Pitch Perfect: Why a Powerful Brand Story Is Essential for IPO Success

DFIN experts share insights gained from a career spent helping firms navigate the IPO process — and explain how a powerful brand story can help maximize a company’s valuation.

Businessman using a tablet in an office

Scott Pinkner has assisted with many IPOs over his career. As a managing director at DFIN, he and his team of experts have helped many firms navigate their transition from private to public companies.

A central aspect of an IPO is the processing of the company prospectus with the SEC. In addition to satisfying disclosure requirements, the prospectus enables a company to convey its unique value and branding. Pinkner has seen this process intensify as differentiation and vision have become more vital. In recent years, as many high-profile companies have delayed their entrance to the public markets, the stakes have risen given the growing amount of investor anticipation.

As a result, companies have increasingly focused considerable time and resources on having their prospectuses convey the uniqueness of their business, whether through unique graphics, dazzling visuals, signature company colors and imaging, varied paper selection, fold-out covers, complex colors throughout the document, or all of the above. The goal is to maximize the company’s valuation at IPO (and the corresponding price appreciation when the company begins to trade) by telling the company story in the most effective way possible.

Rather than providing just the company’s nuts and bolts, a well done prospectus should convey something more powerful and persuasive: that the transition from a plucky start-up to a professional, confident IPO-ready company is complete.

While the prospectus alone does not account for IPO success, in Pinkner’s view, clients consider it a significant contributing factor. “Rather than providing just the company’s nuts and bolts, a well done prospectus should convey something more powerful and persuasive: that the transition from a plucky start-up to a professional, confident IPO-ready company is complete,” he says.

It’s a model that a growing number of companies are starting to adopt, Pinkner adds. The reason is simple: In an unprecedented era of blockbuster initial public offerings, it has never been more important to stand out in the market. A company’s marketing and digital footprint need to stand together as a cohesive package that conveys clear messaging and a compelling brand story.

A well-branded prospectus, then, answers an investor’s main question: Why should I invest?

“An effective prospectus lays out the company’s strategy, management vision and corporate culture in convincing fashion,” adds Shana Billings, an account manager at DFIN. “An IPO should be focused on ensuring that the company’s brand is aligned in a way that sparks public interest, addresses an investor’s fundamental concerns and suggests premium value.”

Pinkner and Billings also agree that getting “IPO-ready” takes time — and preparing a high-end prospectus adds to the process.

Indeed, preparing for an IPO is likely the most challenging and rewarding undertaking a company will experience, and the single most important event in its history. It takes private companies out of their comfort zones so they can mature and reach their potential, while delivering increasing value to investors.

But with that in mind, Pinkner offers another observation from years of helping private companies go public. “What we hear from many clients is their wish that they had started on the path to pulling everything together much, much earlier,” he says.