Why You Need to Launch Your Brand Before Your Product
By: Rebecca Britton and Rachel Kassinger
In today’s digital age, we dare to say that launching a product is harder now than ever before. Though there are perks to having everything we need at our fingertips—for instance, connecting with customers directly and the ability to reach thousands of people with one click—there are also downfalls.
Attention spans are shorter than ever and information overload has taken its toll on brand loyalty. Gone are the days of finalizing a product, issuing a press release when it's ready, and waiting for orders to come in. Now a launch has to be much more strategic and requires planning months before the product is actually ready.
As a startup in the extremely saturated bra industry, we were determined to build awareness prior to launching. If people get to know you, your brand and the product, they’ll be more inclined to try it once it's ready. Here are the steps we recommend to build hype about your brand.
You can’t market a product without knowing who your customer is. It’s easy to get trapped in a “my product is for everyone!” mindset, but fight it. If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one, so it’s crucial to zero in on a demographic. There are a few ways to go about this:
1. Read reviews of similar products to determine what people like and don’t like about your competitors. Another great (and free) tool is social media. Go to your competitor's posts and look at who is commenting. This served two purposes for us: it confirmed that other people saw the problem we were trying to solve and gave us an idea of who our customers are.
2. Online survey - This approach is a little more black and white. Create your own survey using one of the thousands of websites like Survata. It’s quick, easy and straightforward.
Mark your territory
Buy your website domain and create your social media handles so nobody takes them. Domains are incredibly easy to buy and most cost less than $20/year, so it’s worth the small price to secure it. In addition, most business accounts on social media can be hidden until you’re ready to publish them.
Identify your brand and message
We aren’t going to lie, this is the hardest part because it drives every single thing you do from this moment forward (no pressure). Knowing your target market and researching what they’re drawn to help drive this, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own personal taste. Don’t base your brand solely on what you think people might like. You have to genuinely like what you’re putting out there, otherwise, people see right through it.
A few questions to ask yourself to get the ball rolling:
1. How do you want your brand perceived? If you need help, make a list of other brands you’re drawn to and why (it can be unrelated to your industry). This will determine the standard you set for other companies and clarify how you want your own brand to be positioned.
2. What is your voice or tone? This question can be intimidating but it’s to determine
your brand’s personality, which will likely be a reflection of your own.
3. Who is your community? This doesn't only include your customer but you’re entire
audience (potential partners, other brands you associate with). Think of the type of
people you want following you on Instagram, for example.
Again, it’s easy to fall on the “anyone and everyone” mindset but the same rule applies to business as it does in life: you are who you associate with so find like-minded people and develop a strategy to attract them.
Next, determine your aesthetic and visual identity. Make a good and bad mood board.
Instagram and Pinterest are great tools for this. Find posts that inspire you and make a brand book.
We were emotionally attached to the color mint (see blog post), hence our logo, and
initially thought our aesthetic should incorporate other pastels. However, individually we are more drawn to neutral (almost drab) colors which became very evident after making our brand-book. The”positive” mood board consisted a lot of grays, blacks, and whites with an accent of mint but overall it was very minimal; and our “negative” mood board was Lily Pulitzer. Throughout this process, your answers to the above questions and the brand identity may change a little and that’s OK (the joy of being in the “development stage”).
Start building content
One of the benefits (and frustrations) of pre-launch is it can be a waiting game so use the free time to your advantage and start building content. Now that you know your brand, constantly look for social media opportunities. You should also make your website live and begin blogging.
Not only is this a great way to let potential customers get to know you and learn about your product, but it also puts you ahead of the SEO game, so Google can find your site. Make sure to use resources like Google Keyword Planner to find good, searchable terms and incorporate them into your blog. Your homepage should have a short form to capture e-mail addresses from those who want to be kept up to date on your launch. You’ll hear time and time again how important building an e-mail list is, and some services, like MailChimp, have a free option for up to 2000 contacts.
Toast Champagne and GO!
Bottom line: pre-launch is the time for preparation but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right immediately. You’re in the beginning, and let's be honest, nobody knows who you are yet so if it changes over time, no big deal. Put yourself out there and roll with the punches.
Have fun and CONGRATS!