Events can be key to a dazzling debut

Several factors contribute to the success of a product launch

Several factors contribute to the success of a product launch

Launching a new product is something that takes an extraordinary amount of time and planning on the part of the PR team. Very often, the centerpiece of the launch is an event that introduces the new product to the media or customers - or both.

A successful product launch event could be the key to garnering media attention and ultimately can affect the product's success. And so, understandably, there are several things to keep in mind when planning a product launch event to ensure its success.

Determining the target audience for the event is the first step because it helps with timing, says Adrianna Giuliani, account supervisor in the brand practice at Ketchum. If the target is entertainment media, then the event can be planned closer to actual product launch; to target long-lead magazines, the launch event may have to take place anywhere from five to six months before the product hits the market.

Because journalists are inundated with invitations to product launches, being respectful of both their scheduling preferences and their time is important, says Tina Haskins Chadha, EVP at Kaplow.

One thing to avoid is a long presentation.

"There's a capacity when you're providing information at these events," says Chadha. "If you are working with at client and they want an hourlong presentation about the nuts and bolts of a particular collection, you're going to lose people at that point."

Offering media the chance to have one-on-one sessions with relevant company representatives is also important.

Aside from the attendees, one of the most important elements of an event is the venue. And Chadha says that picking that location is something that should tie into the experience of the new product and overall brand.

"The trick is starting from a big-picture level of understanding and analyzing the business goals of the company and the positioning of the product collection," she says. "The most important thing is taking an integrated approach in looking at the vision of the brand and how every sensory experience you can create at the event can speak to it."

For the recent launch of St. Ives Mineral Therapy collection, Kaplow planned a two-day event for editors at an upstate New York retreat. Attendees were treated to spa treatments, Pilates classes, and organic meals based on the ingredients of the products. The goal was to create an environment that accurately represented the brand.

Similarly, when Ketchum worked with Absolut to launch its pear-flavored vodka, the PR team decided to incorporate the launch into a broader theme: dessert cocktails. The theme carried into the team's venue choice: a New York City dessert bar.

"Adding a trend element also helps make it more newsworthy and interesting for the press," says Giuliani. "Most reporters and media outlets are the movers and shakers. They want to report on what's new and interesting. If you give them something they haven't seen before, they're that much more interested in your product. It helps position your clients [as being] on the pulse of what's going on and what's interesting."

And while celebrities are often used as the centerpiece of short-lead or "buzz" events, Alison Brod, president of Alison Brod PR, notes that their presence alone often isn't enough to garner media attention.

"There has to be an action or a reason," she says. "There has to be an interesting photo-op. [Just having] a star in front of a product isn't going to get coverage anymore."

For a recent launch event for Victoria Secret's Pink line, the agency organized the "world's largest pajama party" with celebrity host Ashlee Simpson. The event garnered a great deal of media attention, Brod notes.

While launch events should garner attention, Jeffrey Moran, senior director of corporate and brand communications for Absolut, notes that stunts aren't always the best choice when introducing a new product to the marketplace.

"You leave too much to chance," he says.

"I try to do something that is more germane to what the brand stands for. I want the editors and consumers to think about the product as it should be in its environment."

Technique tips

DO

Be mindful of the media's preferences as far as day or nighttime events

Make the event representative of the brand's attributes

Try to make the event part of a larger trend to maximize exposure and attention

DON'T

Make a lengthy presentation part of the event. You'll lose attendees' attention

Rely on a stunt to launch a product. You want to be in control of the brand's image

Count on stars to draw media. Create an interesting photo-op

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