A good start is key to many things in life: racing, traveling, dating, even marketing. Someone much smarter than me did the math that illustrates how vital good starts are, so consider this: When traveling somewhere, if you are off by one degree after moving one mile, you’ll miss your target destination by 92.2 feet — no big deal. If you’re traveling from San Francisco to Washington D.C., you’ll find yourself 42.6 miles off track (on the other side of Baltimore). If you are traveling to the moon, you’ll be 4,169 miles off (more than twice the diameter of the moon). The farther you travel, the more significant the difference from just one degree. A good start when launching a brand is equally important because if there is one degree of variance in the beginning, you may be miles off down the road.
Launching a brand is like making a good first impression. Interpersonally, first impressions are super important, and they’re all up to you. They’re often made in a split second, and you are the only variable influencing how another person perceives you. However, when introducing a brand to millions of people, it’s different because many people (variables) influence how the brand comes across. It could be through an ad, an employee, a news story, a friend or some other brand communication such as an invoice, email or a sign on the street.
When many people are in charge of interpreting a new brand and translating its meaning to others, the strategy, story and idea need to be tight. Here are eight fundamentals for tightening your brand story at launch so you don’t start one degree off:
1. Have a clear goal and vision.
Why are you launching this brand? What need will it meet? What problem will it solve? What will it enable people to do? What are you really selling? If everything goes well, what can it be for people in the future? These are all questions that can get you to a simple articulation of your ultimate goal and vision. Make sure that it is consumer-centric. People want to know where you’re coming from and what you’re out to do. Make it about them.
2. Create a short and memorable purpose.
A purpose statement answers the question: Why do you exist beyond profits? It tells the world what impact you want to have as a brand. Your purpose is essential and should shape the messaging strategy and narrative of your brand launch. The stickier the statement, the more it can be put to use within the company. The more it is put to use, the more consumers can understand it and use it in their decisions regarding the brand. Hint: try to avoid the word “and.”
3. Author a story that provides context.
While you may only have a split second to make a first impression, what happens next is equally important. Having a story behind your brand can make it more personal and real. How did it come to be? What was the motivation behind it? Who are the characters? Who/what is the enemy? A good story humanizes the brand and helps people understand it. Once you get people’s attention, you should be able to tell this story to advance the new relationship you are forming with them.
4. Display clear intention and meaning behind your identity.
Logos, colors, names and words matter when introducing your brand to the world. Coming up with a unique and clear brand name, logo and color palette is challenging in today’s cluttered brandscape. Do your best to have meaning and narrative behind the brand identity that is not only appealing to the senses, but is easy to explain. Your employees will thank you for it.
5. Establish a governance process.
When rolling out a new brand, strong governance is required for the first few years of the brand’s existence. Given that new brands must work harder than established brands to be remembered, every communication counts. Variance is the enemy. Consistency is your friend. Have a strong brand governance process in place with no conflicting agendas.
6. Provide freedom within a framework.
The often-used method for brand governance should look different as the brand’s equity grows and deepens. In this case, freedom is an earned right that should be expanded over time. At launch, start with standards, and move to guidelines down the road. Make sure that you prescribe or script how the brand is delivered to the consumer. Once that is mastered, encourage additions to the script that enhance the brand experience.
7. Take charge of the change.
If you are changing the brand from one name to another, try to have a centralized and controlled effort. Changing signs, migrating social handles — the list of things to change is endless. Having a plan in place and maintaining control of the migration can avoid misalignment, mistakes and a protracted process. If you are launching a brand from scratch, make sure the rollout is consistent across all of your media channels and connection points. Overcommunicate to manage people’s expectations internally while bringing consumers along externally.
8. Build an army of advocates.
Perhaps the most important thing when launching a new brand is to enlist the help of your employee base. For all the mechanisms and processes that are put into place to ensure that everyone communicating the brand is on point, it will likely never be enough unless everyone feels the spirit of the brand. This is the biggest challenge and the most common cause of being one degree off at launch. Help your employees feel the brand through firsthand, personal experiences and stories. It will inspire them to stay on target and respect the brand they have a crucial role in creating.
Like shooting for the moon, creating a brand is a long journey. Make sure you’re on course in the beginning to avoid being 4,169 miles off when you arrive.