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Launching Your Product: Seven Marketing 'Musts'

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A jolt. That's what you want from your product launch. An impact that will ripple through your customer base, resound with your prospects, and shake up your competitors. Smart, strategic launches always create a jolt. It's the way to jumpstart a product, gain market share, enhance a brand.

But how do you create that jolt? Especially in a saturated market? It's easy to become overwhelmed by the task, especially given the nature of product launches: multiple stakeholders, endless tasks, tight schedules, a looming deadline.

Whether your launch is for an entirely new product or a line extension, these seven marketing communication musts will put you on the path to success.

1. Secure a great name

It's an essential first step. Make sure that the name is memorable, relevant, and easy to pronounce. (In other words, if you see it, you should be able to say it. If you hear it, you should be able to spell it.)


Help your product development team let go of that comfortable "working" name they've used during development, even if they can't fathom calling the product anything else. Internal names rarely serve your marketing interests. Also avoid acronyms or straightforward descriptive labels. They rarely impress customers or distinguish you from competitors.

If your product is a line extension, think carefully how the name fits within your existing brand structure—and offers possibilities for product add-ons. Make sure the name you choose works within the greater context of your brand.

2. Nail down the "what is it?" description

"Gimme a break," you say. "That's so obvious."

Is it? Then tell me what your new product is—in one sentence. If I'm the recipient of your launch materials, do I understand—in an instant—what you're promoting? Is it a product, a tool, a service, a solution (I hope not), a solution set (definitely not), a feature, an accessory? You need a noun here. And the more specific, the better.

Figure out that noun, write the one-sentence description that surrounds it, pare it down, get the right people in the room, gain consensus. (Caution: This may not be easy.)

Here are some examples of recently launched products with descriptions:

  • Holiday Caravan: A new line of holiday gift wrap featuring recycled 100% cotton papers handmade in India.

  • Deluxe Detect: A new fraud-screening tool for financial institutions that provides identity verification and reliable risk assessment—in real time. Brought to you by Deluxe Financial Services and Primary Payment Systems, Inc.

  • Medtronic Conexus: Automatic, wireless data transmission from a patient's implanted medical device to a home monitor.

Of course, you don't have to settle for a predictable product description. We've all heard the story of the male doll successfully marketed as an "action figure."

3. Establish a strong visual identity

Your new product needs a strong visual personality. If appropriate, create a wordmark or logo to represent it and successfully promote its benefits.

Then use this wordmark in your advertising, marketing literature, print and interactive promotions, packaging, and tradeshow exhibits. A unified look communicates market leadership.

If your product is a line extension, make sure all your rollout materials work within your existing visual system. Don't have a visual system? Hmmmm. A product launch might be the right time to begin creating one. (A visual system specifies logo use, color, imagery, typography, headline treatments, layout grids, and other parameters critical to the visual expression of your brand.) It helps ensure that your target audience will see a unified family of promotional materials in all marketing channels. This is particularly important during a launch.

4. Insist on effective creative

Once you have the fundamental building blocks—a product name, a description, an identity—you need something very simple, yet frequently elusive: a great idea.

Your launch promotion should be as innovative as your product. Don't negate countless hours of product development with a ho-hum launch. To intrigue your audience, you need that big idea, that theme, that concept, that intriguing visual...

Call it what you will, you need it. Take the time to get it right. Simply rolling out a new product by announcing its name won't cut it.

Communicate your value proposition. Trounce the competition. Come up with that big idea that tells your product story.

5. Promote in multiple channels

A press release is not a product launch. A single promotion is not a product launch. A well-thought-out launch includes print and online advertising, direct marketing, email campaigns, Web site updates, product literature, sales promotions, employee communications, tradeshow rollouts, and media coverage. (Plus any other innovative marketing ideas that work for your target audience.)

If you don't plan for multiple channels, your marketing jolt could become, well, a mere tremor.

6. Tier your message

Once you've figured out all the marketing channels for your launch, resist the impulse to say everything everywhere. Start with that one big idea. Then support that idea with three to five key messages (at the most).

Think of your launch as a continuum: introduce-intrigue-involve-inform-influence.

Your ads, tradeshow graphics, Web banners, and launch mailers should aim to introduce your new product and intrigue your audience. That alone is a tall order.

Your second-tier materials should aim to involve and inform. These are your detailed product brochures, deeper Web site pages, FAQs, competitive comparisons, fact sheets, specification sheets, and so on.

By the time your audience has absorbed all this material, your hope is, of course, to influence the buying decision.

You won't do that by cramming everything into one piece. It's critical to control the flow of information. You've heard it before: If you try to emphasize everything, you end up emphasizing nothing. Too many great new products get bogged down at launch in endless detail.

7. Collaborate from the get-go

Product launches are multi-staged processes that require lots of players, planning, and teamwork. Any sort of silo-ed thinking just won't do.

To achieve the maximum marketing effect, get your launch team working together at least six months before your launch date. Any less time and you risk short-circuiting your well-laid plans.

And who's on that launch team? Gregarious, creative, decisive people who enjoy a challenge. Whether you're partnering with a creative services agency or not, you need a product manager, marketing manager, writer, graphic designer, interactive designer, producer, project manager, publicist, and, of course, an executive decision-maker.

Closing thought: Remember to stay loose and flexible within the confines of your launch plan. Rigidity can easily overpower great ideas that weren't part of the plan at the outset.


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Gwyneth Dwyer is director of writing services at Larsen (www.larsen.com), an interactive, branding, and design firm with offices in Minneapolis and San Francisco. She blogs at MarketingProfs Daily Fix (www.mpdailyfix.com). Reach her at g.dwyer@larsen.com.

