinds of meaningful insights that can help agencies and brands work collaboratively to drive strategy. 

They should be trustworthy

You need to be able to believe in 100 percent in what the agency is doing. This comes down to several factors, including experience and process. Sure, you can look at what they’ve done in the past and think it looks amazing, but you also need to trust they can produce similar results for you. Ask the agency to talk you through the process step by step. They need to build on your knowledge of how they work throughout a project and encourage you to ask questions. When you speak up if something isn’t quite right, they should listen to your reasons why and take those concerns into account. For the brand, the entire partnership should feel collaborative, transparent and authentic.

They need to be curious

Nobody wants or needs an agency with a cookie-cutter approach or that rehashes campaigns you’ve seen before. You’ll know an agency is good when you get a sense that the people working there look at the world with wide eyes, seeking out inspiration wherever they can. A strong agency should encourage that same sense of inquisitiveness in you. They need to ask you the hard questions – why you do this, why you exist, what keeps you up at night, what are your larger goals, how can you help your audience. They should also be prepared to answer the same. Ultimately, this curiosity creates dynamic and successful partnerships.

They need to be creative

This should go without saying. Creativity counts for more than everything already mentioned here. And the creative developed for any campaign has to be memorable. 

For five years, from 2005 to 2010, German researchers Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert studied 437 TV commercials for 90 FMCGs, asking panels of trained consumer raters to assess the creativity of the ads then comparing their perceptions and sales figures. Those campaigns considered more creative were considerably more effective, with every euro invested in a highly creative campaign nearly doubling the sales impact of a euro spent on a campaign that wasn’t considered especially creative.

Campaigns have to feature things people want to see and engage with. They have to be inspired as well as commercially viable. You want there to be a universal truth to it, but you also need it to be ambitious.


Kate Richardson is the managing partner at Elmwood Melbourne.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash.


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