How much should your branding project cost?
by Barton Strawn, Managing Partner
If you’re thinking about launching a new brand or starting a brand refresh, then you’ve probably asked the question, “how much does a branding project cost?” And you’re probably sick of seeing other articles around the web that end with “it depends” as an answer to the question. It’s a tricky topic and can be a tough question to get an answer to, but keep reading and we’re going to provide real dollar amounts as estimates to different types of branding projects. This includes the scale of the company and the elements that could be included in that branding package.
Before we dive in though, a few important notes. We firmly believe that a well thought out brand, including identity design, a compelling message, and proper story telling, can be the difference between avid customers and a one-and-done purchaser. For this reason, you should be thinking about your brand like any other business asset. It is an investment that should lead to improved performance in one way or another. As you begin the branding process, you should start with clear goals. This is something Long Weekend does with each client and helps frame the entire branding process.
With that said, it’s important to understand what your average branding package includes to better understand how much a branding package costs. Typically this is:
- A naming strategy;
- A brand position and message;
- A visual identity (logo, colors, typography, supporting graphic elements).
In many cases, it may also include:
- Supporting brand collateral (business cards, letterhead, paper products, etc);
- A new website;
- New signage and/or interiors.
But the most important thing you get in a branding package is the process that helps you and your team reach a point of cohesion and clarity around a brand and message. Even if you have an internal team, it could make sense to bring in an outside organization to help with your branding process. Outside perspectives can lead to brand revelations that members close to the project might overlook.
So what should you ask yourself when considering a budget for a branding project?
- How much money do you have in the bank? This is ultimately a question about where you stand in your business lifecycle and what type of business you are. If you are a venture backed company, you probably want to invest more money in your brand at launch than a small self-funded retail store. These two brands are entering completely different markets and competitive landscapes and require a different investment in their respective brands.
- How much money do you believe a new brand will increase revenue? If you believe a great brand refresh is going to double your revenue, then it might make sense to double your investment in your branding project.
- How much money do you feel comfortable spending? At the end of the day, if you spend more than you are comfortable spending, it’s almost 100% likely you’ll think the project has been unsuccessful because your expectations are going to be too high from day 1. Find an agency to help you with your branding goals that fits within the budget you feel comfortable with. Just make sure you set your expectations accordingly.
Estimated Branding Budgets
When you’re using your own money to get a project off the ground, every dollar counts. Trust us, we get it. We’ve self-funded our own studio from the beginning. This is how most businesses get their start. In this instance, we recommend around 10% of your overall starting budget.
So if you have $25,000 to get things started, then plan on spending around $2,500 for branding. If you have $100,000, then plan on investing around $10,000. If you’re getting started with $0, then your budget is $0. The smaller your budget, the more important it is to be the “scrappy startup.” Consider starting with a name, a simple type set logo, and a pre-packaged web builder like Squarespace. If you have a budget, then you’re probably looking for a freelancer or small firm to help execute on your branding package. And remember, it is much better to wait until you are ready to make an investment than overextend yourself trying to launch with a fully developed brand.
In addition to your overall budget, consider your business’s industry. If you are in a technical industry, you may not need a strong brand to get your start. Focus on the product and make sure you launch in a way that you can secure market share. If you are in a more customer facing industry, like a consumer good or retail brand, then you may want to push your budget closer to 15% of your start up costs. For example, an apparel brand is going to need items like labels and hang tags. If you have $100,000 to start with, consider setting aside $15,000 (closer to 15% of your starting budget) and look for a smaller firm willing to throw in some of the collateral pieces you need with your brand package.
Startup with Investment
At this level, you may have secured 3rd party funding ranging from $100,000 to $1 Million+ depending on the industry your company operates within. If you are on the lower end of this investment, we still recommend around 15% of your total startup budget. If you have $100,000, then you should be investing around $15,000. If you have raised $250,000, then go ahead and set aside $37,500 for branding. When you are launching a brand with external funding, a strong brand becomes even more important. You need to make sure you “hit the ground running” and make the most of the financial runway your investments provide.
