@cookjmc authored, Branding, Leadership, Marketing

Ready, Set… Launch! The Journey in Launching a New Brand for a SMB

This was something I started to write when I was working with a former client- and I just ran across it recently and thought to finish it up and publish it. It’s not the “definitive how-to guide” type of document, but there is some good insight and aha’s to keep in mind when launching something into a company as a consultant. Here’s my story… look forward to hearing yours!

Ready Set… Launch!  How to Launch a New Brand
Over the course of my marketing career I’ve participated in a many launches. Product launches, company launches, and brand launches. But I’ve never had the sole opportunity to drive the launch from start to finish. Today with one of my clients we launched an entirely new brand.

In getting started on how to approach this best, on top of my own business experience I researched many articles on launching but failed to come up with a “how to” guide. I knew how to do it, but I was also looking for information to share with my client that provided outside perspective. Since I could not find so many of those articles, I thought I would share my experience in planning and maybe someone else might benefit from what I did when they search for ideas on how to launch a new brand.

Two companies becoming one
I think my client was pretty typical for this time in our economy. They had just acquired another company, so that was definitely a factor in everything that the executive team wanted. As a consultant, I needed to weigh out the personal and professional needs of the brand launch. In essence a new company was forming and we needed to ensure that parts of the old companies and new company were in tact from a brand recognition perspective and a “feel good” about it perspective.

Walking into a project mid-cycle
In order to plan a successful launch first we needed to close on the brand. I stepped into the process late in the journey, in doing so, I arrived at a time where what I call  the circle phase happens.

Client communicates to agency what they want, agency may or may not understand client fully, client gets frustrated with agency and doesn’t get what it wants- productivity halts.

In my case I was the second person to pick up this project and when the project started it was before the company acquired the second company, so I knew to get it to closure I had to build the bridge between understanding the agency, but being able to clearly direct them on where we wanted to go, and educating the client and sharing with them where the agency was coming from, but at the same time, truly understand the needs of the client.

When we were at the point of standstill-nothing was moving forward-I requested the entire history of how they got there.  Going through the emails and documents, I noticed that something may have been missed. As is often the case, teams are looking at creative materials on many different viewing tools : mobile phones, ipads, pcs, macs, etc and are also very mobile traveling across the country and outside of the country. Closing on a brand becomes even more complex when you have challenges of getting in a room together. I shared with the executive team something, an earlier version, that may have been missed, and some execs remembered it some did not. I shared with them that this was really on track and after this, it became about “move the box to the left, change the color x%…” You get the idea. The agency was being creatively directed and the results were not good for either party.

Once I brought the earlier version to the attention and made a recommendation to make a few minor changes, and we represented the creative, we were able to close on the brand. Lesson learned here is, take the time to dig out the history when you walk midway into projects. I figured this out through trial and error. My goal was to close on the brand.  The brand was the foundation building block to everything we needed to do to rebrand the new business as a new, better, business. We closed on the brand and I have to say along the way the executives have become more excited about it. The thing about a brand is that you only have this small moment in time when it’s a big deal, then it just “is” the foundation. I advised them that, YES you want and need to love your brand. It needs to represent the vision of the company, you need to be proud of it. If not, what’s the point? In my mind anyway. I created a brand for myself six years ago that I still love today. I would never change the essence of it. It just works.

The brand closure was huge! But there was a ton of more work to be done. They also had a draft position statement that was to be used as a foundational piece for the new website (also another project in play dependent on the brand). They weren’t happy with that either. So we played with it, and the end result is a statement that will be used for many different purposes. Additionally the boilerplate statement /About us needed to be recrafted to reflect this new brand. We did that too. These were all foundational pieces that we can use for multiple purposes and will stand the test of time.

Employee engagement, customers and getting the word out
The most important part of the launch that I presented to them, was to include employees and get them engaged. And yes, this meant some promotional items. But as a fiscally prudent marketer, I did not want to buy items just for the sake of giving them away. I wanted them to have meaning. We closed on some beautiful items, a stainless steel sharpie pen, a luggage tag and an 8GB memory stick. We also purchased for customers and executive gifts, iPad folio covers and hot/cold tumblers.  The purpose of the memory stick to employees was functional. Every stick would be loaded with new branded content and items that would support the new brand.

If only a brand launch were perfect, but this one couldn’t be, because we had two distinct websites, a new brand, and were nowhere close to finishing a new website. Once the brand got out, we knew we couldn’t keep it a secret for long. Everyone wanted to use it. But hold on, we needed to formally launch… I coached everyone, please wait don’t leak it out until we are ready with all these materials.  It was a load of materials and having no staff to support this, just me the consultant, an agency for creative development and the executive team for reviews, we were able to put together a package that was foundational for all employees and create awareness for our customers.

Since the website was not done and both sites needed to co-exist until the website is ready early 2013, we settled on a splash page that would be the entry point for both websites. The splash page would do three things. One, it would present the new branding and information on where to go to find out older information. Two, it would focus on marketing the new management team, a key consideration for hiring this particular firm. And three, it would drive traffic to LinkedIn in the interim a place where we believed referrals for business would result. It was not a perfect solution, but it allowed us to release the brand, indicating change was happening and this new brand was a new positive direction, positive for the business communicating commitment to the company’s acquisition and alignment.  Both websites still exist as a resource decision. Limited resources to take down and go through all the content, focus needed to be on the new content for the new site. These are the kind of decisions you need to make in smaller companies, resources are limited.

Additionally, we needed to inform our customers about the brand launch. We decided to send them out letters and include our new one page company overview. We decided on mail for a few reasons. We wanted customers to experience the new brand, from opening the envelope to reading the letter signed by the CEO. And because it is not a normal thing to receive a letter it would get noticed better. Additionally we also wanted to include our major partner in the launch and educate them about the “new company” and new brand and direction. To do this we did an email communication to them and to our customers, in addition to the mail package.

For our employees we put together entire packages. The packages that each employee received were fedexed and received the day prior to the launch and included:

  • Promotional items (as mentioned above)
  • New business cards (important to “see” themselves with the brand for better identification)
  • Memory stick with PPT and DOC templates, signature template, branding guidelines, logo graphics and screensavers
  • Social media communication they could easily copy and paste for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Presentation about the brand launch and what was coming next for the new website
  • A letter, email and live conference call from the CEO supporting the excitement of the brand and importance and significance to the company moving forward

2x traffic during brand launch month
The end result was 2x traffic to our website in the month of the brand launch more than either individual website had experienced in the time (3 months) monitoring performance prior to the launch. Employees were proud of the brand and the tagline that we closed on represented the current and future direction of the company- it was inspirational. We built a solid foundation to continue to expand upon in all areas of the company with a solid brand launch that we all loved.

Now with the brand launch complete,  we could hone in on to the next project, website development, content development and implementation to launch. Stay tuned…

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