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Maintaining momentum after the brand launch

In the run up to a launch organisations break out of the normal, they are forced to think more broadly about how their business is positioned and perceived from multiple stakeholder perspectives. Managers work more collaboratively as they are determining how the collective experience and organisation’s culture must reflect the new direction the leaders are setting. There is a level of anticipation, excitement and exhaustion as they plan the fundamental shifts in how they need to operate to deliver change. There is a strong sense of ‘everything is on the line’, which stirs up a multitude of emotions, it’s scary and risky but also exhilarating and liberating.

Post launch often when the problem or issue that drove the brand launch is dealt with, the implementation issues have been resolved and the challenge for the business has returned to delivery optimisation - it’s back to business as usual.  Many of our clients have asked us how to ensure their organisation keeps brand focused – and they recapture the sense of collective involvement that drove the business prior to launch day.  

A key issue our clients have asked is how to maintain the organisation’s brand momentum when the brand has been launched and implemented across the business.  We hosted an event to share experiences and learnings – which started with perspectives from:  

• Ryan O’Keeffe, Enel Group Director of Communication

• Spencer McHugh, EE Marketing Director

• Clare Gambardella, Virgin Active Marketing Director

Followed by challenges and alternative suggestions from the audience including companies such as Facebook, Virgin Media, Skyscanner, Wellcome Trust, Burberry, Discovery Networks and Pearson.

A few themes emerged from the session:

• Do not consider launching a brand as a one-off event but rather the start of a series of launches

• Brand isn’t just a marketing activity but it impacts the whole business so needs contribution from the whole business to succeed

• Brand is now increasingly in the hands of consumers so … let it go and let it evolve.

Overall, the audience walked away with five learnings:

1. Always in launch mode

When a brand is launched the organisation is preparing for massive transformation.  In the case of EE, which was a ‘succeed or die’ launch, it was found that in the 11 months prior to launch, productivity increased 8 times. With numerous constraints- resources, budgets, inflexible commitments etc., everyone was under pressure and so they were forced to resolve problems more creatively.

At the time of launch, employees from across the business are more focused and are all headed in the same direction. This collective, almost infectious, unity delivered transformation across their whole organisation.

Maintaining this collective spirit is a key business asset not just to optimise your productivity but also a sense of revolutionary excitement. To keep working in this way, you can look to see how to integrate launch as a part of business as usual rather than a one-off exercise.

EE does this by creating two launch windows in one year, aiming to create the same energy with teams pitching their products and offers to one and another.

2. The launch is step 0

Once the launch is over, people immediately expect to see varying results when in reality that can take time. It would be a misconception to look at the launch as an answer to a business problem but rather looking at it as a stepping-stone to creating change within the company and creating broader impact externally. By framing the launch only as a part of the bigger brand or business challenge, it acts as a vehicle for movement.

Enel took this approach to their launch, creating a catalyst to drive every aspect of the business. The vision of ‘Open Power’, which is a guiding principle, helps align behaviour, collaborations, products and services. The launch is only seen as a starting point of this journey and will be cascaded to 70,000 people over the span of four months.

3. Encourage ownership

When each project is seen as an individual launch, it helps the company keep momentum. Get a senior sponsor – a person with the ability to call on resources and to make decisions across functions. By putting a product owner in place, there is accountability and drive to see the project through.

Working collaboratively with cross-functional teams is painful but always beneficial. They don’t need to be big teams but sizeable enough to have traction to make things happen. Often after launch, these teams disband and tend to go their separate ways so it becomes critical to have the same level of governance pre launch as well as post launch; this way you’ve got a team that’s really living with the product and taking it forward.

Virgin Active appoints teams to take the ownership of the product through from conception to the end of its lifecycle. There are KPIs in place to ensure the team is always galvanised.

4. Constant evolution

When launch is only the beginning of the lifecycle of a product it is important to identify a winner and contribute to its growth. It’s important to keep a tab on customer metrics and allow them to influence the journey of the product. The launch marks the birth but in no way does it represent the final product will be. So a way to look at the launch is merely that, a birth. After which there needs to be constant adaptation based on what customers have to say. Often how you design a product is not the way the product ends up getting used. So it’s important to introduce the product and instil the spirit with teams to keep the product going and constantly iterate. Constant innovation for changing times, moving quickly.

5. Share the burden

Often companies are under the impression that their marketing teams are solely responsible for the marketing success of that company. That doesn’t always have to be the case. In fact, now marketers are not the primary owners of the brand, it’s created at the intersection of the consumers and marketers. Consumers are now increasingly able to express their opinions and expectations from brand so mobilising the consumers helps keep the momentum. Identify hooks to get the customers interested and build a pipeline of demand.

The Grid from Virgin Active is an example of a functional product. During the design of this the team made hand gestures that signified the grid. It became a favoured hashtag, poses after class completion and merchandise as well and a nice way for people to interact with the grid and share it with their friends, thus building talkability.

The launch is often looked at as the big bang or the result of a radical change. However, it is much more invigorating to flip it around and look at launch as the beginning of a transformation. In which case, you’ll be able to continue spotting the opportunities to bring more meaning and value to the company, long after launch.

Illustration by Oliver Thein.

Mallika Reddy is Insights Strategist at Wolff Olins London. Follow her@mallikareddyg