The Many Faces of Product Launch

Brand-building is all about telling stories, and your product launch is the main character, complete with its own personality that you have to understand if you’re going to execute it right. It’s important to have a good grasp on the many characterizations of products in the pipeline and the expectations they each carry in order to create a shared vision and plan for the path to market success. Let’s meet the usual suspects and review strategies for working with each.

LaunchImage_TheHeroThe Superhero

This product is going to change everything for the better. It’s bulletproof, complete with the cape, and it’s going to save us all. For example, Samsung’s Galaxy S.

How You Know:

It commands a big ol’ spotlight, from investors to corporate to sales. Any and all threats melt away in its presence, and everyone’s already giddy with assumed success. Like all Superheroes, the fate of everything rests on its shoulders. Failure is not an option.

How to Prepare:

Walk the walk: Mere mention of the Superhero will grab attention and solicit interest. This is a powerful platform to use for the product’s future benefit, unifying multiple parts of the organization well in advance and keeping your approvals top of mind. And hey, maybe you’ll get a little budget boost, too.

Stay the course: Superheroes are perceived to be invincible, so expect robust dreams and zany ideas to come from everywhere. Your best defenses for checking expectations are a clear marketing plan, focused brand tenets, rationale from research and a limited number of primary objectives. And live by this motto: “Good idea – that’ll be great for phase two.”

Focus beyond the initial launch date: Even Superheroes need time to mature. If the launch stumbles out of the gate, your focus on the big picture (including contingency plans) will keep panic from setting in. Hope is not a strategy, but face the fact your stakeholders have too much of it.

LaunchImage_TheStepbrotherThe Stepbrother

From timing to resources, the Stepbrother shares everything with a Superhero – except the attention. The Superhero casts a large shadow, but you know the company will eventually see this product’s true potential, too. The Stepbrother is second fiddle, but still highly touted. Example: Wendy’s sea salt fries.

How You Know:

You’re sharing the spotlight, and it’s tough. You hear many reassurances about its priority and importance, usually followed by requests to follow up later or wait a few minutes while the brass finish up a meeting about the Superhero.

How to Prepare:

Join forces: You both carry the brand’s flag, right? Find the shared usage occasions and brand beliefs, and use them as avenues to jump on the Superhero’s back and take advantage of the momentum and resources. Even Maverick and Ice Man found it was better to work together.

Preach efficiency: Whether an insert in the Superhero sales collateral, jumping in on the photo shoot, negotiating a packaging insert or even carving out some time within the Superhero’s excessive planning session, the Stepbrother can benefit from the bigger stage and budget. And you’ll be praised for finding a resourceful way to support your launch.

Use your unique gifts: Your product has a promise distinct from the Superhero, thereby creating some unique marketing opportunities of its own. Aside from purposeful linkage from the Superhero’s shared real estate, prioritize some must-have channels to capture your specific product promise and customers. This priority will come in handy when budgets shift suddenly as the Superhero gets closer to launch. Plus, the Stepbrother has to prove its own market worth at the end of the day.

LaunchImage_TheUnderdogThe Underdog

Well, let’s just say no one’s fighting to be on this launch team. Luckily, you live for challenges. For example, would you rather be working on the next iPad or the Apple stylus?

How You Know:

Your meetings get moved, your resources diverted and decisions delayed. Not to mention the “isn’t that cute” look you get from colleagues down the hall.

How to Prepare:

Get ahead of it: Beat other product teams to the punch. Even if you’re missing some of the details, anticipate the distractions and delays to come and prep stakeholders for alignment ahead of the other planning periods. The Underdog isn’t the strongest or the fastest of launches, so it has to be smart.

Prove value in other ways: Less attention could mean more leeway for innovation in your go-to-market plan. Position your launch as a chance to learn on behalf of the organization, and not only will you protect your budget, but you’ll position your team as trailblazers.

Get back to basics: Execute, and execute well. The marketing plan needs to take full advantage of each and every touchpoint and reduce slippage on the path to purchase.

LaunchImage_TheMartyrThe Wingman

Destined to take one for the team, the Wingman’s job is to create a little momentum and consideration for the brand and portfolio mainstays. Example: Many limited time offers or seasonal exclusives, like McDonald’s McRib.

How You Know:

Your planning template is missing the page about a three-year plan. And everyone keeps patting you on the back, saying this experience will pay off later.

How to Prepare:

New news: New is the most powerful word in product marketing for all stakeholders, including your end user, and New will be your best friend across communications as a short-timer. You won’t have to worry about outliving New’s six-month limitation on packaging or signage.

Live the brand: When this product successfully renews traffic and distribution, how will that customer experience tie back to the brand and the stronger members of the product portfolio? With any launch, it’s important to build momentum symbiotically with the brand and product, but it’s especially crucial to the strategy behind the Wingman. Plan to be inclusive with every touchpoint, whether it’s sharing display space, using a common packaging language or developing promotional value-adds to drive overall reconsideration of old favorites. Plus, you might be able to tap into other budgets.

Break the rules: The product may not live long, but the impressions it leaves can. Short-term can mean more forgiveness. Push organizational boundaries, try some new channels and invest in tactics that will divert attention.

LaunchImage_ThePetThe Pet

Someone is loving this new product to death from the Ivory Tower, and you can’t help but see an ugly baby. This Kool-Aid seems tough to stomach, but you have to try. An Infamous example is Crystal Pepsi.

How You Know:

It has attention from the top, yes, but only a choice few seem to be dropping by for “updates.” And your colleagues are relieved to not be a part of your launch.

How to Prepare:

Seek and share perspective: You have your concerns, so test the market further. If your concerns are validated, you can blame data for your conclusions. Didn’t sway? At least now you will have identified some obstacles and vulnerabilities that the marketing plan might be able to navigate.

Leverage the proud parent: Team up with the executive to help sponsor approvals and gain budget for innovative tactics that might not usually pass the sniff test.

Embrace failure: Reframe what success could look like and how this product launch will benefit the organization in ways beyond product viability. What can be learned, tested and applied as value to the brand and company beyond the more typical measures of sales and units?

LaunchImage_ThePerfect10The Perfect 10

You’re in love… and obviously everyone else is blind to this product’s potential. Smells like the Harley Davidson perfume.

How You Know:

You feel invincible. You believe this product will change everything for the better. You are counting your lucky stars.

How to Prepare:

Play skeptic: Tap the breaks for a second. Considering a few flaws or doubts is a healthy planning practice; the best marketers work hard to mitigate threats as they mine opportunities. If you can’t find any weaknesses, ask some other teams to weigh in. They’ll be happy to tell you what’s off.

Compare histories: Compare your product to other Superheroes in your company’s history. Does this product opportunity share similar traits? Even if you convince yourself it does, you’ll still be well on your way to creating an optimized foundation for this product. Otherwise, it’ll provide some healthy doubt (see above).

Keep going: So, your dreams might be dashed now. But the brand is still counting on you. Reconnect with this launch character and go for it.

Learn to recognize your product launches just like characters in your cast of stakeholders, as each launch creates a unique dynamic for the type of alignment that we know is critical to successfully taking innovation to market. So launch on, fellow marketers, and change the course of companies and customers for the better.

Stakeholder alignment doesn’t happen automatically. To learn the true cost of misalignment, click here.