Brand Strategy

Re-launching launch strategy: a new playbook for a new ‘normal’

In the wake of Covid-19 what once was launch strategy ‘best practice’ no longer applies, not today and likely not ever again.

Accelerate Your Brand or Product Launch in Canada

Across our 30 years in business, our agency has helped 100s of brands launch in Canada. New clients come to us (and existing clients return), confident that our experience and expertise will help guide and inform their launch ambition and vision. The expectation is that we will develop a plan that makes a brand’s first impression a great one, and that we can sustain that impression for the longer-term.

The fact of the matter is, in the wake of Covid-19 what once was launch strategy ‘best practice’ no longer applies, not today and likely not ever again. As marketers, we’re definitely navigating unchartered waters and there isn’t an easy answer when it comes to how to introduce a brand or launch a new product during this time.

For a number of our food clients, the cancellation of Natural Products Expo West, the perfect platform to launch and showcase new products, was the turning point for brands to consider whether to delay launches or stay the course. In both scenarios, a large part of the decision was where they were in the pre-launch stage when this virus became a reality.

If a client has contemplated postponing, it’s been important that we help them consider how that decision impacts results and evaluate if it’s worth the risk. For clients still launching as planned, it’s been about helping them ascertain what’s possible in terms of outcomes and results, which may include reimagining their launch strategy. At this point, It is all about how to minimize the challenges and barriers we’re facing while trying to uncover possible opportunities.

Often times planning for a client involves developing a strategy for the short and long-term. Right now, it’s about the short-term launch plan and then developing a number of possible longer-term scenarios of what the Canadian market might look like in 6-12 months. Definitely an exercise in planning for the unknown.

One thing we know to be true is the increasing importance of collaboration during these planning scenarios. There seems to be a comfort in numbers when giving advice and sharing points of view with our clients and their partners. The more opinions at our virtual table, the better. The feeling that we are all in this together and will no doubt figure it out together, has definitely made the onslaught of decisions easier to bare.

In the spirit of sharing, we thought it might be helpful if we shared some of the questions and considerations we’ve been posing and discussing with clients contemplating a launch in the coming months:

Product Production

Has your production been impacted by Covid-19? If your launch marketing initiatives do their job in creating demand, will you be able to meet the demands? Do you foresee any supply chain issues both short and/or longer-term? All things that need to be considered when confirming your launch date and marketing plans.

Distribution Channels

Are you relying on a specific retailer or customer partnership to enable access or awareness of your product at launch? In the short term, many retailers have said they’re extremely focused on just keeping the essentials in stock, rather than being worried about how a new product might make it to shelf. Our clients are in constant contact with their key customers to understand if planogram timing has changed and how that could impact their launch dates.

On the other hand, it’s a good time to capitalize on a brand’s e-commerce capabilities. Some of our clients who were focusing solely on e-commerce are tapping into the increase in on-line shopping. An investment that could definitely pay out in the long-term as direct to consumer and eCommerce evolves significantly in Canada out of necessity and a dramatic shift in behaviour.

Product Relevancy

Many of our food clients are seeing uplifts in their business particularly comfort foods, snack foods, pantry staples and better-for-you products. For a new product launching in this space, that could be good news. For products launching in other categories, it’s important to think about how relevant it is for consumers right now. Does the product fit an essential need or how does it make a consumer’s life better?

Competitive Landscape

Any sound launch plan considers the competitive landscape. However, it’s important to take a look at what those competitors are currently doing in terms of marketing, messaging and value-add for their consumers. What is the message most relevant for your brand? Many of our clients have developed products based on an authentic story or purpose. Now is the time, more than ever, when authentic and genuine stories could resonate with consumers, particularly if you make them feel like they are part of a community.

Marketing Channels

Many of our clients are focusing on channels where it’s easy and cost-effective to pivot , something we believe is critical right now. Do the channels in your launch plan allow you to communicate your key messages and POD effectively? If it’s critical for your product to be experienced by consumers then how best can you do so? (How-to videos, influencer unboxing, sampling, etc.). If you are relying on media influencers, how has the content they are currently covering changed or the format in which they are broadcasting? How might that impact your plan?

Though it’s impossible to predict the real impact of this extraordinary time, once we get through this, we’ll definitely have a new playbook that helps us in the future. A playbook that will make this generation of marketers more resilient and adaptable than ever before.

Harbinger is a Toronto-based North American marketing agency with expertise in product launches. We help brands get noticed and purchased.


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