Hi guys. We’re curious on your opinions of brand building. Do you find that you get more value, authenticity, and a deeper sense of brand through in-house creative & marketing, or outsourcing?
Really depends on in-house talent. How often have they gone through a rebrand process? There are a lot of teams lead by very smart brand strategist and design directors. But if the in-house team is a marketing director, a graphic designer and a content writer…outsource every time. And not just outsource but trust their emperical wisdom because they live rebranding every day. Looking for an outside team to support you?
Outsourced and specialized.
That’s tough. The issue with an in-house team is the potential for myopia and not seeing the forest from the trees. Since much of branding is how the outside world responds to your product or service there’s a lot of value in having outside perspectives. Also quizzically, some in-house teams are often oddly removed from larger business objectives so they’re often working in a vacuum or without the very basic information that might be in a brief to an outside consultant. However, outsourcing isn’t always a panacea. There are some brands where the in-house perspective probably needs to be preserved. Luxury or fashion brands, for example, or brands where there is a really strong defined identity like Disney should be careful with just blindly following outside opinions as that could really screw things up. A rebranding effort for Louis Vuitton or Rolls Royce is different than a rebranding effort of Costco. Apple has had a good deal of success creating a soft competition between its in house creatives and TBWA/MAL which has produced really great work, but I’d say the majority of the Apple brand (the design language, unboxing experience, market positioning, general attitude) comes from within. Same story with Disney.
It requires wisdom on both the parts of the in-house team and in house creatives who really understand the brand and wisdom and perspective on the part of outsiders. This often is the real problem, that the in house people aren’t close enough, or are maybe too new or removed from business decision making to really understand the product or service. I’ve personally seen overzealous new in-house creative execs try to put their own spin on things only for it to lead to disastrous results because it was misaligned with what the business was all about.
The real issue of whether or not the effort will be successful is determined by how well both the stakeholders and the creatives, internal or external, understand the target customer, the existing customer, and what these people *actually* respond to. Also an understanding of why a re-branding is even necessary. In the 1990s TV networks used to basically re-brand, at least in terms of visual identify, every season. Then Pittard Sullivan, now Troika, created ABC’s iconic “yellow” campaign in 98 or 99 and that flat graphic look has persisted in various incarnations ever since because the Disney brass figured out that it really wasn’t necessary to try to visually re-invent the network every year, there wasn’t really as much value in that as they had thought and that the network stood for something bigger. So you’d be very unlikely to see a major wholesale rebrand of ESPN, for example, and were something like that to happen, it would almost surely be driven, if not executed internally, maybe with some help from outside companies like Troika or Big Studios in developing visuals, but the spirit of the brand, Disney is going to want to have their hands all over that.
Unfortunately it is often not the case that businesses, even big successful businesses, truly understand these things well, which is why there’s value in outside perspective, but often outside perspective that runs counter to inside assumptions gets rejected or the wrong lessons get learned. Delta Airlines likes to think of itself as an upper tier airline in terms of service and amenity, but given their long brand history and the competition of true high-end carriers like Singapore or Emirates, the general public, their customers tend not to regard Delta that way, unless you compare them to say Spirit or Frontier. In the same vein I’m not sure Weiden Kennedy’s attempt at making Chrysler a more hip brand in the early 2010s really had legs because of Chrysler’s history of positioning. It’s hard to overcome nearly a century of conditioning. The same story with Buick, which maybe fared slightly better but Buick just historically isn’t the hip brand GM was trying to create. So the answer to the question is, its probably a case by case basis.
Outsource. Looking at your strengths and weaknesses to pinpoint how to capitalize on opportunities in branding is best done through an unbiased lens.
Branding is a key element of your business. Just like operations or marketing, simply outsourcing key elements of your business can be a recipe for disconnection.
Having a brand strategist/writer/designer on your team is going to ensure you have a cohesive and consistent customer experience and company vision.
That said, my recommendation to do branding in-house only stands if you’re committing to a high-quality and specialized person. Like other commenters mentioned, you can’t simply assign your designer or writer the role if they aren’t a strategic/business-minded individual. If that’s what you mean by in-house then I would recommend outsourcing — but keeping in mind that agencies will charge you an arm and a leg — and it can be very challenging to find quality individuals with all the skills you need to manage brand positioning, strategy, communications, and creative direction.
you can outsource, but you should still have an in-house expert to approve what is produced by the outsourced team.
In my opinion, you should have at least one in-house person that is responsible for capturing the core of your branding long-term. You can then get some things done with your team and outsource other tasks such as designs, etc.
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