Knowledge Bank Blog, New Product Launches

Extending the Launch Window

Are you giving NPD enough time to succeed?

It feels like we are well into the Christmas season already and we are still 5 weeks away.  Kylie Minogue turned on the Oxford Street lights at the start of this month, Starbucks have been playing Christmas music for the last 3 weeks and all the big Christmas advertising campaigns are underway.

It feels like Halloween has only just finished and that seemed to go on for most of October.  And once all the Christmas stuff has been packed away, the Easter eggs will be coming out.  Good or bad thing?  We will let you decide.  What can’t be debated is that these events are given plenty of time to succeed.

This provides an interesting contrast with most new product launches in the FMCG industry.  Think about it – there is typically a blitz of above the line communication, a race to get distribution in store, some in store communication and perhaps a secondary display or two.  There is very limited time to get this right.  You’ve worked on the NPD for the last 12 months and it all comes down to a 2-3 week launch window.

This is tough when you are in a category that is bought most weeks – at best a shopper comes down your aisle 2 or 3 times in the launch window.  But it is really tough if you are in a category that is bought less often.  If your category is bought 4 times a year on average (which many are), it will take 13 weeks for all shoppers to make a purchase.  Or put another way, in your first week of launch, only 8% of shoppers will be buying.

You have to do something pretty special with the 2-3 weeks of in store support to stand out, or something even more special to disrupt the purchase cycle.  It is really hard to do this, which is one reason why a lot of new products fail.

We think you have to give NPD enough time to succeed and that one of the keys to this is extending the launch window.

So, how might you do this?

Build Anticipation – Pre Launch.  Tell the shopper you are coming.  Disney has a great insight that is central to a lot of their marketing.  The Disney Experience begins the moment you book it.  From there you have weeks, perhaps months, of anticipation and excitement.  The 3-4 days you spend at Disney is the culmination of that experience.  Apple do something similar.  They announce the product is coming.  Then they announce a launch date.  Then they launch.

Let’s be realistic.  Shoppers are not going to get as excited about a new yoghurt, biscuit or household cleaning product, but the basic principle holds.  By telling shoppers you are coming, you can hit more people, you can prime them for the launch and build the feeling that something good is on its way.  The Toni & Guy launch earlier this year in Tesco was a great example of this (see picture above).

Maximise the Launch Window.  This means lining up your launch activities – ATL, in store, distribution.  It sounds obvious but it often doesn’t happen.  Importantly, make sure that in store communication is building on ATL communication.  The in store communication should be visually consistent with the ATL.  It might have a more action oriented message, but that message should be reinforcing the key reason to buy the new product, which should have been established ATL.  Gillette always do this well.  They only launch every 3 years or so, they invest a lot behind it, and they follow the principle to the letter.

Second Wind Communication.  Lots of new products are bought once.  Repeat purchase is key to success.  We often talk about 3 being the magic number.  If you are bought 3 times you are starting to build the habit of buying.  To achieve this might mean a second push of communication linked to the purchase cycle of the product.  It could mean incentivising the second and third purchases, not just the first.  Or it could be permanent Point of Sale material.  Unilever compact deodorants is a great example.  The Point of Sale material is still in most stores nearly 3 years after launch.

The time, money and resource that goes into developing and launching new products is huge.  Yet the time they are normally given to succeed is very short.

In most things in life you need time to succeed.  Can you give your new products a bit more?

Feel free to forward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.