The common mistake businesses make at IPO
We’re set for the ‘year of the IPO’ as tech unicorns like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb all hint at going public with massive valuations.
But the success of an IPO can vary greatly and going public can unsettle customers and employees alike – even when the business has huge growth potential.
To be IPO ready, tech businesses need to show investors that they have brilliant leadership, cash in the bank, strong growth forecasts and an in-demand product. With so much competition for investment, a unique and stand-out brand should also be a key aspect of a successful IPO.
Unfortunately, brand is often overlooked when approaching IPOs, which strikes me as a common mistake when you consider that it represents the most valuable intangible asset for the majority of public companies.
Brand should be considered more valuable an asset than buildings and land – and it can play a key role in generating investment. Tech investors want to pick winners. A strong brand will be valuable, unique and recognisable and will also be better prepared for rapid growth.
A strong brand gives the company a platform to generate interest, mitigate any uncertainty and drive the price up. That all-important brand awareness, carefully crafted through marketing campaigns, also translates into the public’s perception of value. In turn, this can influence the opening price and speculation beyond the IPO.
It’s easy to see how businesses with a strong global presence will benefit in that equation. And it’s no coincidence that some of the most valuable companies in the world are public tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft, which all have a strong, enduring brand and consistently high share prices.
Slack is one example of a tech ‘unicorn’ that has invested in its brand before a rumoured IPO. Recently launching a simpler, more distinctive visual identity, Slack claimed the evolution “could do the job better”. This is certainly true, as the new identity uses fewer colours and is more distinctive across all channels. A more coherent visual identity contributes to a stronger brand, and it will be easier to ensure brand consistency across their large amount of brand touch points.
But there’s more to this change than meets the eye. The simpler logo will be cheaper and easier to implement in the long-term. Dropping the old hashtag logo also refines its proposition by differentiating the service from other companies which may be associated with the hashtag, like Twitter.
Uber is another example of a business that has invested in its brand before a rumoured IPO. The ridesharing app recently launched a new global identity based on a custom typeface, which is also more professional and straightforward compared to a competitor like Lyft. Most importantly, it needed to be implemented coherently across a range of channels, from our smartphones to stickers on ridesharing cars.
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Brand change can be a complex and expensive process, impacting every department in the company and requiring changes to all branded assets – from vehicle liveries to letterheads. It usually requires investment in a brand asset management tool to make it easier for branded assets to be managed in a coherent and cost-effective way.
Despite the up-front costs, brand change shouldn’t be overlooked as a vital pre-IPO investment for tech ‘unicorns’. Public investors looking for evidence of high top-line growth will take attraction, retention, churn and loyalty of customers into account, so it’s important to understand that a company’s brand is tied into all of those factors as an indicator of long-term growth potential.
Of course, brand is just one of the many factors to consider pre-IPO, but by impacting the bottom line, lifting the opening price and laying the foundations for long-term growth, it can be the difference between success and failure.