Agency or Freelancer –
What’s Best for You?

By Kimberly Hansen & Lisa Trachtman – August 8, 2019

You may think an agency is an excessive expense when it comes to outsourcing your brand’s creative needs. Hiring a freelancer is quick, easy and seems to be a cost saver. But there may be overlooked considerations that could make a significant impact on your decision, and negatively affect your goals, results and objectives.

Here are some key differences between these two choices that can help you consider your needs to make the best decision for your company.

Freelancers are talented individuals

Freelancers are often the choice for small projects to meet an immediate, targeted need, for example to create a logo or brochure or illustration. These talented individuals tend to either be experts in a niche specialty, or general jack-of-all-trades, and you benefit from working directly with the artist so communication is streamlined. Costs can sometimes be smaller and project-based as the scope of the work is usually limited. Generally, independent artists will offer quick turnaround times.

But consider this…

When dealing with freelancers, sometimes their availability can be inconsistent, as they may have multiple projects competing for their time, or may even be unavailable when you need them. Their area of expertise may be limited, so if your project grows in scope, they may not have the skills to satisfactorily complete the expanded requirements. Illness or emergencies could be a setback to your project timeline. Working as an individual, they have less support to assist them if needed or to add value or improve your project’s outcome.

As occasional workers, freelancers tend be less familiar with your brand and your existing graphic identity, so their work will need careful direction to help ensure what they create follows your brand standards. Many companies suffer when work is done by many disparate individuals not sharing a united corporate vision and look, thereby fragmenting your brand identity. Working with multiple freelancers requires a very strong brand strategy and oversight to assure consistent and coherent outcomes. Often, busy or less experienced staff struggle to handle these graphic variances well. While individual designs may look nice on their own, when viewing all your corporate pieces together, are they telling the same brand story? Beware of letting your company’s once-cohesive brand become a conglomeration of loosely related designs, simply tied together with colors and logos and elements.

The advantages of an agency

Agencies come in all sizes to meet both your small project and larger scale branding design and creative strategy needs. The benefits of working with an agency is you get the benefit of a team, each member with his own skill-set. Together they can contribute broader practical experience, and whose collaboration offers an extra layer of thinking and oversight.

We often forget that time is money. What you may save in cost with a freelancer will also require more of your precious time to manage. With an agency, you benefit when projects are more complex and require multiple specialties. Agencies have multiple people on staff to ensure help is available when needed. You also benefit from an appointed project manager to make sure the job is done accurately, on time and within your budget. If you are busy and need to be less hands-on, an agency can serve you well.

Another benefit of an agency relationship is that they can become an extension of your marketing department through an in-depth familiarity with your brand standards, your products and services, industry and your family of both digital and traditional marketing collaterals. This familiarity negates the need to constantly educate a rotating door of individual freelancers, and can mean fewer mistakes and quicker project communication. Agencies understand your brand framework and how to work within your guidelines, and even when to pop in a creative surprise or two for effect, all while remaining faithful to your consistent image and maintaining the mindshare within your market. Agencies are reliable, knowledgeable partners that can relieve some of your stress. Working with an agency long-term doesn’t have to get old or stagnant. With strong communication among your team members, collaborative efforts reap some of the biggest rewards for all involved.

How ready are you?

Before deciding between a freelancer and an agency, it is best to consider the larger corporate picture – your state of organization and materials, how much time you have to manage the project, the condition of your brand standards, as well as your budget. Cost savings alone often overlook the value of these other services and the impact it has on your brand. Considering these needs now will help you make the best choice, and hopefully reap the results you want!

Strata-Media’s success is driven by their vision to increase business net worth, stock valuation and Brand ROI. From conception to execution they are an extension of their client’s marketing department. They hold themselves accountable to the goals established marketing teams worldwide. Call us today and learn how Strata can contribute immediate value to your organization.

Avoiding a Start-up Identity Crisis

By Lisa Trachtman & Kimberly Hansen – March 8, 2019

You’ve recently formed a new company with a team of talented R&D, engineers and designers, developing a ground-breaking prototype product for testing and know there’s a demand from a market that needs it.

Now you’re faced with the challenge of creating not only a company identity but a product identity as well. On one side of the equation, you’ve got a product to name and brand and introduce to your customers with a solid marketing strategy. On the other hand, your company also needs a name and a brand identity to add integrity and instill confidence in the quality of your endeavor. Two very important, and sometimes, competing branding priorities to tackle, on a very limited budget.

So which brand is more important?

Your corporate brand represents the bedrock of your company. It stands for who you are, your expertise, and your vision for your product or service, and will be an integral component that distinguishes your potential for future marketing success. It is your story. It is the “who and why” of your existence. Your corporate messaging needs to speak to wider audiences, such as industry groups, agencies, partners, media and potential investors. It represents your business strategy. Your corporate identity also contains your positioning – the promise behind your brand. This promise needs to be lived from the inside out.

Your product brand represents your unique innovation, your solution to a problem, and the outcome. It helps embody the characteristics, the purpose, and features and benefits your product offers and creatively connects them with your customer to meet their needs. It is the “what and how” of your story. Your product messaging speaks to all relevant opportunities – from your channel partners to your end user – your market. A strong brand will also begin to build a relationship that will inspire brand loyalty.

All of these components are necessary to tell a complete story when launching a new company and a new product. A brand, after all, is not an item; it’s future equity. It is an idea, a promise and a philosophy that needs to be memorable, true and permeate the minds of your target market.

