Brand Strategy 101: How to have a successful brand launch
Many of our clients are surprised to learn that the brand identity process does not end when the site launches, the cards are printed, and the shiny new sign goes up on the wall. In reality, this is where the hard work begins.
If the leadership team is not committed to spending time and resources to ensure a smooth and successful launch, they are sadly leaving ROI on the table. A weak brand identity launch or re-launch squanders a golden opportunity for press, employee motivation, and momentum building.
So how do you go about launching a new brand? We’re glad you asked!
The principal activities in any brand launch or re-launch include:
- Allocation of time and resources
- Strategic Planning
- Mapping out key activities
- Identifying brand champions
- Conducting an internal launch
- Managing assets
- Managing employee expectations
- Launching to external audiences
- Building and maintaining momentum
Let’s examine each of these in more detail. Remember, the worst strategy is no strategy. Even a modest amount of planning will pay dividends to your employees and brand equity.
Allocation of Time and Resources
The first priority is ensuring that you have the adequate resources necessary for a successful brand launch. A particularly tricky internal challenge is focus. Simply put, nobody has time for nor wants to think about internal initiatives like branding. Assigning one individual to lead the process and giving them the authority and power to arrange key activities and mobilize troops is critical.
Your new identity may have been expensive, but now is not the time to withhold budget. Depending on the size of your firm, you may want to consider a new brand campaign, direct mail, or other communications. A small investment in internal swag can do wonders. At a minimum, holding an internal meeting properly explaining the rationale behind the new identity to employees is critical. Making sure you have resources for all these activities is the first step to launching without headaches.
Strategic Planning and Mapping Out Key Activities
Ok, you’ve got time and budget. Now it’s about getting your new brand off the ground.
If you are changing the name of your company, it pays to consider the resistance, questions, and need for rationale your employees will surely have. The first and most crucial step is explaining the why. Schedule an internal meeting for senior leaders to explain why this is happening and how it benefits the firm. Be sure to honor the history of the company while celebrating the future and where you are headed.
Change is difficult and can feel overwhelming. To mitigate the effect, it helps to make a list of the various stakeholders and answer the following questions for each group:
- Who needs to know about the new identity?
- What do they need to know about it?
- Why do they need to know?
- How does the change affect them?
- How is this going to be communicated?
- When will they find out?
By mapping these answers out, you can begin to form a plan of action. Consider the internal resources you will leverage to make this happen: Senior leadership to broadcast and reinforce messaging; IT to update digital touchpoints like email signatures; Management to distribute new collateral and sales tools and walk through how they are to be used.
Typically the CMO and director of PR will be at the helm, overseeing implementation and communications. Be sure they are fully briefed on the new branding and the supporting narrative. Superb coordination and a military-style mobilization will be necessary.
Identifying Brand Champions
Having engaged employees who stand behind the brand and promote it internally is an excellent investment and great for company culture – its values, story, and symbolism. Traditionally this role is fulfilled by the CEO and marketing department.
However, in truth, any employee can be a brand champion, and it’s a case of the more, the better. The larger the organization, the more champions you will need to disseminate the new thinking and values. Identify the individuals who will be your champions and train them on the mission, what the brand stands for, and how it is expressed in daily work.
Conducting an Internal launch and Managing Assets
Launching your brand internally first is a sound strategy to work out the bugs before a full external launch. It’s a great way of identifying stumbling blocks, of which there certainly will be. Consider just some of the items that will need to be rolled out:
- Business Cards and Stationery
- Email Signatures
- Company website
- Marketing and sales collateral
- Uniforms and name tags
- Invoices and proposals
- Directory listings
- Voicemail, how you answer the phone
Planning and forethought is your best defense against the inevitable hiccups.
Stress test the email signatures prior to installing them on 100 new accounts. Do they display correctly, even in Microsoft Outlook? How about on a mobile phone?
