Imagine this: your company has just undergone an extensive market research and strategic branding project culminating in some exciting new changes — a new tagline, a new website, and maybe even an entirely new name — and your team is enthusiastically awaiting a major launch at the company-wide summit in a few months.
But hold on. What logo will you use at that trade show next month? And how will you describe your company in the annual report you need to print in two weeks? And can you really guarantee that your talkative CFO will be able to keep the new name under wraps?
Face it: in the business world, your plans — usually the strategically important plans — rarely follow the strict timeline a textbook would have you follow. That’s why often times, a soft launch is advisable and even more effective than a large-scale blow-out.
There are quite a few benefits to opting for a soft launch in place of – or in addition to – a larger event.
- A phased launch gives a company optimal message control — it preempts third parties skewing the message or fabricating their own stories due to a lack of information.
- A soft launch gradually acclimates the audiences to the change — it helps the company gain acceptance by audience, gathering support and enthusiasm as the roll-out continues.
- Most importantly to some, this technique can help control costs quite radically over a very large, very public launch.
Mondelez, the spin-off of Kraft Food’s snacks division, opted for a quiet launch of their new name as they conform to their requirements as a public company. Kraft announced the new name in a press release on March 21 without much pomp and circumstance, and without unveiling a new logo. Part of the purpose might have been to warm shareholders up to the name, which they approved at the end of May, again, without much excitement.
Our client, Inovalon (formerly MedAssurant), a leading technology-enabled healthcare solutions provider, chose a phased roll-out for their new name and logo. Partially to help prepare their prominent customer base for the change and partially to preempt rumors in a close-knit industry, Inovalon announced the name in early May to those with a relationship with a company through a series of communications including a microsite explaining the change. The actual name did not officially switch over until June 5.
All that said, a soft launch doesn’t need to exclude an exciting, large-scale launch — your company can utilize a quiet launch as an initial introduction, and still enjoy the celebratory nature of an orchestrated public launch. In essence, a soft launch helps introduce the new brand and can take some of the pressure off the larger, public launch. It just depends on the company, industry, and situation.
Have you handled a large public brand launch? A phased brand launch? What tactics worked best for you?