A successful brand launch is no easy feat. From email announcements to social media channels to marketing collateral, the number of assets that must be updated and executed for multiple audiences on a precisely choreographed timeline is enough to make your head spin.
With enough preparation, however, even the most complex brand launch can go off without a hitch. This is an exciting time, after all. You’re introducing your new brand to world.
In what follows we’ll take a look at some high-level tips on how to launch a brand, followed by a step-by-step guide on a successful brand launch.
- How Do You Launch a Brand?
- Plan Your Brand Launch Well in Advance
- Identify Key Audiences in the Brand Launch Sequence
- Develop a Brand Launch Communications Plan
- Create a Brand Migration Plan
- Start Your Brand Launch Internally
- Launch the Brand Externally Last
- Stay the Course
- The Takeaway
How Do You Launch a Brand?
Launching a brand is a complex but rewarding endeavor. It’s critical to begin planning early in the rebranding process, and pay close attention to details like key audiences, communication, timing, and follow through.
To account for these risks, it’s important to have processes, checklists, and QA procedures in place to make sure the transition unfolds with minimal disruption to the brand’s existing presence.
Taking care to follow each of the strategic steps below will save you countless headaches (and as many dollars) when you introduce your new brand to the world.
1. Plan Your Brand Launch Well in Advance
The best advice for a successful brand launch might be the old adage that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Launching a new brand is a thrilling occasion, and many companies are impatient to see it happen. But patience and planning are the key to mitigating risk and avoiding confusion.
There are many nuanced, moving parts that must be accounted for in planning your brand launch. And adequate preparation takes time.
Begin planning your brand launch in the earliest stages of the rebranding process. Work closely with your branding agency, as well as any external partners, to ensure all the pieces are in place for a seamless migration on the day of your external brand launch.
In addition to early planning, it pays to be intentional about your brand launch as well. Positioning the launch as part of a larger narrative is a great way to explain the rationale behind the change.
What changes in your industry or society as a whole indicated the need to rebrand your company? What does this new chapter of your brand mean for your customers?
When Airbnb launched a new visual identity in 2014, it was able to mitigate the backlash that ensued by tying the new logo to a deeper brand story about belonging and togetherness in an increasingly digital world.
By elevating your brand launch and connecting it to a story bigger than the brand itself, you give the transition a more meaningful purpose than just the need to refresh your logo.
A well-planned launch tied to a larger narrative is a chance to reengage with existing customers, attract new ones, and significantly boost sales.
A poorly planned launch creates confusion and customer backlash. You’ve only got one chance to make a first impression, so make sure you get it right by planning early and intentionally.
2. Identify Key Audiences in the Brand Launch Sequence
Any successful brand launch is designed to make an impact on the market. But it’s important to make sure the impact is strategic.
Think carefully about each of the stakeholder groups your brand launch will affect. Beyond your customers, which other key audiences are important to keep in mind?
Employees, investors, strategic partners, the media—it’s critical to know the relative value of each of these audiences so that you can strategize your launch appropriately.
High-value clients, investors, and key partners, for example, may deserve a personalized, advance introduction to your new brand by way of a pre-launch event.
These types of stakeholders can be invaluable allies and ambassadors of the brand, helping to spread a positive, influential message about its new incarnation.
Decide which audience should be made aware of the launch in which order and by which channel, documenting your decisions in a spreadsheet.
3. Develop a Brand Launch Communications Plan
The most important component of a successful brand launch is communication. Having a well-articulated narrative behind the new brand and the reason you decided to change is essential.
When your customers understand the logic behind the change, they’re more likely to be excited about what’s in store with your new brand.
Internally, a good communication strategy includes a well-planned calendar with carefully worded communication around each milestone.
Externally, it includes emails teasing the new brand and letting important customers (those in the middle of the sales cycle, for example) in on what’s to come.
Well-timed and well-written emails can create serve two purposes: preparing customers for what’s to come and creating buzz around the new brand.
Working with the data from Step 2, develop a brand launch communications plan segmented by audience, determining who needs to hear what when, including reassuring messaging and any potential actions that your customers need to take.
Your communications plan will likely include multiple phases with multiple messages in each phase, through multiple channels.
A central landing page explaining the transition and the reasoning behind your rebrand often serves as a unifying hub for the multifaceted brand launch communications campaign.
4. Create a Brand Migration Plan
Brand migration is the process of updating each of your brand assets and communications channels with your new brand’s visual and verbal identity.
Map out all the places your brand is expressed, both internally and externally. This includes your website, social media channels, marketing collateral, signage, business cards, stationary system, email signatures, advertising initiatives—for large, established brands the list can be a long one.
