As a professional branding consultant working for a branding agency I am always amazed at the lack of knowledge of ad agencies or marketing companies when it comes to branding. Sure, they all say they do branding but does not make it so. All they really care about is doing what they do best. Media. That is right, they buy and sell media. That is how they make their money and what they are concerned about. So when considering an agency consider what extremely motivates them.
Another big disadvantage that ad agencies have compared to a branding agency is their short term thinking. Sure they come up with funny and witty TV commercials that make you laugh but they are extremely short lived. A true branding company thinks long term and how actions internally and externally affect the brand. For instance you may have seen the new ASK.com TV campaign that features Kato Kaelin. That was obviously done by an ad agency that could care less what the long term effects are on Asks brand. Of course the customer approved that ad and should be tagged.
How many TV commercials do you see that require you to scratch your head in amazement? These were all produced by ad agencies that have no real branding knowledge. A branding agency would not make these mistakes. Short term advertising is not part of the tactics a branding firm would recommend. Everything is done according to the strategy and brand identity of the client.
So why is that important? Building your brand identity is the most important thing you can do for your company. It is what differentiates your company from all your competitors. It is what makes your employees stay with your company or drawings perspective candidates to your company. It is what reduces your marketing and advertising budget. Brand identity is the driving force behind your company. It will also help to develop your brand image in the marketplace which is what you are after.
When deciding on hiring a branding agency or an ad agency consider what is important to you. If you are just looking to make a quick hit in the marketplace then an ad agency may be the way to go. If you are looking to develop a long term integrated branding strategy then hiring a branding agency will be a smart decision for you and your firm.