What running through four miles of porridge teaches you about launch marketing

Too many businesses and start-ups approach launch marketing in the same manner they view regular marketing. This is a mistake, argues Martin Flavin.

Launching a new product might seem like it fits within your typical marketing programme. But it’s exactly this type of thinking that has led to 40 per cent of launches failing. The Five by Five Global 2017 Launch Marketing Report, which surveyed 720 senior marketers, highlights that 80 per cent believe the type of marketing required for launch is distinct from day-to-day marketing.

So if you can’t approach launches with your general marketing thinking cap on, how should you approach them?

Think of it like the difference between road running and cross country. Road running, like typical marketing, takes a long-term view. You have a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into before you start warming up. If you’re running a road route you’ve run for ages, there are no surprises, nothing you need to recalibrate for. Just like in day-to-day marketing comms, you have a system, a process and an expected outcome – and you execute.

But launch marketing, like cross-country, is different. It’s shorter, but feels longer, because it’s more chaotic and demanding on a minute-by-minute basis.

You can easily trot through four miles on road, but on rough terrain it feels like the longest run ever. That’s because you’re constantly thinking and expending energy. You can’t find your pace, because it’s always changing. Launches are the same. The launch date doesn’t change, but everything’s truncated. Instead of everything happening in a predictable, sequential way, there are often many things happening at once. There’s zero opportunity for auto-pilot because everything’s new. A two-week launch takes as much energy as a six month marketing campaign.

Launch hurdles

For example, at Five by Five we helped relaunch Adidas Body Spray to young males around the 2014 FIFA World Cup. We created ‘One Shot’, an epic experiential campaign featuring a hyper-real, high pressure underground arena where four challengers competed in a penalty shoot-out for the ultimate football experience to Brazil.

Before the campaign launched there were a number of unforeseen hurdles to navigate, from the terminology used around the World Cup itself and the brand ambassadors we could include, to the branded football equipment that could be featured. Not to mention having to Astroturf a disused theatre at the 11th hour. There were many things happening at once and we were negotiating new challenges we had never experienced before.

The journey was more demanding and more unpredictable than the day-to-day marketing activity we usually delivered for the brand. It required a certain agility to jump over the hurdles and successfully make it to the finish line.

And like cross-country, you need special kit for launches.

You might smirk to yourself when you see fellow runners line up with serious-looking trail shoes and weird socks. That smirk is wiped off your face when you hit your first bog. While your fellow runners power through, your ill-prepared trainers rapidly fill with what feels like cold, lumpy porridge. You then have to run up a hill in your new porridge shoes.

Be operationally solid

Launches are short, sharp bursts of activity, often with crazy deadlines. You need to be operationally solid. You need the marketing equivalent of trail shoes; infrastructure and tools that mean you can keep delivering when you hit a bog or a pond. If you’re not robust when it hits the fan, panic sets in, rigour goes out the window and expensive mistakes are made. We like to think the combination of our battle-hardened producers and Launch CTRL, our service for creating and delivering large-scale, multi spec advertising campaigns, mean that we can deliver a launch in the middle of an alien apocalypse if necessary.

If you get launch marketing right, you can utilise these challenges to your advantage. Get the right kit, prepare correctly and you will skip across the bogs and find opportunities that propel you ahead of your competitors. Launching is an art and deserves to be treated as an individual entity, rather than being shoehorned in with other campaigns and suffering as a result. Once you understand this, you’ll win the race.

Martin Flavin is creative director at Five by Five Global.

Further reading on marketing

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

Related Topics

Launching a new product

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