Top 5 Branding Agencies in the World

Find the best branding agency for your product or company. Featuring the top branding firms and creative agencies from San Francisco, NYC, and LA.

Top 5 Branding Agencies in the World

In 2023, a successful branding company is more than just a creative agency or marketing firm that employs graphic and logo designers. A well-thought-out brand strategy is essential to ensure that communications are consistent across multiple channels, such as ads, digital, websites, etc.

Mobile apps and websites play a significant role in our lives, and digital brands have become as crucial as ever. Traditional graphic design firms and creative agencies don’t know how to create a brand identity for such clients. As a result, many top branding and digital marketing agencies have emerged to exclusively serve companies building digital products and services.

This list of top branding companies will help you find the right partner for your tech startup, SaaS, mobile app, or enterprise product.


The World’s Top 5 Branding Agencies  —  June 2023 Ratings:

1. Clay

A digital branding agency for tech companies and startups —  clay.global

Web Design Agency in San Francisco — Clay
Clay — A Digital Branding Agency

Clay is one of the top branding agencies specializing in developing creative and practical strategies to help businesses reach their goals. With years of experience, Clay has developed a unique approach to helping brands stand out from the competition. Through research-driven insights, they create brand strategies tailored to each client's needs. They also focus on creating content that resonates with audiences while maintaining consistency across all channels. In addition, they offer comprehensive support throughout the whole process, from strategy formulation to execution and beyond. Whether you need help launching a new product or performing existing brands reposition, Clay can provide the necessary expertise for success.

Location: San Francisco, CA
Clients: Slack, Facebook, Google, Coinbase, Amazon, Cisco
Team Size: 55 employees


2. Pentagram

The largest independent branding and creative agency — pentagram.com

Pentagram — a brand identity agency
Pentagram — a brand identity design firm

Pentagram is one of the world's most respected branding agencies. Founded in 1972, they specialize in creating powerful and distinctive brands that stand out from the competition. With offices around the globe, Pentagram has become renowned for its work with some of the biggest names in business, including Microsoft, Apple, and Coca-Cola. Their team of experienced professionals is expert at developing brand consistency that resonates with consumers and creates an emotional bond between customers and products or services. From logo design to digital marketing campaigns, Pentagram has a proven track record of delivering effective brand strategies to help businesses reach their goals. With a passion for creativity and innovation, Pentagram's award-winning designs have helped shape many iconic brands over the years.

Location: New York, London, Austin, Berlin
Clients: Yahoo, Netflix, Slack, Oppo, Samsung, Verizon
Team Size: 334 employees


3. Wolff Olins

A global brand strategy and design agency — wolffolins.com

Wolff Olins — a branding agency and creative firm
Wolff Olins — a brand identity company

Wolff Olins is a global creative branding agency that helps companies define their purpose and create meaningful connections with customers with the help of crafting a consistent brand voice. Founded in 1965, the company has helped some of the world's most iconic brands beat its competitors through its unique approach to brand building. This includes creating a solid branding strategy, developing strategic communication campaigns, and designing digital experiences that impact audiences worldwide. Wolff Olins also provides trend analysis research to help clients stay ahead of industry changes and develop successful strategies for growth. Whether launching a new product or refreshing an existing brand, Wolff Olins has what it takes to ensure success for any business looking to strengthen its position in today's ever-evolving market.

Location: New York, London, San Francisco
Clients: Uber, Google, Grubhub, Treatwell, Zocdoc, Alibaba
Team Size: 154 employees


4. DesignStudio

A branding and digital creative agency — design.studio

DesignStudio — a branding agency and digital creative firm
DesignStudio — a digital agency and brand design firm

DesignStudio is a full-service branding agency based worldwide that creates effective brand promotion and experience for the world's most innovative companies aligned with market and industry trends. With an eye for detail, DesignStudio helps its clients build strong relationships with customers by developing unique brand messaging and creative campaigns that drive results. By leveraging cutting-edge technology, DesignStudio delivers impactful solutions tailored to each client's needs. Whether creating a new logo or launching a digital campaign, DesignStudio has the expertise to ensure your business stands out.

