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Learning to launch

Learning to launch
In a product launch, communications plays the role of mitigating the risks and highlighting the rewards that come with bringing a new offering to market. IPA Effectiveness Editor Carlos Grande looks at what we can learn from the latest Effectiveness Masterclass event 'In With the New'.

The latest Effectiveness Masterclass event and a new IPA/Thinkbox film feature learnings on how four recent launches successfully addressed this balance of risk and reward.

Whilst such insights cannot eliminate completely the risks of launching – some bravery is essential to any successful launch – they can be used to shape launch strategy with a view to what has been shown to work.

The event was chaired by Laurence Green, Founding Partner of 101. The speakers were Phil Springall, Marketing Manager of Kärcher, Simon Harwood, Head of Futures at PHD, and Tamsin Djaba, Senior Strategist at Droga5.

The full case studies for Dacia, Ready Baked Jackets, Kärcher and Sensodyne Pronamel can be downloaded from the IPA website.

Below is a summary of key learnings from the event. The film is available to watch here.

  1. ‘Good thinking – not just execution’

The opening remark from Laurence Green, quoted above, about the importance of solid strategic thinking in effective launches was reinforced by the cases discussed during the evening.

McCain’s Ready Baked Jackets, for instance, had to persuade sceptics that its new pre-baked range could deliver the deliciousness of a baked potato but only needed five minutes of microwave cooking.

The brand’s strategy to encourage people to trial the product was built on three core insights: the primacy of appealing to people’s appetite; pre-testing evidence that doubters often changed their minds about the product after tasting it; and research that consumers were more willing to believe the opinions of strangers over messaging from brands.

The resulting campaign from PHD mixed paid, owned and earned media in a bid to reduce consumers’ fears the product wouldn’t deliver its promised taste and to highlight the sensory and time-saving rewards of choosing the innovation over standard baked potatoes.

In addition, using product-centric TV and outdoor ads, a money back guarantee appeared on packaging and third party commentators, including food critics, were invited across media outlets to test and validate Ready Baked’s claims. 

Kärcher too faced doubters – amongst its retailer partners as well as shoppers – about its longer-term strategy to move from its industrial heritage to become a household brand.   

Unlike the group’s well-known pressure washer range traditionally used by men outside the home, the new Window Vac was an indoor cleaning device aimed at women buyers.

Kärcher realised consumers needed to see the Window Vac in action (weekend radio ads designed to lure families into DIY stores didn’t work), and a key decision was made to use econometrics to prove the impact of the first TV ads on sales and build a business case to keep the ads on air and in front of consumers.

In addition, the company insisted that retailers, who stocked the Vac also took its point of sale material explaining the product.  Staff in the initially sceptical retail chains proved enthusiastic demonstrators of the item.


  1. Leaving space for consumers

With the benefit of hindsight, what would both campaign teams have done differently?

The speakers from Kärcher and PHD both agreed they would have sought a bigger role for consumer-created content to amplify the reach and credibility of their branded messaging.

According to PHD’s Harwood, the biggest questioners of Ready Baked Jackets often turned into its most vocal advocates after taste testing, and in retrospect more could be have made of consumer reviews and content creator networks on YouTube.

Consumer reviews were also important to Kärcher, in providing third-party validations of its product, revealing different uses for the Vac, and as a source of ideas for modifications or enhancements of the item.

This interest in finding a role in launches for consumers was echoed by Djaba of Droga5. 

In her presentation on the work which Droga5 has done for US sportswear brand, Under Armour, Djaba argued consumers should be allowed “to complete the sentence” in conversations with brands.

Although not strictly a launch, Under Armour’s I will what I want campaign communicated the value of ‘mental strength’ – relevant to both sexes – to move the brand beyond its traditional male user base, and establish its credibility with female shoppers.

In the film, the model Gisele Bündchen is shown ignoring social media ‘noise’ to complete tough exercise workouts.  Reactions to the film ranged from bafflement to criticism to adulation, including by Cannes Lions jurors who awarded it the 2015 Cyber Grand Prix.

Djaba advises brands to keep conversations with consumers “open-ended”, and points to the interest brands such as Under Armour have in encouraging consumers to suggest new product ideas via crowdsourcing formats.


  1. Plan for the post-launch

It is a truism that more people plan for the consequences of campaign failure than for success.

Since the IPA Masterclass featured success stories, it was perhaps predictable that panellists reported the ‘problems’ of selling out of stock or changing brand perceptions faster than expected (and before products existed to capitalise on this change in positioning) rather the more common experience of having a launch campaign ignored altogether.

Panellists agreed on the need to plan for post-launch activity, particular by working with any brand advocates, as well as the requirement for the brand to have follow-up product stories.

Agencies were also advised to segment budgets into immediate launch and post-launch phases to ensure they had the resources to build on launch momentum.


  1.  Remember your consumer’s journeys

As launches are also, in effect, behaviour change campaigns – which need consumers to alter existing habits to be successful, it is important to keep in mind the potential journeys consumers will have made en route to buying your launch product.

Several features of the Ready Baked Jackets campaign made use of this thinking.

For example, TV ads for Ready Baked Jackets went out in post-9pm slots – too late to bake a potato conventionally but not for its pre-baked alternative.

And with the launch taking place in chilly February, selected outdoor media sites simulated the smell and heat of a baked jacket, as well as providing a discount coupon, to tempt shoppers to try the new product.

In addition, the IPA/Thinkbox film discusses the launch of Sensodyne Pronamel, a toothpaste designed to mitigate the effects of erosion on tooth enamel caused by acidic foods, including citrus fruit.

Messages for the protective dental product were placed in the fresh fruit aisle of supermarkets to ensure consumers made the link between the two categories when they were out shopping.

This placement also reinforced one of the campaign’s key strategic elements – which was to position the toothpaste as a choice that enabled buyers to combat acid wear (the risk) whilst continuing to eat healthy fruit (the reward).


  1. Treat launches as both product and brand communications

The contributors counselled against considering launches as either product or brand marketing, arguing they had elements of both.

On the one hand, when brands launched products with genuinely new functional attributes, this could influence in positive ways how consumers perceived the brand.

And, on the other hand, it was argued that brand organisations and their agencies should continually ask themselves, ‘Why do we do what we do’?

The answer should relate to the brand’s values and any product launch should express these brand values too.

Or as the event chair, Laurence Green, put it, You are never just launching a new product.”

The full event can be watched here

Last updated 02/07/2015

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