Startups and young founders began captivating the public when Netscape launched its browser nearly 20 years ago. Back then, it didn't seem as though we were doing anything extraordinary, but in retrospect, it spawned a new era of entrepreneurship that epitomizes the American Dream.
The media has devoted millions of column inches to startups, entrepreneurs, and the bubbles and busts since then, leading many of the public companies we work with to want a little of that “startup magic” themselves.
The truth is, many large brands already have that “secret sauce.” They just need to unlock it. Every company has an innovation story, and in today's wired world, nearly every large corporation also has a technology story to tell.
An example is Walmart*, which enjoys great success and a tremendous amount of coverage on its own. Walmart could have been content to promote its core business, but it recognized that its innovations in ecommerce were as noteworthy as any in Silicon Valley, and the company decided to focus on it.
Walmart carved out a thought-leadership platform around “innovating at scale” and captured the attention of new constituents as a result. Walmart.com is blending online and offline shopping, and promoting this work creates a virtuous cycle.
Building a brand requires great effort, and once a great brand is established, I often hear marketers say they don't want to “do anything that will affect the brand.” Like other aspects of business, if a brand isn't growing, it's flat. Too often, “brand equity” squelches the conversations a company should be having to humanize its brand and build consumer preference.
Every large company can refresh and grow its brand by continuously reminding the public of its “startup story” and leaning in to address the conversations affecting its business.
Disclaimer: Sparkpr represents Walmart.com.
Donna Sokolsky Burke is co-founder and managing partner of Sparkpr.