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August 22, 2017

by Luisa Robertson



​A recurring theme we hear from our clients around the world, is the growing challenge of a need for more targeted NPD to appeal to an increasingly ‘Millennial’ audience requiring a purpose driven, story led brand.


Targeting is essential to drive connection and consumer engagement in a saturated market place, but taking a targeted approach inevitably means restricting breadth of appeal and as a result ideas they know have potential fail the ubiquitous BASES test.

Our clients recognize that this is wrong, and are frustrated at their inability to ‘break the NPD rules’*. Increasingly this is being compounded by the application of the ‘How Brands Grow’ (Ehrenberg Bass) philosophy, extolling the virtues of appealing to the masses, with an emphasis on maximizing physical and mental availability.

* In fact, to overcome this, many large CPG manufacturers are breaking their own rules, and using internal incubation teams, or external product development consultancies to create ‘different’ products outside of their traditional stage-gate processes.

On the back of the Ehrenberg Bass philosophy we’ve heard push back on the role of segmentation in NPD, in favor of a more generalist approach to product development. We’re not arguing with the premise that the way to sell more products is to get more people to buy them – that makes perfect sense! Indeed, ‘targeted’ products often start life by developing strong repeat custom, but those that go on to be successful nearly always manage to break-out from their initial niche into wider, if not mainstream, appeal (think Kettle Chips, Red Bull, Fever Tree etc). Our view though, is that a blanket adherence to How Brands Grow thinking is risking lazy marketing - meaning opportunities for strong, targeted products are being missed. 

Image result for fever treeA brand like Fever Tree (as an example) is unlikely to have been more successful by aiming for mainstream appeal from the off (when it would invariably have become a poor man’s Schweppes), its success is based on having a proposition that a core group of people really buy into, leveraging this single-mindedly, and gradually growing out from there. Absolutely, in the end it’s about more people buying the product, but first you accept that to achieve long-term success you need to allow the brand time to develop, nurture its positioning and develop the loyal, committed consumers who act as the driving force for growth.


Good research should give a clear indication on how to target NPD to maximise initial impact, and also clearly show the potential for layer two and three demand to be opened-up, reaching out to a broader audience as the brand gets established.


It’s an ‘onion layer’ approach, where research needs to help identify the ideal target audience (often based on attitudes, behavior or the meaning desired from a product category, rather than demographics), ensure this is sufficient in size to support an initial launch, and then work tirelessly to ensure everything about the proposition, brand, advertising, packaging and, importantly, product are consonant, ensuring the sum of the whole is greater than its parts, and in turn creating an holistic experience for the consumer. We call this Sensory Branding. Good research should give a clear indication on how to target NPD to maximise initial impact, and also clearly show the potential for layer two and three demand to be opened-up, reaching out to a broader audience as the brand gets established.

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Whilst we appreciate the How Brands Grow philosophy is more nuanced than this, when applied in a less subtle way, it’s really the equivalent of saying you’re more likely to win the Champions League if you can afford to buy Neymar and Ronaldo – true, but how many can afford that sort of expenditure on a product launch these days? In most mature markets the potential for blockbuster launches is hugely diminished, the obvious gaps are filled, and the successful brands of tomorrow will invariably come about by identifying a viable, tightly defined need and executing brilliantly against this. Old school ways of evaluating likely success won’t be effective, and organizations need the confidence to move on and allow the freedom to create new products unconstrained by the requirement to appeal to the masses. If you design an ice cream to appeal as broadly as possible, you’ll get to vanilla pretty quickly, but does the world need another vanilla ice cream?

Luisa Robertson is Future Focus Director at MMR Research Worldwide