Tense business woman looking at branding costs

What Should You Pay for Branding?

In Marketing Agencies by Distility25 Comments

[Updated December 2016]

What Does Branding Cost?

Before we get into the question, let’s take a second to remember the distinction between price and cost. Price is what branding consultants and agencies will charge you to do branding work. Branding cost is the price, plus all the time you spend internally on the project, plus the cost of change when you replace all your existing branded material. In this post, we’re looking at price.

Of course, there are different budget levels in branding. They correspond to different types of branding providers, from the individual consultant to the full-service agency. Here’s a table showing the deliverables you can expect to get at different rates, from the $50-an-hour freelancer to the $200-an-hour agency.

Branding cost table

In this post, we’ll break these different tiers into three pricing categories: low-end, mid-range and big budget.

Low-End Branding Price: $5K to $20K

It’s the norm for buyers to sink a limited budget into design or website elements rather than audience analysis and brand strategy, even though the latter are critical for creative work that yields sales. Here, you and your team have to rely on your best instincts for brand strategy and messaging. It’s up to you to decide what will make your brand unique, magnetic and competitive. That can be harder than it seems.

You will likely develop your most important marketing tool – your brand name – yourself. But you might not know the best practices that makes a name enduring and protectable. Even still, in this bracket, money is spent on the work that is furthest from your comfort zone: design.

Low-End Logo, Website, Collateral Fees: $5K to $15K

This is the lowest price you can pay to get what many people confuse for a brand – a passable logo, stationery, website and the like. If you’re very lucky, you might get a reliable student or offshore vendor to help you with your logo, stationery and website for a couple grand. Or you may pay more for a more qualified local resource.

These budget-level prices lend no value to your own time. If you go this route, you’ll likely get stuck with an unfocused, uncompetitive brand – and how is that worth thousands of dollars? See our post The Hidden Cost of Brand Strategy for more on this dangerous branding price bracket.

Mid-Range Branding Fees: $15K to $150K

At this price range, you can at least engage an expert or small agency to get you started or take you all the way. How much that resource costs is still highly variable. One vendor can moonlight and price modestly while another may charge a premium on account of their proven ability to improve the fortunes of your firm.

Mid-Range Brand Analysis Fees: $5K to $30K

You may elect to skip an audit of your current brand, or analysis of your audience. But here, you can get some brand interviews and analysis starting at around $5,000 for an expert. If you’d rather go with a full-service agency, the price for brainpower can easily run up to $30,000.

Mid-Range Brand Strategy Fees: $5K to $50K

Brand strategy fees also vary widely. You can pay between $5,000 for an intuitive consultation with a seasoned expert and $50,000 for an agency to do a ton of deep thinking. At Distility, we charge by the number of participants at our Brand Strategy Workshop.

Mid-Range Identity, Messaging, Design Fees: $20K to $200K

When it comes time to embody the brand strategy in an identity, messages, advertising, a website and sales materials, pricing can start at $20,000 and easily climb to $200,000 for:

  • Infrastructure – Stationery, office templates, signage, uniforms, office templates
  • Digital – Marketing website, landing pages, email templates, social media profiles
  • Sales – Presentations, display booth, banner bugs, sales sheets, name cards, invitations
  • Advertising – Campaign concept, print ad, pay-per-click ads, display ads
  • Printing – Of all new infrastructure, sales and advertising collateral

Many buyers seek to reduce overall prices by using multiple independent contractors, but the cost of getting them to work together must not be ignored. On the other hand, once you work with a quality branding agency, you are relieved of being project manager. Plus, you mitigate the risk of too many chefs spoiling the broth. As the costs get higher, so too should your vendor’s ability to deliver on your business plan.

Big Budget Branding Fees: $200K+

Big budgets come into play when the brand being worked upon is widespread or has many customer touch points that require rewriting, redesign and production. They are also common when you need to incur PR or marketing fees related to educating employees and customers about the new brand.

Big Budget Brand Analysis Fees: $15K to $150K

At this level, your brand analysis might already be covered by an internal marketing function. That doesn’t make it free, but at least it doesn’t come with an external pricetag. If, however, you need top-flight market and competitive research, prices range from $15,000 to $150,000 for an agency.

Big Budget Brand Strategy Fees: $25K to $250K+

Brand strategy at this level may include strategies for multiple products, recommendations to simplify naming, specialized design strategy work, brand planning and far more. For some context, the cost of our largest Distility Brand Strategy Workshop is $21,500.

Big Budget Infrastructure, Sales, Marketing Fees: $200K to $1M+

Branding prices rise dramatically when you have multiple brands to rebrand or multiple locations to rebrand. Outside of your marketing materials, branding prices become hefty when you need to redesign your products or interfaces, and a myriad of other customer touch points.

A Note on the Cost of Brand Guidelines

The more people you pay to work with your brand, the more important brand guidelines become. For a low-end project, you are likely to have no guidelines or minimal guidelines on the use of your logo and fonts. For a mid-range project, guidelines can cost between $5,000 to $20,000. For a big budget project, guidelines can cause considerable sticker shock: $50,000 or more.

The Tip of the Iceberg

There’s clearly a wide range of price tags for branding projects, from low-end to big budget. But it’s important to remember that this is just price, the visible tip of the cost iceberg, and it does not address the full cost of branding.

Learn More About Buying Branding

Read our free ebook How to Buy Branding and find out:

  • If your firm is truly ready to brand
  • What you can buy from branding providers
  • How to avoid hidden costs
  • Who you should add to your team
  • What to ask yourself when it’s time to decide