Top tips: What it’s really like to launch a brand during a pandemic

Top tips: What it’s really like to launch a brand curing a pandemic

When British audio social network app, WOLF (The World’s Online Festival) launched its rebrand last year, the business had no idea what was about to happen. Just weeks after bringing WOLF to market a global pandemic was declared. However, what could have been deemed disastrous timing, wasn’t. The company’s revenue went up by 300%, exceeding expectations, and it has more than doubled its user base. Gary Knight, explains why it became advantageous to the business to rebrand during a pandemic and what’s next for WOLF as the world emerges from lockdown.

The launch of WOLF in February 2020 was a huge moment for our company. We had found ourselves in a unique position where our offering was already diversifying which meant rebranding from online chat community app Palringo, to an audio social network, was a natural evolution of the business.

At the time, the severity of Coronavirus and the impact it was about to have on the entire world wasn’t fully realised, or clear. Had we have known maybe we would have paused the launch. The fear of the unknown, not just in how the market would react but also how our business would perform in a lockdown environment, could have completely changed our strategy.

WOLF allows users to chat, entertain, and perform on a virtual stage. The app takes the magic of real-world festivals and brings it to the online world -uniting people with a sense of fun, entertainment and belonging. While it is perfectly placed for a lockdown environment, re-branding and re-launching a new product, with dual aims of pleasing current users and reaching out to new users, will always present challenges that come with potential risk.

As it happens, our rebrand and revised user experience came at a time when it was more relevant than ever. As people spent more time on their mobile devices interacting with other people, the pandemic forced people to explore new ways to socialise and discover different ways to entertain from home. We just had to tell people who we were much faster than we had planned to!

As we reflect on the last 12 months, one of the biggest lessons for us is reshaping our thinking about timing. Had we have changed our approach and delayed the launch we may not have seen the level of success that we have. You often hear people say that there’s never a good time to do this or that, and it’s true. You will always find a reason not to do something at a certain time but focus on the idea, it’s much more important than the timing. It’s also important to accept that there will be unknowns in business so focus on, and work with, what you do know. Maybe it’s better not to know some things, sometimes.

From an operational perspective, we were presented with challenges that we hadn’t foreseen. Hiring engineering staff has been extremely difficult over the past year. The technology sector has hugely accelerated during the pandemic and engineering resources are in higher demand now than ever before. But, despite those challenges, we’ve hired 24 new ‘Wolfies’ during the lockdown period, and with an emphasis on our core brand values – experience, friendship, inclusivity and self-discovery – successfully onboarded them without an office environment.

What we can say, a year on, is that despite an incredibly tough launch period, WOLF has been well received by all our users. We’ve increased engagement of our existing fan base and also caught the imagination of new users. The quantity and quality of shows taking place within the app every day, and night, is also way beyond where we believed we would be by this point.

Whilst we are very much looking forward to ‘getting back to normal’, there are certainly elements developed during lockdown that we’ll be keeping and building on throughout the business. For example, we’ll maintain the agility and flexibility we’ve shown – both in how we support our staff and in the experience we provide to our users. Our focus is now on growth and scale and delivering the amazing talent and huge interactive shows that we have planned over the coming months

We’ve very fortunate that the pandemic has had little negative impact on the business itself and our growth is set to continue as we look to launch into new markets within the next year. We’re continually innovating our app experience and are about to launch a new, unique feature which we believe will revolutionise the landscape of audio social networks and provide the pillar for the business to increase its rapid user growth programme. Undoubtedly, the past year has been different to what we planned for but it hasn’t stopped us and we’re excited for what the future holds for WOLF from here. Watch this space!

By Gary Knight