Social media is overtaking television, promotions and email campaigns as the medium of choice for product launch marketing.
Seventy-four per cent of brand marketers prioritise social media, ahead of sales promotions (55%), email (53%), press (39%), PR coverage (39%) and television advertising (36%), according to research by agency Five by Five.
Of the 730 senior marketers questioned across the UK, US and Australia, 46% use social media to generate awareness, while social channels are also used to determine consumer preferences ahead of launching a new product (15%) and measuring success (11%).
Five by Five strategy director Michelle Mitchell argues that social media allows brands to behave in a more agile way fit for digital delivery, responding to the way technology is accelerating the pace of launch.
Pernod Ricard unveiled its Pineapple Malibu variant among millennials by becoming the first UK alcohol brand to run a sponsored Snapchat ‘lens’, turning users’ faces into large pineapples following a sip of Malibu Piña Colada.
“Social is a core channel for all of our brands to drive engagement with our audience, especially during product launches, where we use social to drive buzz alongside more traditional channels,” explains Patrick Venning, Pernod Ricard UK marketing director.
Social listening for product development is being implemented by 64% of marketers, according to the Five by Five research. When launching Malibu Pineapple and Strawberry Kiwi, Pernod Ricard used social listening to recruit Twitter and Instagram advocates to its ‘Malibu Squad’.
Although TV advertising still proves effective for GSK Consumer Healthcare, northern Europe marketing director Anna Hale recognises that consumers are digesting media in a more fragmented way.
“We are, therefore, evolving our approach to ensure that it is multichannel and media-neutral from the outset, so that we can truly deliver the right message,” she adds.
“We have to be quicker to take advantage of consumer trends, however we are typically given less time to demonstrate success.
Patrick Venning, Pernod Ricard UK
Lucozade Ribena Suntory marketing director Jon Evans appreciates the role social media has to play, but believes media should be determined by the campaign objectives.
“We launched Lucozade Sport’s ‘Made to Move’ campaign on TV very effectively, but since our objective is to get more people moving we supported this with a series of ‘Made to Move sessions’, which have been live streamed via Facebook to more than 160,000 people,” explains Evans.
Shrinking time scales
The period from idea to product launch has shrunk over the past five years, according to 81% of marketers surveyed. Forty per cent have four to six months to plan a product launch, with 25% working just two to three months in advance. Only 6% of respondents spend 11 to 18 months in the planning stage.
As timescales shrink, social media is helping brands gain real-time insight to make decisions faster, says Venning. “We have to be quicker to take advantage of consumer trends, however we are typically given less time to demonstrate that the launch is a success, so that means we have to be confident of what we are proposing to our customers.”
According to Evans at Lucozade Ribena Suntory, technology is accelerating the development phase, allowing products to be launched faster and with a greater degree of customisation.
“New online tools have also made it easier to conduct extensive market research far quicker, allowing marketers to achieve rapid feedback and bring the right product to market sooner,” he adds.
Emma Kerswell, head of marketing at clothing brand Seasalt, believes that the rush to get products on shelves should not prevent marketers ensuring every detail is considered.
“We work alongside our product teams from the beginning to make sure our content and creative campaigns are developed at the same time. It’s important that every little detail is covered from naming of products to what label they may have, so we develop our plans in advance to ensure every channel is supported,” adds Kerswell.
Bold and brave
The shift driven by social media and the rise of disruptive brands has rewritten the brand-audience relationships, which could account for the fact 72% of marketers believe product launch marketing is braver than ever.
“The creative ideas are driven by our audience behaviour and insight – they are essentially setting the terms of service, which is why we need bold, creative ideas,” explains Venning, adding that often the best ideas are the ones that make us most uncomfortable.
In Evans’s opinion, marketers have always been brave but now businesses are fostering an entrepreneurial mentality. “Perhaps what has changed recently is that there is more support for the entrepreneurs in an organisation as businesses recognise the need to adapt to changes in the marketplace,” he says.
Five by Five’s Mitchell sees creative, disruptive ideas becoming more commonplace. “People are coming to realise that taking risks makes more sense and the old norms have been broken.”
This is true among millennial consumers, says GSK’s Hale, arguing that they do not want brands to play it safe. “This means brands need to closely identify with their consumers and the way that they lead their lives before developing their campaigns to ensure that they truly resonate.”
Sometimes having the constraint of a small budget forces you to be much more focused.
Jon Evans, Lucozade Ribena Suntory
For Seasalt’s Kerswell, the proliferation of ‘new’ products means marketers need to stay ahead of the game creatively in order to drive engagement. “That usually means exploring a new media or concepts to keep everything exciting, but this does not always have to cost more if brands are clever with their assets and launch plans.”
Cost is a concern for 63% of respondents in the Five by Five study, who agree that product launches are more expensive than ever. However, Evans argues that a big budget is not always necessary to get a new product to market successfully.
“In fact, I think that sometimes having the constraint of a small budget forces you to be much more focused. Earlier this year, for example, we launched Merchant’s Heart, a premium tonic water brand, and have a dedicated team that is focused only on the UK’s best bars and restaurants.”
Compared to marketing an established product, 80% of respondents see product launch marketing as ‘completely different’. Tactics should, therefore, change according to where you are in the brand lifecycle.
“For a brand extension, such as Lucozade Zero, this may be focused around making as many people aware of it as possible,” Evans adds.
“However, for a brand line that has been reintroduced to the UK market, such as Orangina, sampling becomes more central to the marketing efforts, as you need to remind people how great the product tasted.”
Mitchell urges marketers to launch a product from the inside out, thinking about launch marketing as a separate discipline that needs the attention of a project manager, coordinating a team with skills across the business.