Location: New York, London, San Francisco, Sydney
Clients: Airbnb, Twitter, Logitech, Deliveroo, Evernote, Trulia
Team Size: 93 employees


5. Moving Brands

A global creative agency and branding company — movingbrands.com

Moving Brands — a global creative and branding agency
Moving Brands — a global creative and branding company

Moving Brands is one of the best branding companies specializing in creating emotionally engaging brand experiences for clients across various industries. Founded over two decades ago, the company has become one of the leading agencies in its field and now works with some of the world's most recognizable brands. The team at Moving Brands comprises diverse professionals from all walks of life who bring their expertise to bear on every project they work on, whether it be creative design, strategy development, brand story, or product launch. With an emphasis on innovation and collaboration, Moving Brands helps clients unlock new opportunities by crafting compelling narratives around their products and services. Whether you need help developing your brand identity or launching a major campaign across multiple platforms, Moving Brands might be the perfect branding agency for these needs.

Location: New York, London, San Francisco, Zurich
Clients: Asana, Skype, Eventbrite, Sony, Netflix, Google
Team Size: 94 employees


Why is branding so important?

Branding is the process of creating a brand. Brands are more than just well-designed representations of a company  —  they are the visual embodiment of a company’s identity. The brand communicates with current or potential customers the story of the company and what makes it unique. An effective brand elicits recognition and understanding in those who see it  —  two key dimensions of any company’s overall success. This is when a branding agency comes to the stage.

Recognition is when someone sees a brand and immediately knows what the company is or does. For some of the world’s biggest brands, recognition is almost universal. One of the major goals of branding agencies is to increase and spread recognition beyond the base of customers or users a company already has. Google, Facebook, Coca-Cola, and Nike are some of the most famous examples  —  each one of these brands elicits immediate recognition from nearly everyone who sees them. Recognition turns brands into household names. It allows the company’s product or service to self-circulate and therefore increase sales.

Understanding is related to recognition  —  it is how the person who sees the brand makes a deeper, emotional sense of the company or product. For example, when one sees the Nike Swoosh, there’s an immediate emotional understanding of the company  —  competition, athleticism, and winning. This understanding plays a role in emotionally connecting people to the brand and its brand story. With Nike, if someone recognizes athleticism in the Nike swoosh, then those who desire to be more athletic will be drawn to the brand and purchase the product.

Branding is, therefore, a crucial process. If done well, it can be the key that unlocks a company’s success.

Who is a branding expert?

Who is a branding expert?
Source: Austin Distel / Unsplash

Unlike an illustrator or designer, a branding expert is a person who understands the ins and outs of the entire corporate branding. Because branding is a delicate, time-consuming, and expensive undertaking, it must be done precisely and accurately the first time around. If a brand comes out poorly, inordinate amounts of time and money will be wasted. A branding expert is a person who ensures that every step taken while creating a brand is both professionally planned and executed.

Founders of a new company might have a clear vision of their brand, but more often than not, they lack the experience needed to make their vision a reality  —  this is where brand consultants come in. They effectively organize the crucial steps and details in this process. For example, brand strategy, brand development, brand voice, and brand positioning are four pillars of the branding process. Within each, there are many more particular and detailed steps that must be taken.

Further, because branding experts are familiar with so many different types of brands and why they succeed or fail, they can effectively actualize the conceptual visions of others within the real-world conditions of how brands function. Branding is not merely about creating an image or designing a logo (though that is important!)  —  it is about situating a brand in an effective, resonating way within a particular market and for a specific audience, for example, through a brand voice.

Last but not least, a branding expert is also a master of communication. Throughout the brand consultancy, the branding expert communicates ideas and visions with the client and can also clearly and directly explain what works and what doesn’t. This communication is essential for creating brands that maintain fidelity to the original vision of a client.


