5 brand lessons from the Chicago Cubs

The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in more than 100 years. Now the challenge is to keep the momentum going in the new season. It’s your challenge too.

Spring has sprung and baseball season is underway. And what a season it’s poised to be with the Chicago Cubs odds-on favorites to win back-to-back titles—a feat no team has done since the New York Yankees were World Series champs in 1999 and 2000. No pressure.

But as lineups are finalized and pitching rotations set, it’s impossible not to wonder how the Cubs will look, how they’ll act and what they’ll do after last year’s Cinderella story. All eyes are on them—and for good reason. They have the talent and leadership to be successful for years to come, but anything less than another championship will be considered a failure by many.

It’s not just the Cubs that face the fear of being a flash in the pan. Singers and authors become one-hit wonders all the time when their first album or book tops the charts only to have their second and third offerings fall flat. Brands are no exception. Some fade away after one incredible product launch, and others struggle with follow-up products or line extensions that miss the mark.

So how can a brand score a home run with the launch of a follow-up product or campaign? It’s a winning combination the reigning World Series champions set in motion months ago, and one that—if followed—should lead to success on and off the field.

In celebration of the return of America’s favorite pastime, here are five lessons brands can learn from the Cubs.

Success doesn’t happen overnight. Well, sometimes it seems to, but it usually takes a lot of preparation behind the scenes. Becoming the 2016 World Series champs wasn’t a lucky break. It was a strategically planned approach by Cubs general manager Theo Epstein—from recruiting the right players to hiring the best coaches and managers.

Similarly, brands need to take time to lay the foundation for ongoing success and have the foresight to look beyond one product launch. First, be sure to have the right team in place. From R&D to marketing, everyone has to work together for a successful program. Also, outline an innovation pipeline early on and stick to the schedule as closely as you can. Last, plan an overarching campaign theme that has the potential to carry out multiple messages and products.

Stay hungry but stay humble. You’ve just launched the biggest product of the year. Sales and awareness have skyrocketed and your brand is a media darling. What do you do? Take a moment to let it soak in and then get back to work—as if it never happened. Epstein recently commented that after a World Series win you can either get complacent or grow even hungrier because now that you’ve tasted it, there’s no real in between. When kicking off a follow-up program, campaign or launch, be just as aggressive—or even more so.

Treat each subsequent project with the same passion and excitement as your first one, along with adequate caution to remain grounded. Remember the strategizing, time and dedication it took to win the first time around? While your brand might be on top of the world today, it could be a has-been tomorrow.

Take advantage of the spotlight. Find ways to keep the positive momentum going for your brand as long as you can while planning your second act. After the Cubs won, the news media covered everything they did. Players made the talk show rounds; team members attended a fellow player’s wedding; they went to the White House; retired catcher David Rossi joined “Dancing with the Stars.” And just like that, the 2017 season was here. By executing a phased marketing and PR plan that includes a media campaign, public appearances, social posts, etc., your brand will still be buzzing by the time you’re ready for your next launch.

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Keep in mind what worked, but continue to evolve. When planning a follow-up launch or campaign, be sure to leverage tactics and ideas that helped yield your success. That said, don’t lose sight of current consumer and societal trends that are sure to influence your brand. During the off-season, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said it’s important to be uncomfortable in order to continue to grow and not become stagnant. This is true for both baseball and marketing.

What can you do this time around that remains true to your brand but demonstrates a clear evolution? Perhaps it’s pushing the creative envelope in your content creation or targeting a new group of influencers. Consider bringing your brand or program to life on the consumer level through an experiential activation. Try new platforms that will resonate with your audience.

Be synonymous with October. When you think of MLB’s postseason and World Series winners, teams like the Yankees and Red Sox immediately come to mind. For the Cubs, this is the end goal that encompasses everything they’re working toward.

Tech brands might take the same approach with the Consumer Electronics Show, car brands with the L.A. or Detroit Auto Show, and food brands with Natural Products Expo West—whatever the biggest national stage is for your industry to show off your success. With expectations high at these events, you have to make a memorable impact. Once you have a few key wins under your belt, your brand will make the climb from lucky newcomer to best of the best—and may even become a marketing case study.

Only time will tell how far the Cubs make it this season. But if they stay grounded and focused, they have the potential to become one of the most dominant teams in sports history. The same can be said for a brand. It’s tough to remain brilliant and innovative—it takes the right combination of components, but it can be done.

By developing and following a comprehensive and consistent game plan, you’ll win with every product launch or campaign. Consumers will become fanatics and keep coming back to see what’s next. In the end, you might just create a passion brand with a passionate following.

Tara Reid, vice president of Havas Formula’s Chicago division, has more than a decade of experience spearheading creative, integrated PR programs for brands across categories such as CPG, health and fitness, retail and consumer electronics. Her marketing industry insights and valued strategic counsel have established her as a trusted partner to clients including Hefty, AutoZone and Bertolli.

Topics: PR

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