As CEO, there’s nothing more exciting than launching a product — whether it’s a brand new offering or extension to an established line. Yet, no matter how innovative the concept, exhilaration can quickly turn to disappointment if your company’s branding strategy and rollout don’t ladder up to the same level.
All too often, companies fail to have a clear overall vision of how their new product fits into their existing brand story and how they plan to communicate that message to end-users. Once the launch hype settles, they inevitably find the new product isn’t resonating with their target audience and the result is lower than projected sales.
In my role helping companies in all sectors — from major brands to start-ups — to successfully launch new products or refresh tired ones, I have seen firsthand the make-or-break difference a cohesive brand strategy and rollout can deliver.
So how do you ensure your company nails it with each new launch? Here are what I have found to be the top branding mistakes companies make when rolling out new products and how to avoid them:
Confusing consumers with a fragmented brand. Studies show that almost 60 percent of customers are willing to try a new line when they recognize it as a brand they trust. When a newly-launched product veers too far from your brand message and doesn’t adhere to the same overarching brand architecture as other products under the same umbrella, customers become confused and lose their connection to your company as a trusted choice. I often see businesses get so caught up in the new vision they’re selling, that they focus their creative efforts on touting a specific product benefit or alternative position in the market, leaving people wondering how it fits in with their brand. It could be that your new product merits an innovative style, but it also needs to incorporate consistent, relatable brand design elements and messaging. With Forbes reporting that company revenue increases by as much as 23 percent when a brand is presented consistently, it’s wise to reassess your strategy through a cohesive lens. Chobani saw the benefits of unified branding across all of its assets firsthand, helping the company to increase sales from $30 million to more than $1 billion in just under four years and become the No. 1 yogurt brand in the process, leading Inc. Magazine to select CEO Hamdi Ulukaya as “one of the most important entrepreneurs of the past decade.”
Playing copycat. Often clients come to me with examples from competitors that they want to infuse into their own creative approach for a new product. Keep in mind that when you do that, you run the risk of losing your own voice. Just because something is working for a brand you admire doesn’t mean it’s the most impactful approach for your company. It’s okay to get inspiration elsewhere, but examine it through your own company lens and decide: How does this apply to me? Nightfood, a food company looking to target the late-night snacking niche tried to ride the popularity of the protein bar wave when it first started out. It wasn’t until they introduced a line of healthy, great-tasting ice cream – a more typical nighttime snack – and used our services to ensure a consistent brand strategy that the idea really started to grab hold with consumers. The result? 40,000 consumers voted Nightfood 2019 ‘Product of the Year’ and leading global consumer research firm Kantar named it the best new ice cream 2019.
Not planning for creative innovation. As CEO, it’s critical to plan ahead and allocate a creative budget that will see your new product across the finish line. Otherwise, you run the risk of ending up with what I call the silo method where your website, logo, packaging, advertising, signage and social media campaigns are tackled independently, sometimes by different agencies, and you’re left with components that look great but don’t function together. Instead, build your brand in a cohesive, methodical way from the outset, incorporating all product touchpoints under one thematic expression. You may find the creative process takes on a life of its own, resulting in a sharpened brand message that steers your product in an entirely new direction. We’ve worked with a company that is revolutionizing its product category, for example, just by changing the way its product is packaged, standing it up on store shelves instead of stacking it horizontally. Similarly, when we helped position Maple Hill Organic as the No. 1 leader in grass-fed dairy — which included replacing “Creamery” in its original name with the more relatable word “Organic,” and updating all its brand assets with a creative, unifying and easily identifiable icon system — the company saw exponential growth and according to Bloomberg, continues to disrupt its category.
Failing to rally the troops. A key step to presenting a consistent brand message is to ensure your employees feel the pride of ownership in your company and the products you’re delivering. Statistics show that when a brand establishes a positive emotional connection, 94 percent of people will recommend it — and that connection starts with employees. Make sure you’re clearly communicating the values of your brand to employees and demonstrating not just bottom-line profit, but that your decisions align with your core values. When launching a new product, don’t be afraid to take a stand for something that positions it as the best choice for end-users, over and above its benefits, and gives employees a strong sense that they’re bringing value to the world. It could be zero-waste packaging, sustainable manufacturing processes or a charitable initiative. Follow the example of leading brands such as Airbnb, Heineken and Ben & Jerry’s, all of which won by taking a stand. Whatever you choose, the more people you rally around your company’s backstory, the better you’ll perform.
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