FAQ: Working with a Branding Agency

How to hire the best brand or creative agency for your company.

Q: How much do branding company services cost?

Brand design can cost anywhere from $2,500 up to $50,000, depending on what you need. And that’s not even the highest price. One very experienced branding firm may charge $30,000 for brand strategy development alone! This means that when messaging, research, visual design, and other aspects of branding come into play, you may very well end up paying over $100,000.

But, if your budget is tight and you can’t afford to spend this much money, you can always hire a smaller branding agency that provides thorough and sophisticated brand consulting at a much lower cost.

How much do branding company services cost?
Source: rupixen.com / Unsplash

Q: What deliverables does a brand agency usually provide?

It’s essential to understand what exactly is included in deliverables provided by a brand design agency. Below is a list of the things you should expect to be included in a branding package.

Naming

Digital marketing agencies typically have brainstorming sessions to develop suitable and exciting names for their client’s businesses. Therefore, initially, you will be provided with a list of names to review. At this stage, you need to consider the list of proposed names and choose the best ones, or if none of the suggestions complement your vision, ask the branding agency to conduct another brainstorm.

Corporate identity development

After you’ve decided on a name, the agency will meet with you to learn more about your business vision. Your input at this stage is critical. The team will then do research and sketch out several concepts and an initial draft for a couple of them. You will be welcome to participate in this process  —  and you definitely should  —  to get the most suitable results. Ensure how many revisions are included in the package and how much each new change above this allotted amount would cost.

Production

Once the concept is approved, the digital agency will provide you with the final logo artwork (either in color or black and white, depending on your agreement) and various file formats that you will be able to use in different media formats.

Extras

After the basics of brand promotion are dealt with, you can get some additional branding elements, such as:

  • Branding guidelines. This is a detailed brand bible with specific details about your company’s branding. It will at the very least include your logos and how they will be used; details, colors, and their codes, as well as fonts and other typographic details;
  • Email templates. Ideally, your company should customize its email marketing templates. But, it could also be a good idea, to begin with, a standard template that will help you leverage your fresh new branding;
  • Signage. In the event you have a physical storefront, you are going to require some kind of signage;
  • Business cards. Perhaps, one of the most crucial things you will need in the long run is business cards. Although you can print them out almost anywhere today, it’s in your best interest to let professionals design and print them out so they accurately reflect your overall branding concept and strategy.
Creating company's branding personality
Source: Patrik Michalicka / Unsplash

Q: Where are the best agencies located?

The market landscape is different today from what it was even ten years ago. More and more companies are turning to the web to develop remote departments. Some are even moving to remote work altogether. In other words, a particular location of a branding agency is not as important as it was before. Now, entire projects can be done through the web.

Nevertheless, many top digital branding agencies are located in major tech hubs and large cities such as Austin, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle in North America; London, and Manchester in the UK; Toronto, and Vancouver in Canada; Melbourne, and Sydney in Australia; and Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris in Western Europe.

Q: Is it best to hire a large brand design agency or a boutique design firm?

People generally understand that even in a large company, their branding project will usually be handled by only two people  —  the agency’s account manager and designer. Although it may be soothing to know that a creative agency has many employees, you will most likely be working with no more than two people. And yet, you’ll still pay a project fee that could support the entire staff.

At the same time, smaller branding agencies are in a somewhat unique position. The two people that take care of projects in these firms are often the company co-founders. Therefore, while you won’t get access to a large staff, you will work with a small creative team that provides the same purposeful design and strategic thinking that people usually expect to get from larger companies.

Q: Why hire a branding agency instead of full-range digital marketing or advertising company?

Branding agencies tend to look at brands as the big picture. This could be a company’s philosophy, values, reputation, and image. Customers may consider it their perception of a business as they experience it and decide if it adds anything meaningful to their lives. The goal of a good brand is to build a connection between the two.

