After months of elaborate planning and preparation, Oath was finally out in the wild. The only catch? It was three months too early. Somehow, the new name and logo had leaked to the public before the brand was ready for launch—and now it was up to us to make sure it survived.
For context, I was part of the creative team that was brought in after the AOL buyout of Yahoo almost a year earlier. The two legacy brands merged in a $5 billion deal and needed a fresh start with a fresh perspective, and Oath would provide that as our new values-based house of brands. Since the name wasn’t inherently self-explanatory, our team was tasked with dreaming up internal activations to bring the brand to life, like having each employee create their own three-word oath to serve as a motto, guiding everything they did.
Back to the aftermath of the leak. Our carefully thought-out activations and elaborate launch events weren’t close to being ready yet. So, we did the only thing we could do… we sat in a conference room and created a hastily written PowerPoint for the CMO to immediately introduce the new brand to the public.
Reliving that moment brings back some stress, but also plenty of insight. It taught me a lot of lessons about internal branding that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned and a few lessons that I’d like to share.
Lesson #1: Don’t over complicate things.
We had almost a year to plan the launch. And that was part of the problem.
Key decision-makers weren’t confident making definitive decisions and often used the time to overthink and bring in additional opinions. As a result, the launch strategy and messaging became increasingly convoluted.
When we had to make split-second decisions post-leak, the one silver lining was that we were all aligned on what had to be done and immediately acted upon it. There was no time to play devil’s advocate or add another layer of messaging. And it was better that way.
Even when you have ample time for a launch, be decisive! Once you take the time to brainstorm and test, commit to a clear strategy and let it guide everything else.
Lesson #2: Start with a minimum viable product and build out from there.
A big part of Oath’s offering was ad tech, and we should have followed a basic tenet of technology products in our launch.
If we had just created the PowerPoint deck explaining the Oath brand from the beginning, then we wouldn’t have found ourselves in the post-leak mess of crafting it at the last minute. Also, if we had created a deck that distilled the essence of our brand from the start, then it would have grounded the more complicated activations that followed.
It’s best to start by building a simple brand deck to use as your North Star and your failsafe in case anything goes wrong at launch.
Lesson #3: Envision several approaches to achieve your goals.
We had an elaborate vision for launch: a day filled with values-led vending machines, exciting explainer videos and even tattoo artists to immortalize your values. But we had no real backup plan.
In a time of ever-changing budgets, schedules and approvals, many factors can cause complications with your rollout. By having multiple options for execution, you give yourself the flexibility to accommodate the unexpected (plus peace of mind!).
Lesson #4: Always do a post-mortem.
A formal regroup was what provided me with the learnings to write this post, and – more importantly – gave our team tangible actions to move forward post-launch. We quickly rebounded and built on the initial PowerPoint. So, by the time the formal launch day came around, employees had the context to truly celebrate the Oath brand.
No matter how your brand launch goes, get the team together to review what went well, what went wrong and how you can apply those findings to future activations.
Now get to it! By following these simple tips, I guarantee you’ll fly higher at launch.
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