Go hard or go home?

10 June 2020 5 min read
Written by

Katie Vickery

Brand launches can sometimes seem scary, so to ensure they’re effective and that the money and time you’ve invested doesn’t go to waste, you need to decide whether to do a hard or a soft launch. In this article, Head of Brand Strategy and Insight Katie Vickery explores how to decide which route to take, and how to ensure that your brand launch is a roaring success.

The success of any good brand launch is dependent on the launch plan. Of course, the brand strategy and development of the new brand visual are critical to ensuring that the new brand is unique and is a genuine reflection of the business. But ensuring that this new brand is launched out into the world in a way that will resonate with and engage an audience is vital to its success. After all, this is the audience that will be buying from your new brand – or not.

Brand launches are usually described as being hard or soft launches and these are two contrasting ways in which a new brand can be introduced to a market. A hard brand launch usually has a set date on which the new brand is revealed, meaning that all touchpoints instantly use the new brand – from the website to the social media platforms – everything literally changes overnight. This is the approach that John Lewis & Partners took when they launched the new John Lewis and Waitrose brands and everything was changed overnight, from the retail signage, to the social media platforms and even the in-store staff ‘partner’ badges. 

In contrast, a soft brand launch is a quieter way of bringing a brand to market and tends to be done through a phased approach, where perhaps the old brand is still out in the world (for example on supermarket shelves) and the replacement of every single brand touchpoint would be a logistical nightmare and could cost a small fortune. 

While there are pros and cons for each of the approaches, the key is knowing which is right for your business and your brand. 

If you want to create a real buzz and sense of excitement around the new brand and it’s possible to switch everything to the new brand overnight, then a hard launch is the way to go. It shows a real confidence and can also be used to engage with your stakeholders and key audiences in advance by using teasers and early reveals to those people. In order to have a successful hard launch, you need to have an equally fantastic launch plan and probably an individual who is solely focused on delivering that plan. A hard launch will also tend to require a healthier budget because of the speed in which you will need to deliver the new brand.

A soft brand launch can be used if you’re still getting to know your market and are keen to carry out testing with your audience. It can also be good for brands that have multiple touchpoints to switch over and hence is often why it is used by FMCG brands, such as Cadbury. Using a soft brand launch approach doesn’t mean that you don’t need a launch plan though. In fact, your timescales for a soft launch need to be detailed and well-thought out. You don’t want the launch dragging out for months and months so it’s important that timings are set out in your plan and that your stakeholders are on board. While you might be wanting to carry out your brand relaunch in a phased manner, there will come a time when you effectively have a final launch date – make sure that this is included within your timings so that when it happens you can draw a line under the project.

Whichever route you decide to take with your brand relaunch, be realistic in what you and the business can achieve in terms of the resource and funds available. And most importantly, enjoy it.