The Do's and Don'ts of Launching a Product

One of the most critical, yet under investigated, components of the new product development and marketing process is the product launch phase. That's according to the findings of the Schneider/Boston University New Product Launch Report, a just completed study of 100 consumer product launches.

The research was a collaborative effort conducted over a two-year period by Boston University's Communication Research Center and Schneider & Associates, a marketing services and public relations firm specializing in consumer product launches. The study reveals substantial differences in the product launch activities of highly successful market introductions versus less successful product debuts.

The report finds that to be successful a product launch must be a planned, thoughtfully executed, and closely managed phase separate from other new product development activities, not just a calendar date. While only 42% of respondents reported their company had a distinct product launch phase, the report finds that 62% of highly successful product launches studied had more definitive stages than less successful launches (35%).

According to the report, brand managers and not senior executives, are critical to launch success. Out of three types of launch leaders, the study indicates that Brand/Product Managers should run the launch phase, not the CEO. When Brand/Product Managers were in charge of launch, the launches were highly successful 84% of the time. However, when CEOs/Presidents or Marketing VPs managed the launch, the launches were less successful 65-70% of the time.

Additionally, the report states that consumer-focused spending spells success. Rather than spending money on trade campaigns, companies with highly successful products spent 78% of their marketing dollars on consumer-related activities. According to respondents, consumer-oriented activities including advertising (51%), promotions (44%) and merchandising (43%) provided the greatest return on investment.

The report also suggests companies should spend money on products that are new. Products entirely new to a company that feature major technological breakthroughs are four times more likely to succeed. Of the highly successful products studied, 63% were entirely new to the organization, 26% were category extensions, 8% were re-introductions and 4% were line extensions.

And last but not least, timing is not everything. 70% of companies surveyed reported experiencing at least one timing delay in their product launch. While the number of delays in product launch does not appear to affect the product's success rate, respondents communicated the importance of being flexible when confronting these delays.

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