Simply put: branding is the ‘why,’ advertising is the ‘what’, and marketing is the ‘how’ of your business. Advertising is about developing a concept that draws attention to your business. Marketing converts your goals into sales. These two disciplines are rooms in your house that you can add later. Branding is about supporting the entire infrastructure, so you can focus on building your business one’ room’ at a time.

Why hire a branding agency?
Source: Jason Goodman / Unsplash

Hiring a branding agency is an essential investment, without a doubt. But, you shouldn’t expect immediate returns on that investment. Regardless, it is still a step worth taking even in the early stages of your business. Some of the reasons why hiring a digital marketing agency might be your best option include:

  • Expertise and efficiency;
  • More speed and professionalism than your in-house team due to the digital agency’s branding focus and therefore perfected strategies and practices;
  • Opportunity to reserve your in-house resources for more fruitful uses;
  • Market knowledge and understanding;
  • A fresh and objective perspective on your business.

Q: How long does branding take?

First of all, you must define precisely what you need. Let’s say you need comprehensive and all-encompassing branding services. This process begins with strategy development, brand positioning, and consumer insights and then ends with logo design, look and feel. A project like this can take up to a year to complete if it’s a brand-new product or service. If it is the reworking of an already existing brand, it takes anywhere from 6 to 9 months.

Then, there is brand identity, which pretty much consists of a logo, look and feel. This typically takes up to 3 months to complete. If you have to create a brand from scratch, it could take up to 6 months since making an agreement, finding an open name, and registering it is a rather lengthy process.

Top 8 Design Tips On Building a Strong Brand Identity
Almost every choice a brand makes in showcasing its company impacts its identity, from ad taglines to its online store setup and everything in between. This is why it’s so important to consider carefully and thoroughly understand every choice’s impact.

Q: Why is brand identity so important?

Brand identity is essentially how a particular brand stands out among its competitors. Unique and recognizable brand elements for promoting business are the most well-known aspects. While it is true that such parts of a company, including the brand name, logo, and tagline, play a significant role, brand identity goes far beyond these elements. It encompasses all visual aspects and features included in the overall brand experience. And each part plays a particular role:

  • Brand Image. Brand identity is the brand’s outward expression. Brand image is how the target audience perceives the brand. Visual identity is crucial for businesses because the brand image is based on it. One of the hardest and most important tasks for any marketer today is to make audiences develop a brand image that conforms to the identity.
  • Differentiation. Identity helps a brand differentiate itself from its competitors. This, in turn, is essential for positioning strategies.
  • Consistency. Out of everything related to branding and its visual identity, consistency is the most critical part of all. Developing a consistent outward expression is crucial to generating the perception that the brand needs.
  • Personality. Brand identity helps communicate the brand’s personality via visual means.
Brand Resolution to Build Brand Consistency
We want to tell you about a brand resolution that you should make and follow. This is a brand resolution that every brand needs to have if they’re going to succeed, and the more you know about it, the clearer it will become that you need it.

Let’s boil down all of the above into one general point. In essence, brand identity helps develop a brand image that audiences can consistently relate to and, therefore, always associate the brand with the services or products it provides.

Q: What skills should branding have?

Many creative agencies offer a wide range of services. Usually, they’ll have core capabilities alongside new and developing ones. To get a taste of where a brand company’s strengths lie, consider looking at its employees. Check out the agency’s About Us page on their site or take a look at their professional profiles on LinkedIn and see what kind of skill sets they have and how many employees are working within each specialty.

For instance, how many senior-level brand designers and strategists are there? Why is there only one copywriter or visual identity designer? This could mean that the agency’s strength is building and developing things rather than providing creative services.

Creating a visual identity for a brand
Source: Austin Distel / Unsplash

Q: How to choose a creative agency or branding firm?

