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
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
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
Event: Culture and Engagement for Communicators Conference
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
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.