End Goals

Whether your goal is to get to market and sell off your intellectual property, or to grow into a larger corporation, innovating additional products, launching a strong brand story starts from the beginning. Brand equity is building value behind your name and reputation, both corporately and product-level. And that value inspires trust and loyalty.

A strong product brand strategy starts with a strong foundation and includes layers that support your product’s relevance and brings it to life in the mind of your customers. The foundation starts with a unique name and descriptor for the product. Adding layers gives it life: a robust brand identity supported by logo design, and architectural components including font selection, a coherent color palette and customized graphic brand elements that support both the content of your marketing materials and keeps your branding message uniform and recognizable across all communication mediums. All of these elements combine together to set you apart and make you stand out.

Your corporate brand begins to bring your business plan to life, starting with a name that is memorable or identifiable. It defines your company’s personality and principles. Ideally you will follow the same guidelines for product branding, using uniform and consistent branding elements, fonts, logo and colors. Your corporate messaging needs to be carefully thought out and planned in advance for consistency and legal defensibility. Get your whole team on board and make sure you have a marketing manager who can oversee the consistency and accuracy of your branding and messaging, and review all content that will be released for public access.

Building Positive Equity

There is a balancing act to be managed when starting up. You lead with your strongest brand offering, whether it is your product or innovative concept, or leveraging your existing reputation or name recognition of your principles or executives. The positive equity you are able to create can help build the reputation of all the components of your organization.

So how do you avoid an identity crisis?

Always remember your brand story when communicating to your marketplace. Your company is the who and why you are there. Your product is the what you are bringing and the how describes how will it help solve the problem your customer has. Make sure the messaging you use is consistent, and the corporate and product messaging support each other’s identity and purpose.

Stories help us remember and understand new information. It holds our attention and helps us connect. Present your story through your unique brand. Your brand should be something you want to your market and investors to associate with and connect to. It’s an experience, and a belief. Investing in a cohesive brand identity will give you a better chance to own that all-important piece of your market place’s mindshare.

Strata-Media’s success is driven by their vision to increase business net worth, stock valuation and Brand ROI. From conception to execution they are an extension of their client’s marketing department. They hold themselves accountable to the goals established marketing teams worldwide. Call us today and learn how Strata can contribute immediate value to your organization.

Why Should You Re-Brand?

By Kimberly Hansen & Lisa Trachtman – January 4, 2019

Businesses and markets are constantly negotiating growth, downturns and changes. Just as individuals reach crossroads in their lives, businesses reach certain milestones where the changes happening within the company or in your marketplace need to be addressed. Your company’s brand identity reflects who you are in the minds of your customers. If your company or marketplace changes enough that your existing identity is no longer relevant, or you want your market to think of you differently, it’s time to consider a rebrand. Here are five situations where re-considering your company’s brand is strategically wise:

1. Recent Company Growth or Modernization

As your company grows and adds new products, divisions, or services, you may need to consider how your company’s mission, vision and values (MVV) have changed, and if that change is significant enough to consider updating or refreshing your brand and identity to reflect your new positioning. Corporate shifts such as a corporate merger or acquisition, new management, an internal culture evolvement, or large branded projects, such as a new website or tradeshow presence, may be an opportunity to consider how well your current branding reflects who you are, how you sell and how you want your target market to perceive you.

2. Address Challenges from Competitors

Sometimes new product development from your competition or behavioral shifts within your marketplace can impact your business. Competitive product features or a new way of doing business may suddenly put you at a disadvantage. You may need to address new threats or challenges, possibly by making changes to how you operate or strengthening your position within your industry or market. It may be time to re-evaluate your strengths and determine how to differentiate yourself to gain an advantage over your competitors. A brand update can facilitate a stronger market position, giving your customers new insight or a fresh perspective about who you are, and how your product or service can best support them.

3. Pursue New Opportunities or Markets

Entering a new market, whether in a customer segment or perhaps launching your product or service in a new country, offers an opportunity to look at and evaluate your brand positioning and key messaging as it relates to the new competitive landscape. Often some modification can be beneficial to help with clarifying and positively differentiating your brand. Whether you update your entire corporate brand or launch a new division, evaluating and fine-tuning your brand identity to encompass your broader presence is a smart idea.

4. Overcome Negative Perceptions

If your brand integrity has become compromised, whether by failing to live up to your promises, product failures, or losing ground to your competition, it is likely time to re-evaluate your brand identity with relation to how you sell, service and support your product and services. This is a good time to reflect on your original mission and key messaging, and modify as needed. A rebrand can offer you a fresh start and an opportunity to solidify, repair and improve your reputation.

5. Existing Messaging is Insufficient or Outdated

Insufficient messaging is frequently true with start-ups or young companies who hit the ground running with a new product or service. Newer companies are still building their reputations and understanding the role they play and their competitive advantages in the marketplace. In some cases, legal guidelines place burdensome restrictions on what messaging can be used. Claims about medical devices and drugs are very tightly regulated, so finding ways to position your company and product can be very challenging. If certain aspects of your business are tightly regulated, corporate branding may offer more opportunities for building brand identity and loyalty.

Conversely, your brand identity should be revisited and evaluated every 3-5 years so you do not become perceived as outdated and irrelevant as you grow.

Your company’s brand is a supremely valuable asset that is really the visual and cultural foundation of your entire enterprise. Like any foundation, a solid, well-thought-out plan will offer strong support for the long run. And as your company grows and changes, so too will these foundational elements need to be expanded, refreshed and modified to be able to continue to support all the other elements of the business. Before you embark on any significant changes within your company, stop and consider the foundation of your brand first. Remember to build your brand right along with building your products, building your markets, and growing your company.