Launching a new brand; rebranding to turn around a failing one; consolidating for a concerted market push; merging multiple entities together. What do these all have in common? Their end goals are all about success and growth.
All too often an organisation – be it a startup or a well-seasoned brand – will build and implement a new brand strategy looking solely through their growth goggles. Being concerned with what’s right in front of them and where they need to get to, all the while ignoring what their brand will look like at the other end. The result? Brand success transforming into an ill-fitting identity squeezed onto a cliché of a brand promise, delivered by a vehicle that is no longer fit for purpose.
That’s not really the best way to work, is it?
Growth is good – growth is great. Growth hacking? Awesome. Falling back down because your brand couldn’t handle the transition? Not so good. To avoid this, there are a number of different aspects to consider before signing off on your new brand strategy.
Brand Positioning: Every Journey Involves Moving Somewhere
Are you a ‘David’ in your industry, taking on the Goliaths? What happens when you’re successful? Do you become one of the Goliaths, a champion defending against more rising, or a crusader in search of the next way to improve the industry? Choose wisely, as each avenue offers its own trials and rewards. But choose early. How your brand will be positioned once it’s successful, should directly influence its positioning on day one.
Get this wrong, and you risk alienating your customer base by becoming that which you encouraged them to rail against, or through outright confusion…
…we thought we knew you.
Take the long view; then find your starting position.
Your Brand Promise: Is It Ready To Evolve?
While ‘your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room,’ those people need a measuring stick to judge your organisation or product by. Enter the brand promise. It may be your intended brand promise or one that is ‘user-generated’ through miscommunication or not understanding your audience properly (perhaps it would be good to fix that). Either way, judgments will be made regarding the quality of your promise, how it compares to the competition, how relevant it is, and whether you deliver on it.
When you’re starting out, you need to impress to drive brand loyalty and advocacy. And impress you will. For a while. But as you grow, so too does the height of the measuring stick.
You still deliver on your brand promise? Great! But how relevant is it now? It may have seemed impressive when you first revealed it, and was most likely a major keystone for your brand, but that was then. Now, it’s stale, doesn’t compare to your competitors’, or viewed as just ‘too easy’ for a ‘massive’ brand like yours.
Think about your brand promise at launch as a ‘base promise’ you can expand on over time. Business changes, innovations, regulatory changes, random customer insights, and many other factors will have an impact on your evolving brand promise. Be prepared with a basic plan highlighting possible avenues of change, and those business changes become opportunities rather than challenges.
The Customer Experience: Will It Withstand Your Growth?
Closely connected with your brand promise, the customer experience will evolve along with it. So keep your brand promise fresh, deliver on it, and you’re well on your way to a successfully evolving customer experience. The big question here is focused on implementation – can you keep up?
Even an experience powered by the latest innovations in technology and consumer psychology will be outdated soon after release. And if your budget was a bit tighter, then the hamster wheel power source will wear out much sooner.
You’re delivering the perfect experience right now. What happens when you have 10 times the customers? 100 times? 1,000? It may seem a little ‘pie in the sky’ to think about big customer numbers, but a failed experience at scale can easily transform into a failed brand. So take the time to future gaze and discover the breaking points in your experience plan. You may not be able to fix them yet, but at least you’ll know when you need to get onto it – before problems happen.
Company Culture And Employee Experience: They’ll Be Affected Too
Employees are the lifeblood of a company, and a growing brand will most likely mean a growing organisation. How can you maintain the current culture and continue to deliver what your employees need? Is your current situation even plausible once you scale?
In the same way a growing business would map out a larger organisational chart and assign multiple roles to current business units (or individuals), now is the time to map out your current culture and employee experience in ‘big business’ style – with one difference.
Rather than starting with the big picture and fitting it into your current situation, you want to look at your culture and experience right now, and expand on it. When will you need to add more support, improve tech, or tweak a few guidelines to keep that winning formula going?
Brand Management: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
Your brand presence won’t just grow figuratively. It literally expands – over new channels, technologies, products, services, stationery, and in the pure number of impressions of your visual identity. Be prepared for it.
Brand guidelines with enough flex to be easily ported over to a new channel or tech are a must. So too is a QA (or Brand Guardian, as I like to call it) system. One that can grow as your brand and its identity requirements do.
Do you need a full-blown marketing resource management (MRM) system? At a certain point, it will definitely help – even become vital. But, for those just starting out or with a very compact team, there are more pressing needs. This shouldn’t stop you from preparing to implement an MRM system, however. Even if you never shift to an ‘official’ MRM product, your organisation will be in the right mindset and have your own ‘system’ in place that will grow with you.
Big question. If not THE question.
Invest time in future-proofing your brand for growth, and you’ll be able to answer that question much easier. You’ll even have a fair idea of what’s after that – allowing you to be more agile, proactive and growth ready.