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  • by Erin Thu Mar 13, 2008 via web

    Product launch is about 6 months away, but the product itself is not completed yet. Is it wise to start the launch planning process before product is ready?

  • by Gwyneth Dwyer Fri May 23, 2008 via web

    Hi Erin,

    I would advise yes. Marketing should be an integral part of the new product development team, determining everything from the product name, key competitive benefits, visual identity, relationship to other brands and the corporate brand, and marketing channels for promotion.

  • by Becky Fri May 23, 2008 via web

    Hi Gwyneth,

    The product launch starts includes some supermarket sampling. Would you advise going for the big hit (a lot of stores within a few days) or staggering it (a few stores within a few days, then repeating the activity a month later)?

    As it is a new brand, my opinion is to start with a big bang; the client needs some convincing. Any advice would be appreciated.

  • by Goldman Sun Jun 1, 2008 via web

    I have a project that I need to work on and the question comes up "What do we need to be able to launch this promotion or product to run smoothly, public awareness and staff confidence in promoting this product"?

    I came up with once we get an idea we give sufficient amount of time to staff for training. but it starts with the Manager being aware of this first to have a solution to explian this and also train. We would carry marketing materials such as posters and fliers and on our website. I just cant figure what it is that I am lacking. I know theres something else but cant seem to think of that idea. Can you help me give a boost into my project.

  • by Alexandra Mon Feb 8, 2010 via web

    What major aspects/topics should contain a paper with the title 'Marketing program for launching a new product'? Thank you!

  • by Gwyneth Dwyer Mon Feb 8, 2010 via web

    Hi Alexandra,

    I'm not sure I understand your question. Could you rephrase it please? Thanks!

  • by Alexandra Mon Feb 8, 2010 via web

    I have to write a thesis with the title 'Marketing program for lauching a new product'. What topics of discussion should I approach? I mean, can you give me an example of a brief plan I should follow?
    I'm thinking about a structure that contains elements of target market, brand equity, competition, pricing strategy, distribution channels and things about the lauching event itself+marketing communication, PR........, but I am not sure that this is an appropriate structure. Can you tell me your opinion,please?

  • by Gwyneth Dwyer Mon Feb 8, 2010 via web

    Alexandra,

    Your list is good. I would add Value Proposition, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), Positioning Strategy, Promotion Plans (Tactics, Timeline, Budget), Customer Buying Process, Performance Targets, Performance Metrics. Good luck!

  • by Alexandra Tue Feb 9, 2010 via web

    Ok. Thank you very much!

  • by Erica Wed Aug 18, 2010 via web

    Would it be better to create one name and one description for a product that is versitle or to create 2 different product names and descriptions for a product that does the same thing but can be used in different seasons?

  • by Gwyneth Dwyer Mon Aug 23, 2010 via web

    Erica,

    Without knowing more, I recommend one name and one description. To create two names for one product seems confusing and, perhaps, even a bit dishonest from the consumer point of view. Perhaps the product name could suggest versatility or seasonal change.

  • by Kristen Mon Aug 23, 2010 via web

    What types of performance metrics are appropriate for a B to B launch? Should there be metrics for each stage- introduce-intrigue-involve-inform-influence? Thanks!

  • by Gwyneth Dwyer Tue Aug 24, 2010 via web

    Hi Kristen,

    Metrics for each stage would be great, but may be too ambitious. Creating metrics requires clearly defined objectives and ongoing discipline. I believe the "introduce" stage and the "influence" stage would be the two most important for metrics, and would yield the best data. Please know that I'm not a marketing metrics expert, so you should verify this or read more on the topic.

    Marketing Profs is brimming with information on metrics, measurement, and ROI. I would urge you to consult the articles in those sections for excellent information.

  • by Heather Wed Sep 8, 2010 via web

    Please could some help me.
    I need to launch our product which is ready to go live at the end of OCT.
    It's a Anti-money laundering tool which involves on-line ID checks & a set of Forms to help the customers to comply with the AML Law also it's a new website.
    If I'm honest I don't know where to start. The only form of marketing I have is emails.
    I'm open to any suggestions on where to start with my launch plan.
    I'm doing a sales & marketing course but I'm only at the sales part and not any where near the marketing side.
    This is for work and I want to make a good impression.

  • by Heather Wed Sep 8, 2010 via web

    Oh I should add this is business to business
    =-)

  • by Gwyneth Dwyer Tue Sep 14, 2010 via web

    As stated in the article, make sure you have a strong product name and a clear what-is-it description in place before you begin.

    Then, working with the marketing assets you mentioned, I would recommend an email campaign and banner advertising to boost awareness and drive traffic to your website. Your website should have rich content that helps visitors understand the benefits of the product. (Of course, your site should be carefully optimized for search.) Have you considered social media as well? Email + search +social media can help you achieve success in a new product launch.

  • by BrandShare Tue Oct 22, 2013 via web

     One thing that manufacturers tend to overlook is the importance of product samples. By getting some products out to consumers before the product launch you can gather some key data and first hand consumer feedback of the new product before the full launch goes into play. Additionally by getting the products out into hands of key consumers you will get consumers talking about your product which will increase the buzz before the launch date. - http://brandshare.us/

  • by Gwyneth Dwyer Tue Oct 22, 2013 via web

    Interesting concept, Brand Share: Provide samples to validate key product benefits and create social media buzz — all prior to launch. Thanks for sharing!

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