Brand Experience

The 5 rules of launching a new brand

At first glance, launching a new brand can feel like starting a new painting. The blank canvas represents an infinite number of possibilities, an endless array of choices. Your painting can become a landscape, a portrait, a doodle, or an abstract explosion of colors.

But look a little deeper and launching a new brand the right way is actually much more structured, with clear steps and rules. There are 5 rules to heed when you plan out your brand:

Rule #1: Make your First Choices your Best Choices

Just like your online reputation, your brand is forever. It is exceedingly more difficult to re-launch your brand than it is to get it right from the beginning. Cobbling together a few ideas and a logo is a recipe for long-term brand failure. The more detailed you are in your branding strategy, the easier it will be to succeed later on when it comes time to build campaigns, make your brand approachable, and compete.

In other words, more planning now means fewer brand headaches later.

Take the time necessary to make your brand strategy durable for years.

Rule #2: Realistically Define your Competitive Set

As a marketer, never accept that they way you see the market is exactly how your customers do. You live your brand every day. You think about it constantly. You are paid to grow it.

Your customers, on the other hand, are distracted, busy with other things, and must make trade-offs every day. As you plan your brand, your first goal is to understand those trade-offs so that you can frame in your competitive set. If you define your competitors differently than your customers, your positioning will be wrong, your promise will be wrong, and your messaging will be wrong.

Those trade-offs may pit your brand against another brand, but those trade-offs may also include activities that don’t include any brand at all. For example, a regional chain of movie theaters certainly competes with other theaters, but it also competes with the growing trend of comfortable home-theaters with large screens, popcorn machines and stadium seating. Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings even named ‘sleep’ as his company’s biggest rival.

Your competitive set should consider the main brands or activities that create trade-offs in the mind of your customers.

Rule #3: Understand How You are Different and How You are the Same

No brand is wholly unique at every level of competition. Android and iOS share many capabilities. Delta and United deliver largely the same experience in terms of basic transportation. Patagonia and North Face have products that are similar in many ways.

Understanding how you are similar to competitive brands is the way you come to understand how you are different. As you launch your brand, you need to use messaging that acknowledges the reality of your offering while emphasizing how you are different. If you only focus on your differences without letting customers know that you share the same standards of quality, you may cause confusion around what your brand actually does.

Rule #4: Find the Balance Between Where You Are And Where You Are Going

Every brand wants to be aspirational, but don’t let utopian visions and inspirational fluff overpower the beauty of a pragmatic, realistic benefit you deliver now. Of course, your messaging should indicate where you are going, but it can’t be so far removed from your current value offering that it becomes unbelievable or too vague to be of use here and now. The benefit of your brand should be desirable to customers, deliverable now, and differentiating from your competitive set.

Rule #5: Create both an Internal and External Brand

A brand needs to work internally and externally. Internally, your brand should inspire employees, establish a messaging framework, and layout guardrails about what the brand can and cannot do. The internal expression of your brand is called a Brand Mantra. It helps employees understand what they need to do to deliver an experience consistent with your brand.

Externally, your brand needs to convey a promise. This brand promise uses language meaningful to customers. Your brand promise is your brand’s signature, and, if successful, will be the main idea people think of when they think of your brand.

Great Brands are No Accident

It’s very rare to accidentally build a great brand. Nearly all of the brands you live and love everyday were built on sweat, talent, planning, arguments, working weekends, trial and error, and sleepless nights. Making a logo is the easy part. The hard part is defining what that logo means, who it should connect with, how it wins against competitors and how to make it beloved for decades.

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Aleksandra Polovina

Aleksandra Polovina is a contributor to the Qualtrics blog.

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