Expert Corner: Product Launches Sink or Swim Based on Product Education
By Bobby Johnson
June 14, 2023
By Bobby Johnson
June 14, 2023
A product launch is one of the most dangerous times for any brand. A new brand knows this well enough: a good launch is the only thing keeping the new brand viable. One slip and it’s over. But even established brands have felt the keen sting of a launch that went sideways.
We spoke with experts in their fields, storied veterans and up-and-coming firebrands alike, people who’ve been on every side of product launches.
We asked them a few simple questions:
Some of our experts deal directly with consumers, and some work educating brand partners and brand ambassadors. But what we learned, primarily, is that good product education is indispensable.
“The strategy for launching a new product or brand for an existing company has to heavily rely on allowing the new product to speak for itself. It can’t count on the success of its brother and sister brands.” – Alexa Sorensen, Client Engagement Executive, Inspira Marketing Group
We’ve all had this experience: we see a commercial for a new product and we say “…why?” What possible use would I have for that? What kind of silly person buys that?
We’re cynical creatures by nature. It’s probably programmed in so we don’t just eat every colorful berry we find. Product education is the antidote to this natural predilection to dismiss what we don’t know or understand.
“In reality, you’re not selling the product. You’re selling the education of the product. The more transparent you are with what goes into the production process the more trust you gain from the consumer. The product sale is the outcome of selling the education. Our job is to build lasting relationships through honest education.” – Phil Fortunato, Hospitality Manager at Inspira Marketing Group
Basically, the education IS the product. Making a case for the product’s existence is steps 1-5 for any product launch. It’s the one shining moment to make a first impression, to turn a cynic into a buyer with a few choice words.
“We do in-store events with our reps from different brands, which is always helpful to explain what sets one product apart from another, or why it’s worth upgrading to a more expensive thing. Our most common product education happens right in the fitting room of our store.” – Stacia O’Sullivan, Owner, Underpinnings Lingerie
Product education can happen anywhere consumers are. But how do we make this content, and where do we reach those consumers?
So, we get it, we’re convinced: product education is important. Vital. Paramount, even, if you’re reaching for your thesaurus. But how do the experts do it?
Primarily, they think of product education as a story.
Storytelling creates that emotional connection between brand and consumer. We love stories. Stories help us understand the world, they give faces and names to ideas. But how do we tell stories? We introduce a villain. Or, more generally, conflict. Every story needs conflict, it needs a problem.
In the case of product education, why does this product exist? Why would anyone ever need it? What problem is being solved? There’s your antagonist, your bad guy. Then, you think about what benefit your product is to the consumer. That’s your protagonist, your hero: your product.
For Underpinning Lingerie, the antagonist is pain and discomfort, and the hero is a little knowledge delivered right when they need it.
“We do outreach and education through the media and via doctors’ offices. We work with doctors via handouts given to patients who’ve just had an operation like mastectomy, breast reduction, lifts, augmentation, or lumpectomies. Or even just recommendations for people with back or neck pain, problems a lot of people can solve in an hour of shopping/fitting and hundred bucks. It’s a great labor of love for us but really rewarding.” – Stacia O’Sullivan, Underpinnings Lingerie
Now that we have a villain and a hero to give him what for, we need to actually tell the story. We need content. Content can be newsletters, ads, infographics, flyers, brochures, or guided hands-on experience at an event. It can be a short reel from an influencer or an explainer video on your YouTube page.
For example, Guinness provides their brand ambassadors with videos to ensure their beer is being delivered, poured, and enjoyed to the brand’s standards. Some of these videos are suited more to bartenders and distributors, but the one below is helpful for anyone who’s bought a can of Guinness.
But the real and most candid reason product education has to be your primary concern? Product launches are rough. Product education sands down those jagged edges.
According to our experts–and anyone who’s ever launched a new product or extended a product line–launches are difficult, they’re risky, and they are not for the faint of heart. But what makes them so hard, and how does product education smooth the way?
“The only way to successfully launch a product or a product line is for all of the stars to align. What I mean is, brands have to exert as much pressure against their target at every possible touchpoint.” – Ross Cooper, Senior Integrated Strategist, Inspira Marketing Group
Basically, product launches should come with a salvo of education that hits every section of the target audience everywhere they live. Launches and the education to sell the product have to arrive through a powerful multi-channel campaign, not just in marketing but in logistics and distribution. So yeah, a full-court press of social media, print, email marketing, TV ads, and video content is necessary, but the distribution has to match the messaging. Literally, is your money where your mouth is?
The product has to be on the shelves the second the consumer becomes aware of it. All that educational content is a complete waste of time if the consumer can’t be convinced by it and then immediately turn around and get it.
“With most product launches that struggle, there’s just too much competitive noise. It’s often impossible to break through. That’s why you have to concentrate your effort. If you spend 10 million dollars of your ad and education budget over six months, you’re just not gonna get as much impact as if you’d done it over 4-6 weeks.” – Ross Cooper, Senior Integrated Strategist
“Everywhere all at once” should be your go-to phrase for marketing your product launch (it’s also a great movie). And, second to that, your multi-channel approach should happen in a small, surgical window to get the most attention.
It takes a lot of leg muscles get your head above the sea of competitors, so don’t skip leg day. How’s that for a mixed metaphor?
“One of the most effective methods of product education is leveraging the different audiences and best practices per platform.” – Alexa Sorensen, Client Engagement Executive
What does that mean? It means the educational materials needed to make a product launch work have to be tailored to your content channel. Creating a three-minute explainer video and then just mass-posting it on all of your accounts isn’t going to work.
Instagram is going to need a different educational strategy than your newsletter, which is going to be completely different from printed material or a demonstration at a convention.
Knowing the best practices of every channel takes a lot of experience, and customizing strategy to fit can be daunting. If you’re looking for help with your product launch and/or your product education, reach out to Inspira Marketing today.
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