Public relations: product launch – the devil’s in the detail


Following on from Part 1 of creating your product launch, the key thing to keep at the forefront of your mind is the customer – the launch is all about them.

A very common mistake is not asking for customer views and opinions. Some assumptions about your audiences may be well-founded but it’s essential to keep in close touch with changing trends in your product category and to monitor how customers are responding to these.

Undertaking both secondary and primary market research will be a sound investment of time and budget. Testing branding and messages on future customers is essential in the development of any product. If you have a limited marketing budget, there are some excellent online services, such as Survey Monkey, which are free, though you will need to have access to a database of respondents.

You can go beyond this and conduct wider market research through quantitative and qualitative research using omnibus, tailored surveys or focus groups of prospective customers. You can even film the reaction of potential customers to your new product and that of competitors, which will help you decide how best to promote your new product.

Social Media Outreach
Once the launch concept and messaging are buttoned down, consider communicating out about the product through social media. It might feel too early, but many companies now incorporate Facebook and/or Twitter into their decision-making at the embryonic stage, asking followers to give feedback on certain branding elements or invite them to enter competitions where the best entry becomes integral to the branding or product launch. Audience participation is integrated at the outset, fostering relationships with future customers.

Facebook and Twitter are ideal forums for companies to engage with their audiences and it’s important to develop a relationship with followers if you want to gain their support in product testing.

Va Va Voom
It’s easy to see how the Renault Clio ads in which Thierry Henry tried to define the concept of va va voom could be played out online, with customers all contributing definitions by text, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. The va va voom series was so popular that it gained entry in the 2004 Oxford English Dictionary.

Getting up close and personal with your customer base can be daunting (after all, you can’t control what they are going to say) but their feedback will influence others whether you seek it out or not so it’s better to lead the way! As we see from sites like TripAdvisor, Amazon and eBay, virtually all products online contain customer reviews or ratings and these influence whether other shoppers proceed to the check-out or literally check out of the site.

Product launches require exposure through different media – traditional print and broadcast as well as online coverage be that editorial or social tools including videocasts, podcasts and blogs. This element requires a clearly thought out launch plan that takes into account the lead times of different titles. You need to plan briefings to long lead time media such as monthly magazines versus instant online coverage.

Some Tactics
A range of exciting and creative concepts could be deployed to launch a new weight loss programme – promotional activity could include:

  • Endorsement by respected dietician(s)
  • The in-depth market research which demonstrate product efficacy as well as the consumer market research that demonstrates demand for the product
  • A launch stunt – a well-executed stunt can ‘tip the scales’ when it comes to getting the word out, as any member of Fathers for Justice would tell you! The danger lies in being too gimmicky. You must strike the right balance between sensationalism and confident/fun promotion that captures attention
  • Customer testimonials taken as part of the development process, showing the effectiveness of the programme – this could traditional formats as well as films and video diaries
  • Consumer trials and case studies
  • Media reviews of the product
  • Promotions and competitions to stimulate engagement and trial

This is just a taster menu. The most important thing is to think “customer, customer, customer” and demonstrate how your product or service will enhance their life.

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