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In recent years, we’ve witnessed the emergence of a number of high-growth companies with valuations of more than $1 billion. These companies all originated from the desire to not only revolutionize their industries by reducing friction and innovating on customer experience, but also by making their names synonymous with what a strong brand can and should be.

A company’s brand is where its promise meets delivery. Organizations like Uber, Warby Parker, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Slack, and many others have all staked their reputations on being brands. It allows these companies to imbue every customer interaction with that specific quality that makes it instantly recognizable and builds a tangible aura around them. But what should brands like these and others on the precipice of a billion-dollar valuation do to preserve and grow the brand they’ve already built?

There are three key factors to consider when approaching the billion-dollar precipice:

  • Brand Intelligence
    Businesses at billion-dollar-plus valuations face the question: How do we go from being the challenger to being the incumbent? Brand intelligence is the intimate understanding of the key factors that make your company the preferred choice in the marketplace and how to sustain that position. Analyzing the competitive landscape and positioning yourself accordingly is a component of any business strategy, but re-evaluation amidst a cadre of emerging competitors is a new experience for many companies that were once the only game in town.
  • Brand Story
    Brands approaching an IPO will need a story to bring with them to market, a story that articulates a purpose and resonates with customers, financiers, and the market. A company must tell a story that illustrates a vision of its future trajectory, but it must be able to live up to that story.
  • Brand Architecture
    There are naturally two standard paths for high-valuation brands: go public or be acquired. Those in the former category need to have a roadmap for adding new products and services. Companies whose exit strategy is acquisition will be evaluated for their viability to fit into a larger brand ecosystem. In either scenario, creating sound brand architecture—the way a company’s products and services are related to each other—enables a company to become an attractive market proposition. The best brand architecture reinforces and protects brand value, promotes efficiencies, builds cross-organizational cohesion and readiness, and gives a rational framework for brand-led decision-making, from product and service naming and visual identity choices to portfolio structuring.

Daniel K. Golden is senior director, strategy at Siegel+Gale.

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Startups: A billion-dollar brand question