This article originally appeared on FinExtra.
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” U.S. President Harry Truman famously said it to his war contracts team. CEO’s prepping for an IPO deploy it with their marketers.
Headlines flash warnings encouraging brands to race “to IPO while Stocks are Hot” and 2020 is a “Steaming Hot Market.” After a massive sell-off to start the year, the pandemic has led to mountains of dry powder from investors with insatiable appetites. Despite it all, the NYSE and Nasdaq have already raised over US$25bn and counting.
This summer has turned up the heat, and the kitchen is getting crowded.
In late August, Jack Ma officially filed Ant Group in Hong Kong and Shanghai, looking to go two-for-two in world-record public offerings. Although it looks like he’ll have to wait, if forecasts prove reality, the company that brings us Alipay will instantly be the size of Bank of America.
The single day of August 25 saw a rapid-fire coming out party for Silicon Valley starlets Sumo Logic, JFrog, Unity, Snowflake and Asana, all filing the same day.
Even the London Stock Exchange is ending a long dry spell: e-commerce brand Hut Group raised over £1.8bn on September 16, surpassing Sainsbury’s and ASOS.
It’s great news for the hungry global investors, but the growing options and expectations have turned up the pressure on marketers.
How can we stand out? Do people understand our value? How do we keep momentum after day one? Every executive, journalist, potential investor and employee turned-future-millionaire are breathing down their necks.
Preparation is typically focused on financials. Corporate governance, listing protocols, and publishing sensitive data keep people up at night. But those who truly win see beyond. Successful IPOs prepare their brands with the same care and attention as their balance sheets.
If this sounds familiar, here’s a simple checklist to ensure your brand is fit to fight. Because the heat is coming whether you’re ready or not.
- A descriptor that’s tweetable and repeatable
Nightmare reporting reads the latest unicorn, another fintechor they do health stuff. Brands can combat misrepresentation by projecting a simple descriptor, journalists, investors, employees and onlookers can use over and over.After hitting their target of USD$700m, Rackspace Technology has seen a steady rise since their IPO on August 5. The business isn’t easy to explain, nor has it stayed the same. As CEO Kevin Jones said of the 20-year old brand, “The company is completely different than we were before we were taken private [in 2016].” They eliminated confusion by rallying around a common descriptor—Multicloud Solutions Experts. They even adapted the name, adding “Technology” to place it firmly in the B2B tech world. Not everyone knows what a Multicloud Solutions Expert is, but for those in the market it’s extremely clear.
- An achievable, purpose-driven story
Profits come from brands that reach people in a meaningful way. The mission doesn’t have to be lofty but it does have to be relevant, authentic and clear how the brand achieves it.Xpeng, the Chinese electric car brand, is one of several start-ups dubbed “Tesla fighters.” Xpeng separates from the crowd through a bold purpose, to “drive Smart EV transformation with technology and data, and shape the mobility experience of the future.” It’s both noble and realistic. They use ownable language like Smart EV with Internet DNA to build the confidence they will achieve their aim—shaping the future while delivering profits now. It’s partly why they shattered expectations, raising USD$1.5bn when they started trading on the NYSE on August 27.
- An unforgettable identity
The ‘how’ of your brand can be as powerful as the what and why. The language a brand uses, the visuals it evokes and even a clever brand name can build intrigue and excitement to rise above.Klarna. A name that sounds straight out of a medical dictionary or IKEA catalogue. The Swedish payments superstar has already brought together an uncanny money pot that includes Sequoia Capital, H&M and Snoop Dogg. Their tone of voice and visual identity are just as weird. A mix of direct language “Pay Later with Klarna” with the quirky “Slice up your payment with Klarna” pitches a broad tent. With a bright, bold pink color and imagery of the stylish youth that use it, the brand attracts with swagger in the same way it will reach global investors. It’s no wonder people are salivating over the IPO. And the CEO loves to tease, stating in late August, an IPO is “getting closer.”
- A solid framework to scale
IPOs are preceded and succeeded by rapid growth in revenues, geographies and headcount. The foundational aspects of a brand are vital, but they’re nothing without proper management and engagement. Dun and Bradstreet, the 180-year old financial data brand, re-listed in July to a surprise windfall of US$1.7bn in the year’s biggest technology brand IPO (so far). A brand overhaul in 2015 set the stage for IPO success but, most importantly, maintained it for the five years it took to reshuffle management, de-list and re-list. All thanks to a well-honed brand management community. Punctuated by a world-class brand center (public and private) housing standards, templates and tools. Coupled with open access to the global brand team through email accounts and internal social media engagement under the invitational name, @Askbrand, available 24/7.
When a company enters the IPO conversation, chances are brand is not at the top of the list, if it’s even on the list. It can be a challenging conversation to update a long-held brand or refine a founder’s napkin-scratched baby. But through simple steps and the right preparations, marketers can handle any kitchen they face when preparing their brand for IPO success.
So, go ahead market, turn up the heat and let’s get cooking!
Nick Miller is a Senior Strategy Director