Launch Day may be the last day on your project calendar - but it also the first day in the life of your new brand.
Launching a new corporate brand brings with it a lot of emotional energy. There is great build-up - especially within the marketing and communications groups; there may be global/regional/local celebrations; there’s the big internal announcement; and, of course, there will be tchtochkes. (My favorite of this last, by the way, was a branded Viewmaster I once developed, offering a new/retro spin on the brand book, but I digress.)
But then what? The party’s over, the band packs up and leaves: now the brand has to deliver.
For companies that don’t plan (and budget!) for implementation, all those critics who deride a rebranding initiative as marketing bs and a waste of time are often proved right.
Building a brand is a not one and done proposition. If you’ve got a new story to tell, a new promise to deliver on, the real work begins on the day after launch. It's impossible to detail a thorough approach in a short essay - but these 6 key areas are a good place to start.
- Employee Engagement. The corporate brand truly comes to life through your employees. And if you fail to get employees engaged and excited, they can prove to be your biggest hurdle. It is critical that your employees “get it” - not only the WHAT of the story, but the WHY: why the need for change, what this means for them and for their clients, how the new brand brings a new perspective to their work, how their personal goals align with the promise of the brand. Connect the dots. Take employees along on the journey of the story. The importance of employee engagement and training cannot be overstated.
- Thought Leadership / Content Strategy. (External AND Internal). Thought leadership is an important vehicle in delivering your unique story and point of view. Your brand execution plan should include a framework for the development and distribution of strong content across a range of platforms. Think beyond white papers and blog posts. Get to the needs/wants/expectations/media habits of your target audiences - and serve up the right kind of material at the right time to keep your brand relevant and top of mind. Don’t forget your employees here, too, as a key audience. They want to know how their work is contributing the brand’s success - so it is incumbent on you to keep them informed and connected.
- The Customer Experience. (Online AND Offline). This one almost goes without saying. If you don’t enhance the customer experience to keep pace with your brand, your re-branding effort will amount to little more than a fresh coat of paint over a crumbling wall. Your customers will likely give you some leeway to get things right if you communicate well, and if they see change heading in the right direction.
- Sponsorship and affiliations. What if your brand promise was the sole determinant of the people, programs or events you chose to sponsor? This should be your goal. Even if the bulk of your sponsorship dollars are tied into a key industry event, use your brand to guide themes on specific presentations and activities. Alongside this, seek out like-minded people and organizations - where a modest investment creatively spent can likely go far in delivering on your promise.
- Product development. Think of your new brand as a new pair of glasses that force you to take a fresh look at your product portfolio - particularly on the development side. If your brand is telling a tale of innovation/intuition/simplicity, your new silver bullet offering must live up to this ideal. Make sure you are bringing in a strong customer perspective to ensure that your engineering and R&D teams are focused on the needs of the market and striving towards something that the market will see as the game-changer you may be touting.
- Measurement. Create measurable goals for your brand initiative. Maybe you’ll focus on a shift in market perceptions or an increase in new business activity or more/better traffic to your website - but identify some set of relevant metrics to help you and your team assess the impact of this initiative. And to identify those areas where you will need to course-correct and adapt over time. An important first step in measurement is to know your baseline. A good place to start is with the brand development process itself; design your brand research effort in such a way that the data you collect will not only inform where the new brand needs to go, but can serve as a benchmark against which to measure the brand’s impact. With a picture of where you stand today - and a tangible set of metrics to strive towards for tomorrow, you will be in a much better position to discuss investment in the brand as an investment into the ongoing success and vitality of the business.
This list could go on to address things like brand resources and guidelines, brand management protocols, training and outreach to partner agencies, alignment with HR practices, compatibility with M&A practices, among others. (And future posts will likely hit on a number of these topics.) A new tagline and smart new corporate video are great to help generate some emotion and excitement - yet if your goal is to truly change the way think about and interact with your firm, your work is just getting started.