New Product Launches, Public Blog, Knowledge Bank Blog

How to Launch NPD #2

This is the second 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…

Extending the Launch Window

On 9th January 2007 Steve Jobs walked on stage at the Apple Expo in San Francisco.

He said, “every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.”

He noted that the Macintosh launched in 1984 “changed the whole computer industry.”  That the iPod launched in 2001 “changed the entire music industry.”

Then he said, “Today we’re introducing three revolutionary products.  A widescreen iPod with touch controls.  A breakthrough communication device.  A revolutionary new mobile phone.”

On June 29th 2007 the iPhone was released in the US.  Thousands of people camped outside Apple stores to be amongst the first to get one.  The same happened when it was released in the UK on November 9th.

We’re now onto iPhone 16.  The numbers are lower but people still queue for each new version.

Apple create great products but they also launch those products in a way that creates and accelerates demand.

Steve Jobs announced the launch of the iPhone on 9th January 2007.  It was launched in the US on June 29th.  Nearly 6 months later.

That is a LOT of time.  To build anticipation.  To build familiarity.  To build demand.

Apple announce first.  Release later.  It’s a winning formula.

Why are we talking about this?  In the FMCG world we typically take a different approach to launching new products.  First stay quiet.  Don’t risk competitors finding out about it.  Then go loud.  The 3-4 week burst of activity.  The frantic distribution build.  Then go quiet again.  Launch over.  On to the next thing.

This is a BIG problem.  The launch window is narrow.  Too narrow.  Which means that most shoppers don’t know about it.

Instead you need to extend the launch window.  Build anticipation amongst shoppers before you launch.  Build familiarity of the new product with shoppers.  Prime shoppers so that they are ready to buy before they get into store.

Meaning that more shoppers know about it.

So, how can you do this?

Tell them it’s coming.  A band announce a release date for a new album.  Netflix tell you a new show is coming.  Starbucks tell you the Pumpkin Spice Latte is on its way.  But in the FMCG world we rarely do this.  We wait until the product has launched.  Then desperately try to drive awareness.

What if you changed this?  What if you told shoppers a few weeks out that a new product is coming?  You could keep it broad “coming soon” or be specific “launching on 1st June.”  You could build anticipation amongst shoppers.  Get them excited about the launch.  A great recent example of this was Boots No. 7 Reverse.  In advance they had in-store communication saying, “A world first from the UK’s No 1 Skincare brand.”  Then “Get ready to Reverse.  Revealed 12th April.”

It’s hard to anticipate something if you don’t know it’s coming.

Tell them what to look for.  By definition a new product is unfamiliar.  Shoppers won’t have seen it before.  They won’t really know what they are looking for.  They won’t recognise it if they see it.

To change this you need to tell them what to look for.  A good recent example of this has been the communication of the Pepsi pack redesign.  A big picture of their new cans (and nothing else).  Supporting message “New look.  Same great taste.”  Signalling that the design has changed.  Reassuring that the product hasn’t.

Innocent’s “Bolt from the Blue” launch a couple of years ago was another good example.  All the communication was blue.  The messaging said “we’ve made a blue drink.  It’s blue.  It’s juicy.  It’s blue.”  Do you think they wanted shoppers to look for the blue one?

It’s hard to look for something if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Tell them where to find it.  A trend in our industry is the blurring of categories.  It’s driven by an increasing number of products taking properties from more than one category.  Should the plant-based meat alternative be with the plant based products or the home meat category?  When is a drink a juice?  When is it a juice-based drink?  When is it a water?  And, of course, the burning question of our age.  Jaffa Cake.  Biscuit or cake?

It’s often not obvious where a product will be located in store.  So, you need to direct shoppers there.  A great recent example of this is the Ambrosia Ready to Eat Porridge launch.  All the 6 sheet adverts said, “find them in the cereal aisle.”  Then there was POS next to the Ambrosia custard saying, “find our new Ready to Eat Porridge in the cereal aisle.”

It’s hard to find something if you don’t know where to find it.

A narrow launch window decreases your chance of success.  An extended launch window increases your chance of success.

To extend it you need to prime shoppers.

Do it well and they’ll be camping outside Tesco.

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

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