In consumer public relations, we often build our annual plans around new product launches and all of the buzz – and sales – they will bring. While every new product is different, here are a few tried and true tips to make the most of any product launch campaign.
1. Plan ahead. Ideally, the PR team can start planning for a product launch about a year in advance. Not all details have to be confirmed at this point – retailers, pricing, even launch date may still be up in the air – but this timeline will provide enough time to develop strategy, understand the audience, and brainstorm the creative elements needed to give the launch the attention it needs. If monthly consumer magazines are part of the editorial strategy, outreach to contributors will need to start four to six months ahead of launch, and media events and behind-the-scenes intros should happen at about the same time.
2. Get “hands on” product experience. We make sure that teams see, touch and try every product we launch. In the past, you could find our teams in the hallway assembling and trying a new vacuum, out on Michigan Avenue in a blizzard testing a new snow blower or at home making recipes with new frozen mashed cauliflower. These experiences allow us to craft pitches that cut through the clutter and describe – in users’ terms – what makes a product special. We also are able to more effectively brainstorm story angles for media and answer their detailed questions about our new product.
3. Know the competition. To pitch a product successfully, it’s essential to understand what makes it new and special versus other options in the marketplace. For us, this means more than just a series of Google searches. Retail visits are great to get insight into the entire category, and trade show tours provide a valuable “what’s next” viewpoint. And yes – social media and media reviews are a must for truly understanding a new product category.
4. Build online buzz. From a “countdown” clock on the website to teaser photos strategically released in the weeks and days leading up to a launch, there are many ways to use websites and social media to pique customers’ interest about an upcoming product introduction. Additionally, advanced product seeding can ensure that the moment a product is available, it has a corps of third-party influencers vouching for it.
5. Keep momentum going. Rome wasn’t built in a day – and product launches aren’t done in a day, either. In fact, a successful launch campaign will build interest throughout the year – starting first with the “news” of the new product and transitioning into lifestyle benefits of how the product is being used and enjoyed. Seasonal storylines and key selling periods, like spring cleaning, back-to-school or holiday gift giving, provide ample opportunities to continue talking about products long after they are first launched.