29 Oct 2012

Product Launch Strategy And Success

Senior executives frequently tell us how disappointed they are with new product launch performance. It’s an expensive and risky business so it’s understandable. This frequently results in a “numbers game” (launch as many products as we can in the hope we succeed) or “no game” (don’t launch anything as it’s too damn expensive) logic. Either scenario is symptomatic of panic, poor customer insight and not understanding brand. 

When confronted with product launch performance issues we encourage executives to build brands then launch products that are 1) on brand  and 2) help customers get jobs done. Why?

Brands span categories, products don’t.
Armani started with exclusive clothing. Emporio, Exchange, hotels and even a Cafe followed. People identify with Armani and what it stands for (its essence). Italian styling. Armani then launched products that were “on brand” and helped carefully defined segments get jobs done. It’s the brand connection that facilitated new product launch.

Brands and humans are emotional.
Brands are associated with values, an essence, promises etc. These are primarily emotional. Humans are emotional. Product marketers’ tend to conceive products in functional ways. Considering, the functional jobs the product will help the customer get done is a good place to start but this needs an emotional wrapper to drive purchase. Brand helps with this.

People buy brands not products.
Just ask anyone in the Middle East why Lexus isn’t getting traction. People know it’s a Toyota and this turns them off. Everyone says they’re good cars. Something has gone wrong with the brand. Bvlgari has launched a hotel in London which is run by Ritz Carlton. Bvlgari are not hoteliers but their target market identifies with what Bvlgari stands for. The brand and not the fact they make clothes or watches has helped Bvlgari launch a new product in a new market where they are not even managing the product delivery. That’s quite incredible.

Brands stand for something your target customer identifies with.
This provides a powerful platform for new product launch. Launch products that are “on brand”. In other words launch products that tune into the emotional connection your brand makes with your target market. Audi’s 4×4 heritage has helped it move into the SUV space with its Q7 and lock horns with formidable brands like Range Rover.

Brands have longevity if their personalities sustain a relevant emotional connection.
Fairy liquid is a classic example. Mom looking after the family by using Fairy has been used since the 1960’s up to the 2012 Olympics. Changes in functional benefits e.g. removing grease, being good for your hands etc., are noticeable but the advertisements have an element of déjà vu. Mom at home taking care of the family. The target market identifies with job they need to get done (wash the dishes) but this has been carefully updated to retain relevance at an emotional level (taking care of the family). Oh, and guess what? Fairy now sells washing detergent and dishwashing powder. The brand has helped Proctor & Gamble do this.

So what? To ease the path to product launch start with your brand i.e. values, essence, promise and positioning. Think about the jobs your target customers need to get done. Next think about products you can launch that help them solve these problems and get those jobs done. Finally, only launch the products that fit with your brand because you’ll be operating at an emotional level and that’s how humans make decisions. 

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Dr. Darren Coleman, Managing Consultant,Wavelength Marketing®