Sunday, October 25, 2015

Launching a Successful Brand

Rick Rockhill, Managing Partner and Founder of Zarhill Partners Group
Whether I am speaking at events in the US, Asia or Europe, there is one common thirst for knowledge from marketers, entrepreneurs and new business owners: "How to successfully launch my brand?".  During a speaking engagement last week in Chicago one of my presentations addressed this very topic. Without question there is no shortage of great product and service ideas percolating in the minds of creative individuals. What is often missing however is the know-how to bring great ideas to fruition, how to develop well thought-through strategy, and how to execute the plan.

I often say to clients that "You can only launch a new brand for the first time once." This is intentionally a bit of a mind game statement, but this play on words is intended to get marketers to pause and THINK before acting. The fact is that most new products and brands fail.  It is exceptionally difficult to get a new product on the "radar" of consumers. In fact, the Harvard Business Review's study shows that "American families, on average repeatedly buy the same 150 items, which constitute as much as 85% of their households needs".  From this fact, you can understand why it would be difficult to break into the shopping habits of American consumers.

In the early stages of launching a product or brand, there are some critical questions to answer, such as evaluating the current product category in which you wish to compete. What is the retail landscape like? Who are the competitors? Where is it sold? Is your product or brand better than what is currently available? Why would anyone want or need your product? Why would retailers want to carry your product?

Whether working with my clients or when speaking at conferences, I often speak at length about what I view as the most important steps to launch a new brand. The details behind these are what comes from experience and business knowledge. During my 27 year career history thus far, I have found the same common themes to hold true across multiple industries. These hold true in the U.S., UK, EU, Asia and beyond.

There are Ten Mission Critical Steps to Launch a Brand:

  1. Establish Core Value Proposition
  2. Know your Target Consumers/Channel Strategy
  3. Develop Brand Identity
  4. Establish Goals
  5. Build A Launch Strategy
  6. Find the Industry Experts & Influencers
  7. Develop a Compelling Marketing Message
  8. Forge Partnerships
  9. Make it easy to Interact with Others
  10. Monitor, Listen, Evaluate & Respond
If there are steps to launch a brand, I can assure you there is also a list of the most common mistakes and reasons that new brands and products fail. Knowing those steps can literally save a company millions of dollars. My firm Zarhill Partners Group works with emerging and established brands to navigate the treacherous waters of the consumer goods marketplace. Smart marketers recognize what that don't know, and seek advice. 

If you are launching a product, brand or have an idea that you wish to bring to market,  my advice is to always find someone who will give you honest feedback, and not worry about hurting your feelings.  Get as close to the consumer as possible, to truly understand their wants, needs and behaviors. Write a business plan and have someone shoot holes in the plan. Then re-write it.

One final piece of advice--provided you are well funded and truly have done your research--including advice from people with experience...listen to your gut instinct, and execute your plan. Launching a successful brand can be a rewarding experience and incredible learning opportunity. Even if you don't make millions, you will be rich in experience.

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