If you have raised $1 Million or more, then you have more wiggle room when planning your branding budget. That said, you should expect to spend at least $50,000 and up to $150,000. In this instance, you’re most likely looking for an agency with 10+ years of experience and a few dozen employees. The most important thing you should do is look for someone with expertise in your industry and that will work well with your company. ThisWith this budget, you can expect to get a full branding package, plus collateral and a website, assuming you do not need any intricate e-commerce or database features.
Revenue Generating Small Business
In our mind, small businesses are dictated less by time in business and more by yearly revenue and number of employees. We typically see this as a company with 5 – 50 employees and $5 Million or less in revenue per year, although there really isn’t a clear definition of “small business.” In this instance, we recommend looking at your yearly revenue and planning on investing anywhere from 3% to 10% of that number.
This means if last year you made $1 million, then consider setting aside around $30,000. That said, if you made $5 Million, you probably don’t need $500,000 for a branding project. We would recommend capping any branding investment at this scale around $75,000. You should be able to get a full rebrand and a website built for this amount by a small to mid-size agency with at least some experience in your industry.
Additionally, if you are a small business that is already in operation, you will most likely need ongoing design services. We recommend pairing a branding package with an ongoing retainer with your selected agency. You may be able to get a slightly better rate on your initial branding package and you will ensure that your new brand is executed correctly once you have it.
Revenue Generating Mid to Large Size Company
Mid and large size companies have most likely been operating for at least 10+ years, and are generating a significant amount of revenue, more than $5 million per year. For a business that is this well established, we would tell you to think about investing the same as a venture backed startup would, somewhere between $75,000 and $150,000.
In our experience, you probably want to consider setting aside an amount on the higher end of this range. Well established companies tend to have a lot of opinions and the process can take longer than expected. This usually results in a higher cost to complete the branding project. That said, unless you need an extremely complex e-commerce platform or database driven application, you should also be able to get a website completed within your budget.
Additionally, as a large company, you are going to have many more brand assets that you need to update. There may be some basic collateral and a website, but you most likely have more brand touch points than you think.
Overview of Budget
|If you consider your business a:||Then you should expect to spend around:||And you should look for an agency like:|
|Self Funded Startup||$2,500 – $10,000||You are most likely looking for a freelancer or a small agency. This budget will most likely cover a basic identity package and possibly a few collateral pieces.|
|Startup with Small Investment||$15,000 – $35,000||You should consider looking for a small agency, potentially a mid-size agency if they have availability. The lower end of this budget will get you help with brand strategy, a visual identity, and potentially some collateral. A smaller firm may include a website at the higher end of this budget.|
|Revenue Generating Small Business||$25,000 – $50,000||You are looking for a small to midsize agency. If you can find someone with experience in your industry then even better. This budget should get you some help with brand strategy, a visual identity, and some collateral. As you get closer to the high end of this budget, it can also include a website or some signage and interior design.|
|Venture Backed Startup||$75,000+||You should focus on mid/large to larger agencies, especially those with a history of work in your industry. These agencies will typically bid out a package that includes everything you will need to launch your new brand, including strategy, visual identity, collateral, a website, and updates to signage.|
Start Budgeting for your Brand
Hopefully this gives you a better idea of how much you should expect to spend on a new brand or brand refresh. We understand that this still isn’t an exact number on how much you should expect to spend, however this at least gives you some idea of budgetary numbers you can expect.
At Long Weekend, we consider ourselves a small boutique design firm. We take on branding projects for self funded startups, startups with investment, and revenue generating small businesses. At times, we’ll partner with other firms to help with a large scale branding project.
If you are small and your budget doesn’t fit the goals of your branding project, we also consider working for a portion of equity if the company is the right fit. This can be a great win-win for both parties if an agreement can be reached. If you want to start a conversation with us about setting up this type of partnership, feel free to send us an inquiry on our contact page.
We hope this article provides some direction for you and your team as you move forward with a branding project with us or another firm in the future. If you have any questions of specifics you’d like to discuss, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org