By Jennifer Przywara
Like many graduating students, I faced a challenging decision when I finished my studies: What do I want to do with my life? And what’s the environment I want to work in? I kind of knew back then that my first workplace would turn out to be an agency. But how to choose the type of agency that’s right for me, where I can develop my skills and follow my passion for brands?
When I started my research and talked to friends, peers, and former colleagues (I had done several internships at communication agencies during my studies), I quickly figured out that there were many correlations between corporate-design, communication, and brand agencies. Put in simple words: they’re all about brands.
But the closer I looked, the more uncertain I became with my “all about brands” theory. No doubt they are about brands, but each of those agency types approaches brand building from a unique perspective, with various objectives and a pretty different scope of work. After a lot of reading and several interviews I decided that a brand agency would be the perfect fit for me. So I made the decision to start a traineeship at MetaDesign.
To understand why I chose a brand agency over a traditional corporate-design or communication agency, you first need to understand the major differences between the three agency types.
Let’s start with corporate-design agencies. The term “corporate design” might be slightly misleading for those who haven’t dipped deeper into the question how good brand design evolves. It’s more than just choosing color schemes, typefaces, and image styles. It all begins with a brand’s identity — a definition of the brand’s character and its purpose. For example, do you want to be the brand known for driving pleasure (BWM) or the brand that aims to make people happy (Coca-Cola)? You can surely imagine that this is not an easy question to answer, but it’s the most essential one when building a strong brand. Only when the character and purpose of a brand are defined does the brand gets its individual look and feel, its distinctive design, its visual identity.
Once the brand has been defined, you need to spread the word and create brand awareness. That’s where communication agencies usually come into play. When I was interning at a communication agency, we used predefined brand elements to create different campaigns, online communications, events, etc. These various outputs show the necessity of different types of communication agencies, among them ones that specialize in point of sale, digital, or advertising. Since a brand is a complex entity, the focus and appearance of its communication can change over time. But the one thing that stays recognizable in every kind of communication is its own unique identity.
Let’s finally look into the world of brand or brand consultancy agencies. One can safely say that most brand agencies have a more integrated view of brands than other types of agencies. At MetaDesign, for example, we say it’s all about creating holistic brand worlds that encompass every point of interaction between the brand and its audience. That’s why we have, in addition to the identity creation described above, a range of strategic offerings such as brand architecture or content consulting. Our design offerings also include retail experiences and digital applications. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that not every brand agency claims to be holistic. Some concentrate their offering in a particular area of expertise such as brand strategy.
But back to my personal experience. What I like most about working in a brand agency is the fact that I’m able to discover many different types of companies, many of them acting in different industries, and each of them facing individual challenges. At a brand agency, you might work with corporate brands or product brands in B2B or B2C industries. You might be lucky to be part of long-lasting client relationships (sometimes even 20 years or more) that allow you to tap into the core of an organization over a longer period of time. Or you might have to challenge a client’s brand design and identity and prove if it still fits the company’s business conditions and its customers’ mindset. Fascinating challenges, if you ask me.
Of course, the examples here do not cover all differentiating factors between corporate-design, communication, and brand agencies. It’s a complex subject that would take pages to fill. And keep in mind that not every agency can be put in one of these categories. Many agencies break out of traditional definitions and build their own identities reflected in a unique service offering or distinctive approach. Nevertheless, I hope this post gives you a bit more clarity on the different choices facing graduates interested in agency work and maybe made you curious to start your own career in branding.
Jennifer Przywara is a brand strategy trainee in MetaDesign Düsseldorf.