Launching a brand can be a painstaking process that tests both your fortitude and patience. Chances are that someone out there is selling something nearly identical to your product, and branding is often the only thing that makes it distinct from the competition; branding is what makes you special. So, among all the web developers, graphic designers, and self-proclaimed marketers, how do you know which are the actual branding experts?
Whether you are launching a new product or trying to re-brand a branch of your company that has been under-performing, a true branding expert can act as your caretaker. It is important to identify one who will be capable of promoting your product in a responsible fashion. Hiring the right expert can turn even a failing business into a thriving enterprise, but hiring the wrong one can mean disaster.
The problem is that “everybody” claims to be an expert these days, and it can be difficult to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Fortunately, there are certain qualities that mark true branding experts as well as red flags that can identify those who are only branding themselves.
Promise vs Action
There are three questions that you can ask yourself about a candidate to identify the expert:
- Do they talk about relationships? Branding experts are obsessed with building a relationship between a product and its consumer, not making a product flashier or more desirable.
- Do they avoid buzzwords and jargon? True experts are often very direct and plain-spoken. They won’t try to impress you with their grasp of industry terms and acronyms.
- Do they focus on their job titles or on their accomplishments? A branding expert won’t try to sell you on the fact that they were a director of “this” or a manager of “that.”
You need a candidate that will roll up their sleeves and do the work to build your brand, not one who may have a vision but no plan for making it a reality. If you have a candidate who is making promises of results without a substantial body of work that demonstrates success, it may be cause for skepticism. Give them every opportunity to demonstrate their expertise, but always value proven results over an impressive employment history.
Specialization vs Strategy
Beware of candidates that try to sell you on their industry-wide mastery of all marketing. Branding experts thrive on specialization, and you need one that is intimately familiar with and successful in customized problem-solving rather than one-size-fits-all blanket solutions. You need to ask the following questions when you are in the process of evaluating your potential branding experts:
- Do they talk about adding value? A savvy marketer might tell you about what they can do for you, but branding experts focus on the product. They have already been thinking about your product, and identify deficiencies or gaps that they can fill in to add value.
- Do they have testimonials that are specific? A testimonial pointing to their familiarity with a product is more informative than one that is talking about their work ethic or how pleasant it was to work with them.
- Do they present themselves or present their work? Experts don’t waste their time trying to sell themselves as a guru. They will be too busy showing before and after pictures of a product just like yours that they have already turned around.
Although there is a lot to be said for product planning at a strategic level, a true expert will not try to sell you on their industry-wide expertise. It is a bold claim that is rarely true, and even then it may not be the quality that you are looking for. At the end of the day you will realize that “expert” is quickly losing its meaning. But true experts are still out there!