Steps to ensure a successful introduction

Research should play an important role in the planning of a new product launch

With the flood of new products hitting the market these days, it's becoming increasingly difficult to have a product stand out from the competition - even if the product offers something unique to consumers. That's why conducting research prior to a product launch is essential to maximizing exposure for a new product.

Lynn Fisher, SVP of brand planning at Cohn & Wolfe, says research needs to be carefully designed around the particular brand or product involved, because there are certain conditions that need to be addressed regarding each specific target audience or industry.

One of the most common things to do before launching a product is audience research. Depending on budget constraints, this research can vary anywhere from monitoring audience conversation, to actually going into consumers' homes and looking at their use of similar products to determine how the new product will fit in.

Rich Goldblatt, group director and SVP at M Booth, says it's important to focus research on gaining an understanding of consumer touch points.

"We really look at how to reach the consumer from basically the time she wakes up to the time she goes to bed," he says.

When done correctly, conducting a thorough audit of the intended audience can provide a wealth of information about how to best launch the product. Tina Haskins Chadha, EVP at Kaplow, agrees that it is important to focus on how the target consumer is picking up information during the day, and where and when is best to reach him or her.

"We really have to think about this expanded world of media and then work with our clients to understand the psyche of the consumer, so that we can really walk in her shoes," Chadha says.

Chadha found monitoring online chatter to be an important element. This can involve determining the primary Web sites people are visiting to discuss similar products, and then thoroughly assessing the common threads among the conversations.

When working on a launch of the Robert Mondavi Private Selection for Constellation Wines, Kaplow focused its research on the wine-centered conversations that were taking place in the online space.

The research showed that many people are confused about how to pair wine with foods. So when launching the product, Kaplow focused its campaign on suggesting simple and palatable food and wine pairings.

"These insights armed us to take our product and roll it out very strategically and smartly to eight different markets," Chadha says.

Testing the product out with influencers beforehand is another research tool that can help get an insight into how the product will be received. Goldblatt says influencers can validate the conversation points about the products' benefits, clarify messaging, and help anticipate issues that might arise.

"You want to make sure you have all your messaging right," he says. "If there are serious flaws with the product, you want to tell the client so they don't roll it out."

For example, on one occasion Goldblatt and his team decided to test out a food product among nutritionists before launching it to the public. The nutritionists expressed concern over the product's high levels of high fructose corn syrup, and mentioned that it might be an issue when the product was released.

The PR team hadn't anticipated this issue, but because of the nutritionists' concerns, they created a plan to keep coverage positive should the public or media raise questions about the high corn syrup levels. For reporters that raised the issue, the team emphasized that the product still had lower levels of high fructose corn syrup than similar products.

"This really helped us because we did have a couple of questions about it from the media when we rolled out," Goldblatt adds.

Technique tips

  • Research across all media platforms the target consumer uses
  • Consider conducting influencer research
  • Look at online conversations that are taking place about similar products
  • Skip research if the budget allows for it
  • Forget to customize research to the product and brand involved
  • Disregard research findings because you are already confident with the product

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