by Jean-Pierre Lacroix RGD, President at Shikatani Lacroix
A key factor in an effective brand transformation is ensuring you have the right agency to help lead the charge. Taking into consideration that major changes involve many departments and stakeholders, it’s important that the branding partner can effectively manage the complexity of the assignment and gain strong alignment throughout the company. Over the years, we have responded to many of these requests and participated in numerous major brand transformation projects, and have come to understand that choosing the right partner goes well beyond a great looking portfolio. To help ensure your next decision provides the greatest chance for success, we have outlined five criteria for hiring the right firm.
Criteria One: Culture Fit
Projects are always about people working together toward a common goal and a shared vision. To ensure that this happens, it’s critical the culture of the branding agency fits well with that of the client. Misaligned cultures results in ongoing conflicts in attitudes, approaches, and expectations — not an ideal recipe for success. Consider what aspects of your company’s culture you value most; for example being inclusive, doing what is right versus what is expedient or convenient, or believing in the importance of trust, honesty and transparency. Although you would assume most firms share these values, digging a little beneath the surface can reveal quite the opposite. The best approach in determining the right culture fit is to meet the team at their offices, and to review blogs, posts, comments and other social platforms that will provide insights to the firm’s culture. Staff turnover and on-boarding systems are also leading indications of the value the company places in their people.
Criteria Two: Right Team Structure
Does the design firm have the right team structure to align with the project needs? Does the team have the right personality mix to handle both the peaks and valleys of projects which often have conflicting agendas, significant barriers to success and aggressive timelines? You need to answer the question: can I work with these individuals for the next six months, and will they make my life easy? And more importantly, are the people at the pitch actually the individuals who will lead the project, or are they part of the new business team? It’s critical as part of the selection process to meet the person at the agency who will lead the project, as well as the key individuals who you will work with. Avoid the bait and switch new business approach; that only leads to big surprises later on.
Criteria Three: Strong Value Proposition
Can the firm being selected bring additional value that you might not have considered to the project? Many brand transformation projects start with a set of assumptions. Often these assumptions are not well planned or fact-based.The ideal firm can foresee potential obstacles in the process that should be avoided, and steer you in the right direction. They should bring a unique point of view about what additional values they can bring to the project which will have a significant impact on the final outcome. A great way of defining these added values is by not asking what additional value they can bring to the table. A proactive agency with strong thought leadership will tell you without having to be asked.
Criteria Four: Proven Process
Although further down on the criteria list, it’s important that the firm has a proven process in managing change. The process will become the road map your organization will follow, covering many stages and months. Although most firms have a three stage “define, design and deliver” process, what happens at each stage can vary significantly from firm to firm. Ensuring the agency’s process aligns well with the project scope and deliverables is very important and points to the final criteria: do they have the depth of experience on similar projects?
Criteria Five: Depth of Experience
Depth of experience can be a double-edged sword as agencies may leverage industry and project assumptions that can lead to average branding outcomes. Often times, our firm has won major projects despite not having the appropriate industry experience, as we can provide a totally out-of-category fresh perspective. It’s important as part of your selection process to determine how important it is for your agency to have a extensive depth of experience and how this can potentially impact the desired outcome. We have identified this criteria last as it seems to be the most divergent variable in clients’ selection process. Depth of experience is typically derived from project case studies with similar assignments within the client’s industry.
Every branding project is different. Our experience has demonstrated that culture fit, a strong value proposition, the right team, the process, and the firm’s depth of experience — in that order of importance— lead to a successful brand transformation.