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.