iconic brand strategy

Don’t Launch Your New Brand Until You Read This!—Everything You Need to Create Your Iconic Brand Strategy

Picture this:

The light bulb suddenly goes off and you have an amazing idea for your next iconic brand strategy. You’re so excited! There are logos and taglines and websites, oh my! There is social media marketing to consider. You have all of your ducks in a row…or at least, you think you do.

You launch your new baby out into the world and prepare for it to become iconic. And, maybe it will be. But it’s probably going to take a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make that happen. There is a good reason seasoned entrepreneurs often say, “It only took me 10 years to become an overnight success.”

The problem is that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating something new and to forget that becoming an iconic brand requires a lot more than a great logo, tagline, and website. All of that shiny stuff is really just window-dressing. The research, positioning, and messaging are the real nuts and bolts behind an iconic brand strategy.

So how do find the discipline to lay the groundwork for success before you let yourself get swept up in the more glamorous side of launching your new brand?

First, it’s important to keep in mind that just because you need to do the hard groundwork, that doesn’t mean you can’t also reward yourself by working on the fun stuff, like planning the huge launch party you’re going to throw when you’re ready to announce.

As you read through the below list, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. But rest assured that if you take your time and insist on being intentional as you work through this process, you will be overwhelmed (in a good way!) by the end result.

Key Considerations for Launching Your Next Iconic Brand Strategy:

1. Start with the basics: Is there a market? AKA look both ways before you cross that street.

Whether you are creating a brand strategy for a new product or for an extension of an existing product line, it’s important to do some serious research into the potential market that you will want to tap into. There are three important areas to consider here.

A. Market/situational awareness:

Research the current tools, technologies, services, and work-arounds. Positioning your brand in the market requires extensive understanding of what else is available. You will be looking to gain a share of these markets.

Ask the following questions about existing brands and peers:

  • What works/doesn’t work?
  • What’s the broader discussion? Are companies/thought leaders talking about this capability?
  • Where is the solution on the technology cycle (cutting edge vs. mature)?
  • Is there pending legislation or regulation that may shift the market dynamics?

B. Market segmentation and prioritization:

Once you have a handle on what the market looks like, dig deeper. Get as specific as you can about what your real target market looks like. Segment different target groups in the way that makes the most sense for your brand. Prioritize, i.e., figure out which of these groups to target first, second, third, and when. Finally, determine each segment’s pain points and specific challenges.

Ask yourself:

  • Who is my specific target market? How do the buy? When? Why?
  • Where are these customers? Consider industry, customer size, geography, innovation requirements, you get the idea.
  • What are the customer pain points our product solves?

C. Competitive analysis

The last piece in the market puzzle of your iconic brand strategy is doing a thorough competitive analysis. This will help determine how to position your brand both in terms of the current market landscape and projecting into the future potential shifts.

Ask the following about your competition:

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they (physical locations, virtual locations, operational status)?
  • How big are they?
  • Market share (try to get at least a notional sense)?

2. Now, go deep inside your business. How will your new brand change your operations?

Depending on how much of a transformation you plan to make as you build your iconic brand strategy, this will take a good mix of pragmatism, creativity, and a bit of speculation. It helps to bring in your team to get a full picture of potential business impacts.

As an example, you might consider if you need to make changes to your business structure.

  • How will you need to structure your current business to accommodate the new brand?
  • Or is this really a new business/company? A spin-off? A joint venture? A product extension?

3. Prepare your brand messaging–this is huge!

Messaging can be the difference between launching a successful brand and launching an iconic brand. It’s the difference between a basically reliable casual shoe and a Nike. Try to figure out what unique value your brand offers and more importantly, how to get the word out. This may take some trial and error. Above all, make sure your messaging reflects your brand promise.

Here consider:

A. Value Proposition

  • Why us?
  • Why now?
  • What problem do we solve?
  • What pains do we alleviate?

B. Brand promise

  • What are you offering your buyers? Why is it important? What does your brand stand for and why?

C. Positioning Statements

  • How do our priority market segments prefer to receive information?
  • What is the tone they prefer?
  • How can we signal social proof?

D. Message Architecture

Think of message architecture as scaffolding for all of your marketing content. Your message architecture or framework will support and shape all the content you produce going forward. When marketers and communications pros talk about messaging, they are talking about the general impression they want customers to take away from the content itself.

When it comes to designing the message architecture, a good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. This article from some content experts is a good place to start and it offers a number of useful examples.

E. Elevator pitch – you have 15 seconds in an elevator with your dream client – what do you say?

Every new brand needs a catchy elevator pitch. This should be easy once you’ve done all of the research and analysis above.

4. Brand Identity — most people skip directly to this step, but putting in the upfront work is critical to developing an iconic brand strategy.

This goes beyond the broader messaging to even less tangible elements. Your brand’s identity is really the public perception of the brand. A lot more than words on your website goes into your brand identity. Unfortunately, some of this is out of your control, but you can learn to influence this if you really study corporate communications or find someone else who has done so.

Here the following are crucial:

A. Is this a stand-alone solution or does is it part of a family/suite of products/solutions?

B. Reflect on your market research and align to your aspirational positioning.

C. Consider whether you need/want a tagline — a tagline can be a powerful brand discriminator and shorthand for what’s unique about your brand.