Your brand’s success depends on hiring the right branding agency. It’s necessary to consider the factors listed below:

  • Research the top creative agencies. Check rankings, tap your network, and see which companies are ranked highest in your area (and align with your budget);
  • Be specific about your project’s objectives. Map out goals and objectives before contacting the agency’s management team;
  • Set proper timing expectations. The branding agency team must have a clear understanding of what their time commitment to your project should be;
  • Be realistic about your budget. Prices vary from agency to agency, so you have to understand how much you can afford to spend on branding services from start to completion. This will also allow the agency’s team to have a grounded understanding of what types of services they can offer you;
  • Outline relevant creative agencies. After discussing your branding needs with several agencies, make a strategic move and pick those with spotless reputations, and excellent portfolios but which have different takes and approaches to solving your brand’s problems;
  • Pick the top three firms from your list of candidates. See how the top three agencies you’re considering would develop your brand, and ask them to talk you through their branding design process from start to finish;
  • Compare the possible outcomes. Provide the same project information to every creative agency to see each of their proposals, timing, and budget, so you can see how each team would approach your project;
  • Make the pitch. Choose two agencies with the best proposals and make your pitch. The one you ultimately see eye to eye with is the perfect brand company match and the one you want to go with.

Things To Know About the Brand Identity Design Process

Brand identity design is not only intricate  —  it is also a rewarding process. However, even though brand designers try to develop the best possible brand identities, there are cases when things don’t happen as intended. To make sure results meet the initial requirements set forth by clients, top branding agencies and all branding designers have almost universally devised a process.

Things To Know About the Brand Identity Design Process
Source: Brands&People / Unsplash

The branding process consists of two major parts: client onboarding and creative aspects. Let’s take a detailed look at both of them.

Client onboarding process

Meeting the client

First and foremost that no two client meetings are identical. However, a few commonalities do exist regardless of who you are meeting with.

A branding agency usually does its research before meeting with its clients. They investigate their businesses, products, social media accounts, projects, and other avenues that are easily accessible. Based on the information collected through this research, branding agencies write down observations, questions, and probable solutions that they may find during this stage. This helps them get an idea of what a client might be looking for or need. So, when the meeting starts, clients get an opportunity to see the homework and preparation the branding agency has done. This stage helps develop trust in the agency in question. There is no denying this process is crucial for ensuring a mutually beneficial working relationship.

During that first meeting, branding agency representatives talk in detail about the process and discuss the budget for the client’s perspective project. Neither agencies nor clients want to waste their time only to realize that the price was too high from the start. This is also the point at which agencies suggest their schedule estimate for the project’s completion. If you believe that your project should be completed quicker than recommended by the agency, note that these estimates are usually higher than they end up being in reality.

All in all, the first client meeting helps find common ground for both the agency and the customer before delving into more serious discussions.

The design brief

After a successful initial meeting, many branding agencies prefer to sit down with their teams and sort out what exactly they’ve learned about their client and the project before presenting a final offer.

This is the point at which agencies focus on creating a design brief. Design briefs come in various shapes and sizes. The agency can email it to you as a separate document or make it using Typeform or Google Form. It largely depends on the preference of branding companies.

A design brief from a branding agency
Source: Hal Gatewood / Unsplash

The information you provide to your digital agency in the design brief will directly affect the work and overall outcome of the project. Since you are not a designer, you may unintentionally provide short or inadequate answers to some of the questions in the design brief, so you may be asked to provide more specific answers to them. Everything must be clear between you and the branding agency before any real work starts.

The Proposal

At this point, your branding agency will create a well-designed document known as the proposal or creative brief. This document functions as a guiding light for both you and the branding companies.

The proposal covers the following points:

  • Personal agency presentation;
  • Agency’s services;
  • Case studies of some of its best work;
  • Your project’s scope of work;
  • Questions and answers from the design brief;
  • Project budget;
  • Deliverables;
  • Timeline.

