Lindsey Vonn may be the most famous skier in the world. She’s certainly one of the most famous faces and marketable brands in the sport. However, after returning from a serious injury and then crashing once again in a recent event, Vonn is speaking more seriously about life after skiing, and that offers us an opportunity to explore the idea of brands in transition.
Once you are established in an industry as a specific brand, how do you transition? How do you determine if your name or your product is what’s famous? To use Vonn as an example, is “Lindsey Vonn” valuable, or is “Lindsey Vonn pro skier” the marketable brand?
Vonn, for her part, plans to test that question, telling the media: “I’m a driven person… I’m not going to be sitting on the couch, twiddling my thumbs. That would be boring. It’s all about pushing myself.”
And that’s the first key to making a successful brand transition. You have to be focused and committed on making it happen. Sometimes, it won’t go smoothly. Sometimes the consumer public will struggle to see you in a different market or in a different way. In those moments, you need the tenacity to keep pushing, and you need a well-developed communications plan to help the public continue on the journey with you.
To prepare for her transition, Lindsey the person, has been spending more time talking to the media. This kind of earned media attention separated from your brand “product” is vital to an effective transition. Her message, too, is well-placed. Vonn has been aspirational, saying “I hope one day… (to be) a successful businesswoman…”
This kind of aspirational language is humble, approachable, and connective. People like hope, and they appreciate humility. Here’s a massively successful superstar tacitly admitting she has some growing to do if she wants to be something else. It’s a relatable message.
Lindsey Vonn the person has also been very active on social media apart from her skiing, building up 1.6 million Instagram followers. She is using this developing social presence to seed sell her potential new direction. While she’s not saying much, she did let it slip that she recently attended a four-day Harvard Business School course. This telegraphs to her fans that Vonn the Businesswoman is going to happen. It prepares her market for the shift.
This preparation is essential. You don’t want to through your fans a curveball. You want them to be emotionally prepared to see your brand in a new and sometimes completely different way. It’s not an exact science, and there are many different metrics and factors that can make a difference, but the most important key is that give your fans the option — and reason — to make the shift with you.
In the end, you can’t please all the people all the time. But, if you’ve worked hard to build a fan base for your brand, respect their commitment and investment in you by inviting them along your new journey. In all things, how you say it matters just as much as what you say.
-5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian