The three most common questions asked about branding?

I do quite a bit of networking and there are three questions that keep cropping up about branding from SME owners. So let me try and address them here – there’s three questions and I’m going to answer in 3 ways. Informative (explaining and adding value), factual and finally from a growth mindset.

The three most common questions I’m asked by prospective clients?

  1. How long does it take to do a full branding project?
  2. How much does it cost?
  3. How will it benefit my business?

It almost impossible to answer those without knowing the particular circumstances of each business but I’ll try to unpack the questions a little here – and give some insight too.


1. How long does it take to do a full branding project?

It will take the entire lifetime of your business to build your brand because it should be an ongoing continuum of relationship with your target audience, within the context of your particular competitive market. Both the relationship and your competition are likely to change over time so your own efforts and actions may need to adapt and change accordingly.

Some people are a little scared off by that scenario – but any brand or marketing professional who tells you anything different is lying to you (or to themselves).

Yes, a great deal can be done to set you on a good path. Good brand strategy can lay a solid foundation and give you the right tools to navigate the changing landscape but a good brand (like a good website) is never finished, it’s always a work in progress.

2. How much does it cost?

An effective brand strategy and implementation will definitely require your investment. Financially and in terms of other resources. It will cost you honesty, openness, vulnerability, self-awareness and time.

No brand strategist can deliver truly effective work unless you are willing to bear your soul to them to some degree. To do their best work they have to understand your desires and your fears, your strengths and your weaknesses. They have to understand your business intimately to be able to get to the heart of the brand and then devise the best way to present that to your audience.

When I’ve questioned people, who have told me they had a bad experience with a brand designer, I have regularly found they didn’t really understand the requirements or the process – or they didn’t trust their branding partner enough to be as honest and vulnerable as they should. That is not saying that the reason for the breakdown lay with them entirely though.

If the branding team hasn’t explained the process properly, or invested sufficiently to build a relationship of mutual trust and respect, then how can they expect their clients to divulge information that might be sensitive (and possibly even painful to face). Any relationship is a two-way street and both parties need to play their part.

Sometimes the client doesn’t always know the answers to the questions being asked. In those cases, it should be down to the branding team to do more research and investigation to collate the relevant data.

Time is always a key factor.

I’ve been told by an external business mentor that the full process that we employ at S2 design, (in a nutshell research, design and testing) could be offered to the top-flight branding agencies as an outsoursed service. They suggested the price point should be around £30,000 – £40,000 BUT we’d need to find a way to deliver what we do in 3-4 weeks.

Needless to say, we don’t charge that figure to our clients. Usually, with an established business, a 3-4 weeks time-fame would see us through the first stage of our process: our research. It’s also those crucial first weeks of working with a new client that we are building relationships and establishing trust. And as outlined earlier, rushing the relationship-building aspect of the process only creates problems further down the road. Time and resources have to be invested as we and our clients need to work together in collaboration.

Some people liken the best brand strategy as being akin to mining. You have to dig through of a lot of hard-rock, investing a great deal of effort (and possibly even blood, sweat and tears at times) before you unearth the gold nuggets and gemstones that are of real value.

I also often liken brand strategy to building a bridge. You have to build from both banks towards the centre. To do that you need to know both the company and their customers to be able to identify the best way to make a genuine connection between the two.

3. How will it benefit my business?

The benefits of brand strategy, brand positioning and brand design are almost incalculable. (But you’d expect me to say that as this is my area of expertise). So let me talk frankly about impact.

We have testimonials and data that state that clients of ours saw their turnover nearly triple in the year following our (limited) rebrand. Another client saw their own customer sign-up figures treble and the net worth of each individual customer increased four-fold.

If we think of the brand as being the essence of who you are … reaching out to your target audience (as defined and focused by the brand strategy), using messaging and routes to markets that have been identified through the strategy and positioning activity, and all those communications being tested and monitored to ensure the desired outcomes are being delivered. That’s how we generate our results.

If our clients commit to the process, work in transparent partnership with us, and implement on the strategy which the research shows will drive the best results, then we have confidence we can positively affect the perception, emotional connection, and the bottom line results of almost any business.

If you’ve read this far – well done, you’ve pushed through the more esoteric answers and your pay-off is that I’ll try to be a little more direct below. So here are the simpler answers to those same questions:


1. How long does it take to do a full branding project?

The shortest branding project I’ve ever done took around 8 weeks from the first consultation to the final delivery of assets. However, that is unusually fast.

For most branding projects we are generally looking at a timeframe of 3-6 months. The longest I’ve worked on recently took about 14 months.

Partly the time frames depend on how responsive and decisive the client’s team are, how available the relevant data is, and how willing the clients are to take our device.

2. How much does it cost? *

Every business situation is different. The needs are different, the offering is unique to each client and their individual competitive landscape has it’s own unique topology. All of which makes this question very difficult to answer with any honesty.

So let me give you a ‘bracketed’ answer again. We’ve delivered bare-bones brand assets for under a grand – but we would not be able do all our usual research and exploration for that price point and we would only deliver a limited final product.

Our baseline price normally starts around £5000. This is still a limited service. We would agree with the client during our consultation what can be created and delivered for the fee.

Historically anyone we’ve worked for at this price point have either been charities and NFPs (who we offer preferential rates to at times). Or they have been start-up businesses who do not have the client base yet for us to explore all the research avenues we usually take – and as start-ups, they often don’t have the funds or other resources to engage on a more in-depth branding project

I know what you are asking – what’s the top-end fee and time frame?

The longest project we’ve worked on at S2 needed a great deal of research which took 4-5 months. Comprising of many interviews, focus groups and various other data gathering routes, at a cost of approx £12,000 for the research phase alone.

The brand strategy, design and asset development then took another 12 months from the initial design concepts to final brand delivery, and cost about the same again. The website build and development was dealt with as a separate item taking approximately 3 months at a cost of around £4,000.

3. How will it benefit my business?

The strategy part of this project identified answers to four ‘road blocks’ this organisations audience stated as factors that stopped them becoming customers. Addressing those in the strategy, route to market, messaging and brand design meant those objections were removed and the sign-up figures over the next 2 years proved the value of the process.

We have also worked with international clients on rebrand and repositioning projects – but they have been delivered as extended roll-out projects over much longer timeframes and the overall costs are much harder to state with any clarity. (And they’d only scare most SME business owners if we could state them I’m sure).

Growth Mindset

  1. How long does it take to do a full branding project?
  2. How much does it cost?
  3. How will it benefit my business?

The very simple answer is that if number 3 is significant enough then questions 1 and 2 are almost irrelevant.

That is an answer I have given when networking but I find it tends to mark the end of the conversation.

If you would like to have the conversation and explore how brand strategy, positioning and design could impact your particular organisation then we offer a free initial one-hour consultation. Surely, it’s worth an hour of your time – no matter how busy you are.

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