The Consumer Electronics Show – now in full swing – is arguably the largest global platform for new product launches. The parade of fresh, innovative and exciting is virtually endless. But for most, it will not end well.
It is critically important to acknowledge that on any given day, anything can and likely will happen, sometimes to your advantage and sometimes not. The new product no one expected to take off actually rockets to success, while the one that looked to have the most potential never got off the Launchpad. And the explanation for these unexpected outcomes will rarely if ever be revealed. But for most new products, the stuff that happens usually happens for a reason… and this article is about those reasons.
The Drivers of success and Failure
There are five key factors that generally contribute to a new product’s success or failure. Only one is often enough for some measure of achievement, but the more, the better.
- Brand Popularity: Not just how well-known, but how popular is the brand launching the new product? If you are Apple or Amazon or Coca-Cola, it is almost impossible (almost) to not have a successful new product launch based on brand popularity alone. Conversely, if you are an unknown brand – or worse, an unpopular brand (like Uber) – even the best product can fail. New products from new companies have an uphill battle, while new products from established and popular companies have an edge.
- Product Innovation: There are two considerations here – how innovative is the new product and how relevant is this innovation? Lyft was a brilliant and clever idea that resonated with virtually everyone; that is a home run. On the flipside, products that are not innovative and are not desirable, even when they come with a popular brand name will flop with a thud (e.g., the ill-fated Facebook Home).
- Sex/Cool Appeal: So no one knows your brand and your product is not really that innovative, but it is sexy as hell… can it sell? Successes like Method Products and The Honest Company would point to “yes” as the obvious answer. If your new product is cool enough – more interesting than innovative – the marketplace will take notice. And if it delivers as promised, that initial observation will turn to sales. Ask Billy Mays, who built a career making products look cool and sexy.
- Timing: Calculating the right time to bring a new product to market can help to make or break it. Reaching the marketplace when it is most likely to be interested in trialing the product is key – time of the year, day of the week, time of the day… these are all important considerations that can make the difference between winning and losing. Being too early or too late to market can create huge obstacles. It is a dance and rhythm is important.
- Financial Support: How much money are you putting behind the product launch? One need watch only one episode of Shark Tank to understand how important it is to support new products in the marketplace. For every story of the little engine that could – going viral after a single blog post or YouTube video – there are hundreds of stories of products that required strategic and significant marketing spends to build awareness and trial and momentum. You can’t buy success, but you can achieve failure by not spending.
Clearly there are many other factors that can and will contribute to success and failure of a new product launch, but these basic influences are the most common and the easiest to both identify and address.
Magnifying Strengths and Overcoming Weaknesses
Marketing strategy and creative planning matter.
Depending upon your new product launch situation, each of these factors are either opportunities or challenges that need to be addressed. The key is to work your assets and minimize your deficits.
So if your new product is not innovative and your company is not a popular brand, what can you do? If you have enough time before you go to market, you can do a great deal. With the support of traditional and digital marketing, you can begin to build brand awareness before the product launch. Publicity, advertising, direct marketing, social media, influencer marketing, events and related product launch strategies can help you establish a foundation that will be beneficial to your efforts. You can also work to emphasize the product’s cool/sexy factor by establishing need in the marketplace for your yet-to-be announced product, creating a need. You can also orchestrate the timing of your launch to maximize impact.
In short, marketing can help to change the dynamic at play and move the odds for success in your favor.