Plan far ahead to have all new collateral printed. A safe window of time is to have print-ready files at your printer three full weeks before you need the actual materials on-hand. Even items as simple as business cards are notoriously difficult to produce due to the sheer amount of personal information necessary to round up, proof for errors, approve, and print. Utilize shared Google sheets to populate information and get approvals. Test the new invoices and proposals and make sure they print correctly. Is the sign vendor lined up?
Are you launching your new website on a Friday? Bad idea! Much better is a Monday or Tuesday (to avoid squashing bugs over the weekend). When it comes to your internal launch, an ounce of solid planning efforts will be worth ten pounds of re-installing email signatures or re-printing business cards.
Odds are you will have many new assets to manage. Depending on the size of the organization, it may be appropriate to manage these assets through the marketing department, a centralized file-sharing system like Dropbox, or an asset management platform like BrandFolder.
Online platforms have the advantage of controlled access and the ability to include elements of the brand mission and narrative in a more interactive way, which helps demystify the new brand and improve implementation. If your office has multiple locations, then a coordinated effort to replace and retire outdated brand materials will be necessary. Again, consider the time and resources required to make this a success.
Managing Employee Expectations
Any new brand launch can cause anxiety and confusion over the new company direction. Is this part of a significant new plan (that will result in job cuts)? Do we really know what we are doing? How will this affect my day-to-day work?
In the absence of information, employees will fill in their own answers to these questions — and they will be the wrong ones! Never let this happen. Leadership must seize the moment and create an air of excitement. This is best communicated through a company-wide meeting. Depending on your company size, this could be an on- or off-site event. Have fun with it and create a buzz around the event.
As you’re considering the messages you need to convey, keep these points in mind:
- You are at a unique point in the history of the company — play it up and make it dramatic
- Communicate why this change is necessary, why the company did this
- Reinforce what the brand stands for
- Be clear on the company vision (where you are going) vs. mission (why it makes the world better) … and do not confuse the two
- Review the identity basics, but do not go into granular detail—focus on the symbolism and meaning
- Make it clear this is a top-down initiative
- Show at least three concrete examples of how employees can live the brand
- Give employees a sense of ownership, both metaphorically and literally — have something tangible to give employees: a t-shirt, hoodie, or other ephemera
- If you’ve developed an internal employee brand book, the launch event is the best time to distribute the book to employees
Launching to External Audiences
You’ve launched internally; now it’s time to let in the outside world.
How you go about this step varies from organization to organization. At a minimum, you will want to make a press announcement, be sure all external-facing assets are updated, and your new website is live. Smart sales teams will leverage this opportunity to present a new business card to each customer, vendor, and colleague. Now is also a great time to broadcast the new branding via social media (be sure to have employees like and share the posts!) and over email to your targeted lists.
If budget permits, a personalized direct mail piece (including a little gift is a nice touch, if you so choose) to each customer and vendor may be appropriate. Whatever tack you choose, be sure to do something to generate excitement. Being “too busy” to put in the effort is bad business and terrible marketing strategy.
Building and Maintaining Momentum
If you’ve followed all of our suggestions in this article, you’ve come a long way towards building momentum around the launch of your new brand. Customers are aware of the change, employees are energized and informed, and the ship is sailing towards a grand new horizon. How can you ensure this warm glow continues?
First, keep in regular communication with your brand champions and ensure they remain on-message and engaged. Garner their feedback and answer any questions they may have. Like a good gardener, strictly monitor internal and external communications and look for signs of the old brand sprouting up. For example, an old logo or powerpoint template still in use, or people employing “old way” of thinking about the company and its values. Weed these gremlins out and take steps to ensure they don’t pop up again.
The next time there is a company off-site, be sure to use this opportunity to reinforce the new mission and messaging. You can also continue to build momentum by extending the new brand and values across new media, into systems like HR, and even at the water cooler.
To a creative mind, the possibilities are limitless.
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