Selecting a branding agency to trust with the future of your brand can be a lot like dating

Everyone puts on their best face in the early stages, but as the relationship unfolds it can uncover some issues that become deal breakers down the line. It is important to identify exactly what you are looking for in an agency partner, and ensure that these expectations are shared. Often, misalignments between client and agency are revealed early in the selection process, whether realized or not. With that in mind, we’ve outlined some red flags to be aware of in evaluating a new agency relationship.

1. Agency fails to conduct preliminary background on brand

While detailed research and background is often conducted during the Discovery stage of a project, an agency should come prepared with a high-level understanding of the client. If this agency truly aspires to win your business, they should be versed in basic company information, history, and positioning. Failing to do this initial preparation suggests they are not taking an interest in the company or product, or necessarily even excited about the project, only pointing to more issues down the line.

2. Client narrows agencies based on industry expertise

This one’s on you. Very early on in the selection process, brands can limit themselves by only considering firms who specialize in their industry segment. While there are certainly advantages to having experience in the space, it is important to evaluate based on agency capabilities and experience. If you are looking for an expert to design a hotel booking app, you should look for an agency with a great track record for mobile application design, not a creative agency who works solely in the hospitality space with a couple of app design projects in their portfolio.

3. Agency takes a cookie cutter approach to design

No two brands are alike. While there are certainly similarities within a competitive marketplace, brands rarely want to mimic a competitor. Case studies from past projects can give insight into project strategy and approach. That being said, if an agency takes a templated approach for design with no customization across clients, this firm is not invested in your brand. It is important to know they are entering new engagements with a fresh set of eyes, so to speak. No two business models, products, or target audiences are alike.

4. Agency doesn’t provide a primary contact

Having a project manager who owns your project is essential to a smooth design process. Balancing multiple contacts within the agency, as well as within your company, can be tedious and lead to inconsistencies as well as miscommunications. It is key for a firm to outline early on that you will have one primary contact. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have access to the lead creatives, it simply guarantees a seamless flow of the project as well as communication both internally and externally.

Selecting the right creative agency can be a convoluted process. Being mindful of certain red flags can help to eliminate troublesome agencies early on rather than discovering down the road that the relationship was never meant to be.