Public Blog, Knowledge Bank Blog, New Product Launches

How to Launch NPD #1

This is the first in a series of five blogs on How to Launch New Products.  If you would like help developing a new product launch plan based on the principles we are talking about, please get in touch.

Right, onto the blog…

Having a Shopper First Mindset

Let’s start with a short story…

You and a friend are having a picnic by the side of a river.  Suddenly you hear a shout from the water.  A child is drowning.  Without thinking, you both dive in.  You grab the child and swim to the shore.

Before you can recover, you hear another child cry for help.  You and your friend jump back into the river to rescue her as well.

Then another struggling child drifts into sight.  Then another.  Then another.  The two of you can barely keep up.

Suddenly, you see your friend wading out of the water.  “Where are you going?” you demand.

Your friend answers, “I’m going upstream to tackle the guy who is throwing all these kids in the water.”

This story is a public health parable.  Yes, it’s great to save each child from drowning.  But it’s even better to stop them from being in the water in the first place.

Prevention is better than cure.

Why are we talking about this?  There are thousands of new products launched in the UK each year.  A huge amount of resource is invested in developing and launching these products.

Many companies are set up to keep turning the new product wheel.  You launch a product.  Then move on to the next one.  Then the next one.  There are lots of new products thrown into the water.  Then twelve months later (often sooner…) you are diving into the water trying to save them.

You are in the range review trying to protect them from getting de-listed.  You are promoting them more often to drive demand.  You are in another conversation with a retailer who is saying that your price is too high or your margin is not good enough.

You might save a couple of these products from drowning.  But sooner or later you are going to have to tackle the guy throwing them all in the water.

To do this you need to spend less time downstream addressing symptoms.  You need to spend more time upstream addressing the cause.

So how can you do this?

The key is to have a ruthless focus on the shopper.  Because it’s the shopper doing the buying  (or not as the case may be).

Having a ruthless focus on the shopper means addressing the key barriers to getting bought that any new product faces.

Don’t KNOW about it.  Most new products have a very narrow launch window.  The typical cycle runs like this.  All quiet (you don’t want competitors finding out about it).  Then boom.  The big 3-4 week communication burst.  Then all quiet again.  This is a problem.  The launch window is often shorter than the average purchase cycle in the category.  The majority of shoppers don’t even know that you arrived.  Or that you’re still there.

To change this you need to extend the launch window.  Prime shoppers in advance.  Be as familiar to as many (relevant) shoppers as you can.

Don’t SEE it.  Most new products land with limited space into a wall of products.  For shoppers it’s like playing a game of “Where’s Wally?”  Except they’re not even looking for you.  They’re looking for the product they usually buy.

To change this you need to be creative with your visibility.  Break a few rules.  Be seen before shoppers see anything else.

Don’t UNDERSTAND it.  Most new products are tested in an artificial environment.  An online concept test where respondents can sit in comfort, reading a beautifully crafted two minute description.  A shopper is in a busy retail environment.  They haven’t got two minutes.  They might just have two seconds to understand the proposition.  And they often don’t.

To change this you need to be understood.  Simply and clearly communicating the fundamentals.  What the product is.  Why it’s good.  When to use it.

Don’t BUY it.  Any new purchase carries a risk.  A delivery risk.  What if you don’t like it or it doesn’t perform as well?  A financial risk.  What if you waste your money?  A volume risk.  What if you buy the 40 pack of tea bags and you’re left with 39.  So, many shoppers are put off trying.

To change this you need to reduce the risk of trial.  Be bought by reducing the delivery risk – reassuring on performance.  Reducing the financial risk – incentives to trial.  Reducing the volume risk – smaller, trial sizes.

Don’t BUY it AGAIN.  Most new product launches are focused on getting trial.  Track these trial numbers and they often look good.  You think the launch is a success.  Then a few months later you realise that most shoppers that bought you, only bought you once.  And once is not enough.  The new product graveyard is full of products that were bought once.

To change this you need to drive repeat. Be bought again.  A second time.  A third time.  Building the habit of buying.  Earning a long term place on the shelf.

This ruthless focus on the shopper needs to happen upstream not downstream.

When you’re downstream you are on the back foot. You are curing.  When you’re upstream you are on the front foot.  You are preventing.

You don’t need to keep jumping in the water.

Look out for the second blog of the “How to Launch New Products” series next week.

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