You will have to approve this document upon receiving it. There is still room for discussion at this stage to ensure that everything is clear between you and the branding company. If you think the price is too high, this is a stage when negotiation and discussion are still possible. You should remember that no one has time for an endless back-and-forth, so you have to be as precise as possible about the scope of work.

If you go beyond this scope, you may lose quite a lot of your and the agency’s precious time. So, if brand positioning isn’t the only thing you want from the digital agency and want to design, say, a website, make sure to mention it before the work starts. Otherwise, you will have to discuss it as a separate issue from the current scope of work. In a nutshell, you must understand what you need for your brand identity design and be as precise as possible about it.

The Contract

A contract is a must. Both for you and your creative branding agency, this document ensures both professionalism and proper results. In most cases, you will have to make a 50% upfront payment before the work on your project begins. Some agencies may require less, some more. But you should be prepared to pay upfront regardless. There are some contract templates written and vetted by design organizations.

Once you settle all the questions, you should sign the contract and make the deposit needed for the digital marketing agency to get started.

Signing a contract with a branding agency
Source: Romain Dancre / Unsplash

Unraveling the Creative Process

As was mentioned previously, branding design processes can differ drastically from agency to agency. But, we’ll try to boil all this down to the most crucial points. While the picture drawn below may not be completely accurate, it represents how most branding agencies approach projects.

Research

When the goals are set and your company’s personality seems clear, the brand agency will get going on research. This step is essential for all kinds of design tasks, whether a logo or a website. Research helps one immerse into the environment of the future brand and understand the peculiarities that will play a role in its potential success or failure.

Strategy development

A brand strategy is crucial in showing which trajectory will enable the growth of a brand. Brand strategy development takes a mix of rational thinking and creative imagination. The reason is that creating a strategy must work for the company internally and for its clients externally. A brand strategy should clarify:

After examining the analysis and strategy report, the brand managers will use their experience, creativity, imagination, and intuition to implement the strategy into representing the brand visually. Different branding teams and specialists have their unique ways of working, but designing a corporate identity always involves time and patience and usually starts with creating several ideas that are eventually condensed down into one final concept over time.

Client approval

The branding companies will provide you with the final iteration of your identity design. And you will choose the best of them. This may require some back-and-forth because you may not be able to choose one final design option and might even have some heated discussions with your team before finally making a decision. You will have to approve one final design that can be used for your brand’s image and all the collateral branding.

Collateral

This stage involves taking the identity created in the previous step and applying it to many mediums that serve as points of contact between a business and its clients. These touchpoints may include:

  • Advertising;
  • Business cards;
  • Brochures;
  • Leaflets;
  • Letterheads;
  • Product or packaging design;
  • Signage;
  • Uniforms;
  • Vehicles;
  • Website.

At this point in the process, the identity will be tested in real applications instead of the hypothetical ones from the previous stage. Once it’s clear that it ‘works,’ the design of all touchpoints can proceed to finalization.

Building brand recognition
Source: Amélie Mourichon / Unsplash

Hand-off

Your creative brand agency will prepare all the brand identity deliverables in all the necessary and required digital formats (the ones you’ve agreed on during client onboarding) and the guideline manuals and send them to you for further use in your marketing materials, campaigns, and anything else. This can be done via email, shareable Google Drive links, physical mediums (flash drive or even disc), or another way you might prefer.

Asset management

Brand identity asset management requires a long-term commitment from company owners to building and maintaining the brand. For a brand to succeed, it must be monitored and given consistent input over a long time. This type of maintenance is crucial for the success of a brand.


The Bottom Line

The process described above is in no way a strict paradigm. However, it certainly helps you understand the crucial key points of working with a branding design company or digital marketing agency. You must know what you need and be disciplined about it to keep the entire procedure going and not halt it with inadequate information or slow responses. Although a reliable and professional branding design company will always guide you through the process, it’s in your best interest to maintain professionalism yourself.


Thanks for reading!