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The secret of successful market launches: Passion!

posted Jan 20, 2015, 6:07 AM by Julien Pillot

In the age of Internet and overconnectivity, traditional marketing mix models appear increasingly inadequate to reveal the secret of successful product launches. What about passion?

"The Force is with you on #BlackFriday when #TheForceAwakens teaser hits @iTunesTrailers". 

This was the tweet (dated November 26) dedicated to all Star Wars fans following the official information feed. It should be said that the 7th opus of the Skywalker’s family galactic adventures – expected by the end of 2015 – provokes so much impatience than the introduction of a new Apple product. Aficionados made no mistake: viewed more than 100 million times in less than 10 days, the present trailer is nothing less than the most watched trailer of all time.

This is, for sure, a nice marketing ploy by Disney and Lucasfilm teams, able to turn the release of a simple trailer into a worldwide event. Upon closer inspection, such passionate and successful market launches reveal a major strategic dimension still denied by most of the traditional marketing mix models.

In essence, rollout strategies are of high importance for firms. Indeed, the long term market potential of many products and services is often revealed after the first few weeks of commercialization. When a new product quickly finds its public, not only are previous R&D choices validated, but reasonable return on investment becomes plausible. Yet it is precisely these returns which allows firms to reduce the sales price, yesterday’s novelty becoming progressively a commodity on which it is worth to capitalize on the long run through regular incremental innovations.

But then, what is the secret of successful product launches? Obviously, there is no single / right answer to such a question since every product and business is subject to its own (quickly or slowly) market penetration cycle. Let’s mention, for instance, electric vehicles. Despite few units sold in Europe, it would be probably short-sighted to present the Renault Zoe as a commercial flop. Indeed, making the electric vehicle a credible market standard engages car manufacturers in a race analogous to a marathon, not a sprint. In this particular case, promoting the product (e.g. creating the product awareness) and letting drivers try it on a larger scale, is already an effective rollout strategy. Because, car manufacturers are aware that only the prescription effect (on the long run) and policy incentives are likely to ensure favorable conditions to a true paradigm shift.  

The situation is clearly different for innovative products dedicated to the mass market and characterized by rapid obsolescence. Far more than on any other market, undertakings must prove capable of ingenious and inspired orchestration of their product launches. That can be achieved only by the development of a strategic multi-channel communication plan, specially adapted to the forthcoming product. However, the logic behind the enthusiasm and the excitement flowing from the announcement of a new version of the iPhone often exceeds the framework of traditional marketing mix models.

In such a context, the McCarthy 4P’s classification (Product / Price / Promotion / Place) – still too widely delivered in its most basic form in Universities and Business Schools – seem inopportune to take proper account of the actual reality (and complexity) of medias. One might argue that the model comprises a “Promotion” category (which encompasses, in a nutshell, elements such as sales organization and promotion, advertising, public relations, etc.), but in our view, it would be unwise to assess the potential effectiveness of a market launches by this sole yardstick. Admittedly, Promotion is an important element of rollout strategies, especially when the innovator embraces the new information technologies and networks such as media non-media channels, street marketing, webseries, and other viral and social marketing plans.

Nevertheless, the secret of a successful launch cannot lies in the sole firm’s capacity to over-communicate, because otherwise history would not be littered by such major failures than the Microsoft’s Zune, the France Telecom’s Bi-Bop or the Renault’s Twizy. A huge range of products ill-suited to the needs of their times, swiftly outmoded by competing offers… despite vocal promotional campaigns and the high credibility and prestige of the abovementioned brands.

That’s why we argue for the addition of a brand new « P » to the McCarthy’s classification: the “P” for “Passion”. In the area of experience marketing, the customer 2.0 is more than ever in search of meaning as recent history shows: from Beats to Apple, including Mercedes, brands used to success in launching new products are precisely the ones able to write their own legend and to tell consumers a great story. Such impassioned consumers are then ready to accompany the new product, from the teaser to the official release and beyond, and to become the front-line ambassadors of the brand…  In a word, innovative firms should remember Fredriech Hegel words: “nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion”.

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Article on lesechos.fr