If you Google ‘launching a business’ you can find top tips for success. These include solid advice about market testing, product excellence, consumer analysis, cost control and promotional planning. Few of them, though, place much emphasis on launching a brand.
I am in awe of people who launch new products or services – the hard work that goes into financing, sourcing, technology, staffing, business model etc. I’m less impressed by enthusiastic entrepreneurs who spend thousands on a new logo or website but haven’t considered their brand at all. A new logo does not make a brand. I see this as a distinct task from launching the product or service, so here are my ‘add-on’ tips which any start-up might consider.
5 tips for launching a brand
1. Brand Strategy comes first: the quality of what we do depends on the quality of thinking that precedes it.
The world isn’t sat around waiting for a new beer, or a new supplement, or a new beauty product. Why should it care about you? What makes you relevant to your customer? In what way are you distinct from the competition? What makes you desirable? What are your core values? What is your vision and how will the world be different if you succeed? What things would you always do and what things would you never do? What is the idea behind your company?
Once you have a brand strategy, you have a foundation on which to build assets like name, logo, packaging, website, promotions. You can create a brand identity with the brand idea built in, to the greater glory of the reason you started this journey in the first place.
I recommend this strategic thinking to everyone, launching or launched, as it can galvanise the way you think about the business you’re in.
2. Exaggerated brand promise does not compensate for an average product.
I have seen brand strategies which promise to ‘shake up the market’ or ‘deliver for a new generation’, or ‘be unique in the marketplace’. Once you scratch the surface, these brands are usually based on a wing and a prayer and a flaky assertion that some funky packaging suggests genuine innovation. Get real – if you can’t find a relevant, distinctive, desirable reason why your product or service was put on this earth, chances are consumers won’t either. Maybe some time ago we ‘drank the advertising’ (see Are Today’s Brands More Truthful?), but nowadays your brand will be analysed and dissected on the great operating table called the internet and social media will publish the forensic report.
3. Be single minded and open minded about launching your brand.
Ideas have no value until they appear in the real world as a real thing. Your brand cannot be all things to all people, but it can be one good thing to as many people as possible. I have worked with clients who have a relevant, distinctive and desirable brand promise, who then also want to be all the other things that their competitors are. Relevance is blunted, distinctiveness blurred, desirability reduced. Do not do anything without reference to your brand and the vision you have. But do do. And be prepared to review and adapt as you progress. Babies change as they grow up, so I think we can forgive a brand for doing the same.
4. Your brand is a 3D creation.
I prefer not to think of the brand as simply ‘the clothes your product wears’. Imagine it as a separate entity that needs to be nurtured as such. Use every act as an opportunity to further define your brand in your customers’ eyes. Help people to see the brand from different angles, whether that is the product on shelf, the conversation with a call centre or an outbound email. Think of the brand as a whole story to be told – work out which chapter you can communicate in every customer interaction. Over time, the brand will emerge with detail, character, experience and uniqueness.
5. Inspire your team around the brand.
Hiring the right people is always one of the top tips for business success. People who believe in the product, who bring complimentary skills, and who get on, are really valuable. Connecting them is important and I would advise connecting them around the brand. A team that believes in the brand vision has a stake in the future; individuals become ambassadors for the company, are more likely to go the extra mile and are more likely to remain loyal (when times are tough or colleagues leave). I also believe they are more likely to become creative thinkers on behalf of the brand.
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