How Launching Products Is Changing

Away luggage is an increasingly well-known success story. Fast growth. Good press. Profitable in a year.

Looking at the new wave of brand launches, it made me wonder if there were new lessons in how to bring products to market what I learned starting in the business in the 1990s. Then, it was all about the CES announcement, the press release, the TV and out-of-home push.

Naturally, the product and its value proposition to intended audiences matter most. But isn’t another factor how it shows up in market?

How product launches are changing

A framework for launching productsMAT ZUCKER, PROPHET

A few colleagues and I developed this framework to take on the challenge of what it means to launch products in an era of marketing and sales transformation. It tracks a series of horizons:

  • Announce: Blasting the news, using available channels with an emphasis on paid (advertising) and earned (press, events). Here we all have the most experience. The legacy model still works for brands; it’s just not the only route. A modern twist is to build up the following first, then make the announcement.
  • Push: With the advances in data and addressable media, we can target audiences with display, email, even paid social. This has helped build efficiencies and increase engagement.
  • Intercept: Out of home, social, mobile and the rise of search has made it easier for us to find and engage people looking for relevant things with our news, helping anticipate the audience perhaps even building them in advance to be more proactive.
  • Cultivate: The new era harnesses networks, incentives, trial, referral and peer-to-peer selling for a slower, but more profitable burn. This is a big departure from traditional big “Announce” model.

Examples that Cultivate

The Cultivate model, of course, is the most modern — and I think the most exciting. Gmail is arguably a parent of it, when Google’s free email account was a precious treasure to privately share with select friends.

Other examples:

  • Dropbox and new brands like Untuckit have built on it, driving acquisition by incentivizing referral.
  • Credit card brands often use influential blogs like The Points Guyto recommend new cards.
  • YouTube Red mixes “Announce” and “Cultivate,” letting you sample with a few free episodes of Karate Kid, an evolution from supermarket tastings because you’re already halfway locked in with your customer data.
  • Glossier takes a different route with building a loyal base with content and using it to inform their product development with an install base ready and interested at launch.
  • Nike has pivoted over the years, sometimes providing early access to new shoes if you’re a member of its community.
  • Public relations also has an increasing and shifting role in the digital age for product launches. Underwear brand Thinx, for example, was able to amplify a controversy over its NYC subway ads.

Impact in media

For a media perspective, I asked Josh Boaz, managing director of Direct Agents what shifts he sees. “We’re seeing clients invest in channels outside of search,” he said, “…closer to where consumers are discovering and researching new brands.” His example within social is Instagram Stories, which has become both an awareness and conversion driver, especially with shoppable ads. For eCommerce brands, Boaz emphasized Amazon. “In the last year we’ve seen a sharp increase in media investments with Amazon – both Amazon-sponsored listings to drive conversion, and Amazon programmatic placements to create awareness.”

All or nothing?

The first days of a new product are crucial. But in a software-driven world of betas and “soft launches” I wonder how much this is the new way or just a trend that is reshaping acquisition for more evolved enterprises. What works and what are the myths that no longer pull punches? Tweet me.