Knowledge Bank Blog, New Product Launches

Limited Editions

Are you keeping things interesting?

Do you remember the first time you went on holiday abroad? How excited did you get by some really simple things? The soft drink you had never seen before, the ‘exotic’ flavour of bubble gum or sweets. Often the opportunity to get some of these products became as anticipated as the holiday itself. And as soon as your friends knew you were going somewhere such as the US, the orders would come flooding in.

New and different, is interesting and exciting. Ironically, different versions of very familiar products are often the most exciting. We think this is one of the key drivers of visits to Discounters. They feed curiosity. Shoppers discover products that are not available elsewhere or may not be there next week.

So, how do mainstream retailers and brands defend against this? How can you play to the interest in something different, but combine it with the trust that comes with familiar brands? One answer is Limited Editions. They allow you to deliver something different without adding to the permanent range.

You may be thinking, nice idea, but we’ve tried limited editions before and they didn’t work. And it is true that some limited editions do appear on shelf for a few weeks and then disappear again without troubling the scorers.

So, how can you avoid this and deliver limited editions that have maximum impact on shoppers?

Have a strong visual identity to maximise shelf presence. The best limited editions do 2 things visually. Firstly, they reinforce the visual cues of the parent brand. Secondly, they have a clear distinguishing feature, clearly identifying them as a limited edition.

We think one of the best examples of this in recent years is Red Bull – cranberry, blueberry and lime flavours. Together they created an amazing brand block on shelf. Reinforcing the blue, silver and red ID of the Red Bull brand. The lime variant, which logically you would expect to be green, was silver. Red Bull traded sensory cues for maximum consistency and shelf impact.

Fish where the fish are. The best limited editions are not the craziest flavours you can come up with. They are often variations on the core. Heinz has often done this so well, that many limited editions end up becoming part of the core range. For instance their Black Label soups. They combined the familiarity of Tomato, with a simple twist (chilli, basil) to keep things interesting. For the shopper it is a small step, not a huge leap. For Heinz, it is a great way of seeing which flavours work in a live retail environment and of charging a big price premium for something that is still mostly tomato.

Tell shoppers about it. It sounds obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less important. So many new products fail because they don’t get noticed. To get noticed, timing is everything. Lining up your key activities – above the line communication, in store communication and distribution build are all crucial. This is important for any new product, but particularly for limited editions, where time, by it’s very nature, is limited.

Finally, tell shoppers clearly that the product is limited! Give the feeling of scarcity – whether that is the number of products being distributed, or the time that the product is going to be on shelf. Cadburys Cream Egg is doing this at the moment (see visual above). Scarcity plays to our fear of missing out. This can be a big driver of demand without the need for a big discount.

Yes, limited editions can be operationally difficult. But as the big retailers reduce range, they may offer an opportunity to create interest without adding to the permanent SKU count. You may also find that shoppers don’t buy the limited edition instead of a core product, but as well as it. How much is an additional purchase worth in your category? Probably, quite a lot.

Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.