Rethinking the Product Launch

Virtual, Video & Content Marketing

Launching a product in a pandemic? They definitely didn’t cover that in b-school. We’re forging our own path now and in the future, MBA students will be looking to the marketers of 2020 for guidance.

So let’s show them how it’s done, shall we?

We’re not starting completely from scratch. There have been times when the tenor of the day gave marketers pause or set up real barriers.

Certainly September 2001 comes to mind. Companies weighed the appropriateness of marketing in general either because their customer base would not be paying attention or it risked being tone deaf given the tragedy. They proceeded with caution.  

Today, a product launch needs to pass those same tests.  But if its release has relevance and doesn’t clash with the mood of the country, there is one more hurdle.

Launch events (both internal and external) and field marketing are tried and true tools in the product release playbook. In fact, they are the highlight of many conferences.

But what about when those face-to-face events can’t happen?

Well, there are three powerful tools left in that playbook. Working together, this triple play provides a winning combination.

Virtual Event

Even as restrictions lift, user conferences, tradeshows, national sales meetings won’t be happening anytime soon. However, a product launch can still be an event.

In fact, the company that made product launches famous – Apple – has announced its Worldwide Developer Conference would be held on June 22nd entirely online.  

Whether it is part of a bigger program or a special event of its own, unveiling a product is a powerful hook. Think about creating a broadcast that gives the product context, brings in experts, highlights beta customers, and provides incentives for attending and sharing.  

Video & VR

Social media has become a cornerstone of product promotion. The number one engagement tool on LinkedIn, the platform of preference for marketers, is video. From a LinkedIn Live video Q&A to a product teaser reel, there are many ways to use motion graphics to move customers to action.

You can also step it up with virtual reality, like running shoe brand Asics. The company had planned a major launch of three new shoes, including a large scale, in-person event for fans and journalists. Gartner described what they called an unconventional approach that could become the new standard for product promotion in the future: 

The brand created a virtual reality experience, complete with a holographic showroom and 360-degree close-ups of the shoes. For the launch, Asics sent VR headsets to a group of journalists around the world…. Viewers logging into the showroom could see a short video detailing the brand’s history before learning about [the] shoes. As each shoe debuted, users were asked to participate in a short series of games to further highlight each shoe’s unique components.”

If that can work for a show, imagine how effective it would be for a complex piece of capital equipment.  

Content Marketing

In times of uncertainty, customers are looking for trusted information and value. A comprehensive content strategy built around a product launch provides an opportunity for longer engagement and a more receptive audience. 

For example, you can begin with content, such as an infographic or article, that sets up the problem the product will resolve. During the launch, you can provide supporting content such as explainer videos, white papers, and e-books. Following launch, the value continues with use cases and feedback forums. These pieces can be shared as part an account-based marketing program, across social media, or in the sales team arsenal. 

If you want to go even further, you can take a page out of the launch playbook from U.K. energy drinks company Tenzing.

The company planned a splashy launch complete with billboards, transit ads, and handing out products to the public – none of which would work in a quarantine. So they pivoted by providing a fitness app that people could use to track their exercise for seven days to be rewarded with a free drink. That’s a new twist on classic content marketing – giving something of value in exchange for a customer’s attention.  

A product launch is always a significant and often times daunting endeavor for any company. Doing so now feels even more challenging. But with virtual, video, and content marketing, marketers are finding new – perhaps better – ways to connect with customers.