Extensive though they may be, it’s critical that all of these touchpoints are finalized before you unveil your brand to the world.
Each touchpoint, of course, requires a different lead time to finalize. Figure out which is the longest and plan backwards from there. This is how a well-coordinated brand migration plan comes together.
Just as important as updating assets and channels with your new brand, is identifying instances of your old brand that won’t carry over into the next chapter.
Included in your migration plan should be a plan to eliminate all instances of your old brand to ensure there won’t be any confusion in the marketplace. This is especially true for rebrands that include a rename.
The ideal brand migration plan is centered on a fixed, singular brand launch date before which no instances of the new brand are publicly available and after which no instances of the old brand are publicly available.
Obviously, this ideal scenario is not always practical, but if your brand rollout needs to be phased due to budgetary or other constraints, it’s important that it is intentional and strategic, so that the assets with the most visibility are updated first.
5. Start Your Brand Launch Internally
An effective brand launch always starts from the inside out. It’s critical that all internal stakeholders, from leadership to employees to board members, thoroughly understand the new brand and how to communicate it before it’s introduced to the world at large.
Your employees, after all, are your brand’s most important ambassadors. They are the brand’s storytellers on the front lines, so it’s imperative they embrace its new chapter.
Only by fully understanding the meaning behind the new brand can they tell an authentic and compelling story.
An internal brand launch is also a valuable opportunity for a CEO to rally the troops by passionately outlining what’s in store for the future.
Introducing employees to new core messaging like the brand’s purpose, mission, vision, and values is the best way to articulate the framework and direction of the new brand.
Beyond important core messaging, your internal brand launch is an ideal time to release your new brand guidelines.
A central document that can be provided to employees and vendors alike, well-defined guidelines precisely outline how your brand should be executed in every possible medium.
6. Launch the Brand Externally Last
Introducing a new brand to the world is a thrilling occasion. It’s not every day you get to showcase something that so profoundly, creatively, and comprehensively represents who you are as a company.
With that said, it’s important not to jump the gun. There’s nothing worse than diluting the big reveal by having a random employee update their email signature too soon.
Only after all your brand assets and channels have been prepared, pre-launch communications have been issued, and internal stakeholders are intimately familiar with the new brand should you introduce your new brand to the outside world.
The day-of external brand launch includes the execution of all the final items on your brand migration list: making your new website live, updating social media channels, sending out announcement emails, and distributing press releases.
An external brand launch sometimes centers on a celebratory public event featuring the unveiling of your new logo and messaging, along with a speech by your CEO. This event can be coordinated to leverage a key industry event like a tradeshow or annual meeting.
The final step in the external brand launch is to wait for the inevitable response—good and bad—to roll in.
In branding, as in life, you can’t please everyone. There are always going to be detractors who dislike the new direction of your brand. Change is uncomfortable, after all, and customers have very personal relationships with the brands in their lives.
It’s important to have a well-crafted response in place to counter the criticism, explaining the story behind the new brand and the reason you decided to make the change. Monitor your social channels, emails, and phones and be prepared to respond to customer concerns in a timely fashion.
7. Stay the Course
A successful brand launch is only the beginning of your new brand. It sets the stage for new content creation, marketing campaigns, advertising initiatives, and more.
Alongside each of these new efforts should be vigilant brand maintenance and ongoing brand development.
Making sure that wherever your brand is executed it stays within the tightly prescribed guardrails of your brand guidelines will ensure the most important metric of a strong brand: consistency.
Utilizing brand tracking to monitor, measure, and optimize your branding initiatives is the best way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your new brand.
And conducting a brand audit regularly (at least once year, but more frequently for large companies) ensures your brand is operating at peak performance, powerfully differentiated, and taking advantage of opportunities in the competitive landscape.
You should never grow complacent or rest on your laurels when it comes to moving your brand forward. A brand, after all, is a living, dynamic entity that requires continual attention to thrive.
What’s at stake is nothing less than the connection you cultivate with your customers, the loyalty they engender because of it, and the brand equity that results in higher valuation over time. So, whatever you do, don’t take your foot off the gas.
For all the time and energy it takes to rebrand, a brand launch should be carefully executed for maximum impact. Too often, though, companies are in too big a rush to unveil their new brand, or simply out of energy to do it right.
A poorly executed brand launch can all but negate the wise investment of a rebrand. By planning well in advance and paying close attention to details like key audiences, communication, timing, and follow through, you can be certain to get the most out of the moment of truth.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated with additional insights.