As surely as actors under the tutelage of the late Lee Strasberg had to evoke a strong "sense memory" to make an impact, products need to be able to evoke a good brand memory in consumers to make it off shelves. That is especially true now, when cash is not bursting out of corporate marketing tills--meaning that there is less money to build awareness, consideration, and to generally support whatever brand iconography an agency has worked to create.
Some brands have a leg up, and Chicago-based consultancy Mintel knows which they are. The firm has completed its Seventh Annual Most Memorable New Product Launch Survey, conducted by Schneider Associates. The online survey, conducted in September, tapped 1,000 respondents ages 18 and over.
First the bad news. This was a terrible year for brand-building. Terrible. Rising food and gasoline prices, unemployment, the mortgage meltdown, and the political campaigns took up most of the room in consumers' cognitions. A full 69% of survey respondents could not remember a single new product launched this year, per Mintel. Only 22% of respondents remembered the most memorable new product of 2008, the Wii Fit.
The firm says that for the second year in a row, technology products topped the list of most memorable launches. The iPod Touch was No. 2 after the Wii Fit, and MacBook Air and Rock Band were among the year's Top 10 most memorable launches.
Lynn Dornblaser, director of Trend Insight at Mintel, says the "memorability" of a new product involves a mélange of product innovation, campaign, and parent brand equity. Surprisingly, she says, it's the latter parameter that has the most impact.
Fifteen percent of respondents recalled the Bud Light Lime launch, making it the third-most-recalled launch. After Bud Lite Lime came McDonald's Southern Style Chicken Biscuit & Sandwich (14%); Kraft Mac & Cheese Crackers (13%); KY Yours + Mine Couples Lubricant (12%); Gatorade G2, Yoplait Fiber One (11% of respondents recalled them); MacBook Air, Rock Band, Burger King Apple Fries, Neosporin Neo To Go!, and Kraft Bagel-fuls (all tied with 8%).
"Far and away, the greatest number of respondents said it's a trusted brand name, even with technology products," she says. Which means that to a certain extent, Apple, Nintendo, or Bud Lite names, for example, exerted as much force as the iPod, Wii, or Bud Lite products and SKUs.
She said the lesson for this economy is that marketers should not sacrifice brand equity to deals, coupons and other immediate-sales messages. "One of the things that we talk about is that in times of recession, so many companies will cut back on product and promotional innovation--but this is exactly the time when that is the last thing they should be doing," she says.
"They should keep upping their game; they have to keep the products in front of peoples' minds."