Why Most Brand Launches Fail

This piece originally appeared in Brand Quarterly.

In the old days of branding, and I am talking of just ten to fifteen years ago, there began a very predictable playbook for launching a corporate brand or rebrand. It borrowed a great deal from traditional public relations. It called for some combination of a press release, an unveiling of a new logo at a largish and often garish event, a fresh website, and a mousepad for each employee. Not much has changed in the interim except the mousepads have been replaced with coffee mugs or USBs.

Make no mistake, a brand or a rebrand is a deep, invasive and jarring intervention in the life of a business Needless to say, this is all very vacuous, fleeting, often expensive, and delivers limited real results. Make no mistake, a brand or a rebrand is a deep, invasive and jarring intervention inWhy-Most-Brand-Launches-Fail-Q1-1 the life of a business. If a company discovers it needs branding, I equate that to a serious call for help. Yet, most continue to launch brands in the most predictable and pedantic ways. It is analogous to conducting complicated surgery and then immediately throwing the patient onto the street. Here are the reasons why the approach is wrong:

It Is A Shock To The System

The way brands are introduced, subscribes to a dated formula suggesting surprise is favorable to clever and gradual familiarization. This is why so many launches are mediocre at best as they end up being near solely evaluated on a logo. Such an approach dramatically marginalizes the exhaustive strategic work that takes place in branding and can demean the practice and profession.

The Big Bang Always Fizzles

It is appropriate to pick one day where the brand debuts or relaunches but that should be thought of as a milestone within a larger framework. Big one-time launch events have a shelf life roughly lasting their actual duration. A bit of press may follow, but overall it is a frivolous tactical approach that is quite lazy and entirely unimaginative.

It Is A Gigantic Missed Opportunity

A brand launch must not be viewed as a short-term activity. Launches can and should be sustained strategic and creative campaigns that leverage (and justify) such a big investment over a longer-term.

The alternative to this dated and boring approach is quite simple. It calls for a three-phase communications program. The phases are Preparation and Familiarization, Introduction and Launch, and Brand-to-Market. The three work together to ensure the brand has the best chance of making a material impact on the business right out of the gate and going forward.

Preparation And Familiarization (3 Months Prior To Launch):

This phase takes into account that desired audiences need to understand and embrace the brand not be surprised by it. I recommend an array of substantive teasers and outright changes to the content of communications that simultaneously hints at and begins the introduction of the new brand. This shrewdly acclimatizes those integral to the brand’s success even before the “official” launch. It does not shock the system. It subtly co-opts and prepares.

Introduction And Launch (1 Month):

This does not suggest that the launch is exactly one month in duration. It suggests that the launch is intensive and longer than one day. By all means, pick a day for anniversary purposes and throw a party but frame it in a rich series of more involved events that tantalize, progressively reveal, share and celebrate the new brand.

Brand-To-Market (6-9 Months):

Any brand consultancy that departs after handing off the brand guidelines is doing a massive disservice. This phase details how the brand will come to life once the banners at the launch party have come down. It is a deep-dive that directs and focuses the company’s communications to support the brand and get the intended benefits of greater awareness and increased sales. It focuses the communication spend and activities in the framework of a tailored go-to-market strategy.

This approach may seem more involved, and that is because it is – because it needs to be. It also challenges accepted convention by proposing roughly a year of communications versus a day. This does not have to be any more expensive. It is possible to work with your existing marketing and communications budgets to achieve this level of effort. This demands being clever, not loud or costly, and provides the brand with the best possible chance of succeeding.



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