D. Don’t forget to reserve your URLs!

5. Launch Strategy — get ready to be big!

Yay! Now that you’ve put in the real grunt work, you can start to plan the launch strategy for your new brand. I offered some good tips here in a recent blog post. And just imagine how much confidence you’ll have gained once you’ve completed the list above.

I know that this all sounds like a ton of work and it is! But this is your baby. What could be more rewarding and satisfying than watching your idea grow from a thought bubble into a household name?

New brands are exciting and can be overwhelming. We get it. Audacia Strategies has been there. Let us be your guide through launching your next iconic brand.

Photo credit: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

Executive Transition - Handshake

Executive Transition Part I: Planning is Not Optional

Stakeholders can learn a lot from watching an organization go through executive transition. Handled well, c-suite transitions impart confidence in the organization and its future direction. Handled poorly, leadership changes can alert investors to bigger issues within the organization, whether material or merely perceived.

The c-suite (i.e., CEO/CFO, for our purposes today) is the public face of an organization. According to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual study on global trust and credibility, 43% of people say that they trust the CEO as the spokesperson of the company.

Executives embody the credibility of the company. There is a good reason transition of these key leadership roles is watched so closely: as the c-suite goes, so goes the health of a corporation.

In Part I of this two-part series, we’ll talk about the planning and announcement of an executive transition. Stay tuned for Part II when we’ll discuss how to prep your new executive for primetime.

Executive Transition = Financial Risk

We all know there could be any number of perfectly benign reasons for an executive to choose to leave a particular company, knowing this doesn’t make an executive transition any less of a risk in the eyes of stakeholders.

While you may feel energized by the winds of change blowing through your organization, from the perspective of an investor or a customer, a change in leadership introduces an unknown variable, which is just a different way of saying financial risk.

When the current CEO is performing well, there are questions about whether her successor will be able to maintain the momentum. When the current CEO Is performing poorly, there are questions about how quickly her successor might be able to turn things around.

A leadership change can also be unsettling to employees, since the CEO is the cultural leader of an organization. So transitions also raise questions about the cost to organizations in terms of human capital.

Since all eyes are on you, c-suite transitions are really make or break. It’s so important for these types of big changes to be planned and carefully orchestrated. Okay, let’s talk strategy!

2 Types of Transitions: Planned and Unplanned

There are really just two types of c-suite transitions: planned and unplanned. You should have a plan either way! (Now is probably a good time to review my recent post on Crisis Management.)

There are unique challenges associated with each type, but with the right transition strategy in place, you will be equipped to manage unfolding events as much as possible.

1. Planned Executive Transitions.

If you have the luxury of knowing that a c-suite transition will take place, make sure you have a plan to communicate and acclimate external stakeholders (e.g., shareholders, customers), as well as employees.

While executive transition is generally viewed as a risk, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk in the eyes of investors. A well-considered transition plan indicates a healthy corporate succession plan aligned to the company’s stated strategy.

Additionally, if you have the benefit of time and a transition period of anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, it’s an opportunity to engineer a smooth hand-off between executives.

Joint meetings with current and interim leadership, as well as investors, customers, and employees are a strong signal of organizational health during transition. Consider what will infuse your audience with the most confidence.

2. Unplanned Executive Transitions

If a CEO/CFO must step down unexpectedly, be prepared. This means being ready to communicate quickly, transparently, and as completely as possible. At the very least, I recommend having the interim leader identified along with his qualifications as soon as possible and preferably simultaneous with the transition announcement.

You should also discuss the Board’s search process for a permanent leader and criteria for the next leader. Also, discuss Board strategy—particularly, if the transition is a result of the Board wishing to move in a new direction. If possible, a broad timeline for a decision will also help calm stakeholders as there will be key milestones and communications to watch.

It’s always important to communicate as much as possible, as transparently as possible. But during times of executive transition, strong communication is absolutely essential. Communications that appear to be less than forthcoming and/or light on path forward will only breed rumors and ramp up perceived risk.

Keep this quote at the forefront of your communications strategy:

“If you don’t give people information, they will make up something to fill the void.” – Carla O’Dell, Ph.D., President, American Productivity & Quality Center

There will be questions, calls, emails sent to IR, CEO, CFO, CCO, and anyone who can be reached. Make sure that appropriate communications roles are established and shared. This responsibility will generally fall to media relations and investor relations.

Don’t forget about timing

Whether your executive transition has been a long time coming or out of the blue, your communications strategy for transitions should also include strategies around timing. In corporate communications, timing really is everything.

For instance, unexpected transitions raise questions about an organization’s financial health. One way to ease this concern is to consider timing the transition announcement to coincide with a quarterly release. If such timing is impossible, reaffirm or refer to previous transition strategies with which stakeholders are familiar.

It’s also important to announce the transition to employees, simultaneous with an external release. If you announce internally and externally at different times, rumors will fly compounding concerns about who is really steering the ship.

I recommend going so far as to have a specific employee communication plan to address key cultural characteristics and how the c-suite transition will affect the organization from a big picture perspective. When your executive is up to it, set up a town hall meeting where employees can be formally introduced to the new face of the company and have their questions answered.

Next week: we dig deeper into how to prep your executive (interim or permanent) for a successful transition.

In the meantime, if your organization is gearing up for an expected or unexpected transition, Audacia Strategies is here for you. Having the right strategy in place will convert your transition into a transformation. Contact us today to set up your consultation session.

Photo credit: dotshock / 123RF Stock Photo