Programmed for Success

October 11, 2017By Brand Marketing, Views


by Dave Wendland, as seen in HealthCare Distributor magazine, "Out of the Box" column, September/October 2017

In past articles I have referenced pearls of wisdom shared by my late father. Feeling especially nostalgic as this marks five years since his passing, I wanted to memorialize another one of his gems.

Dad often said he was seldom impressed with manufacturers who shared features and benefits of their latest whiz-bang prod­uct; however, his ears perked up and his curiosity was piqued when suppliers began to talk about the wrap-around marketing, service, or additional “soft” features of the product. Here are a few elements to consider that can give a product idea a higher likelihood of standing out from the crowd.


Some would argue that pre-announcing the availability of a new item merely gives the competition more time to react. My belief — and that of my father — is priming the pump can create a sense of excitement and curiosity about a new product. Certainly having confidence that the product will be avail­able as expected and all regulatory reviews are completed and logistics are in place are vital prerequisites. A terrific example of such a pre-launch strategy involves the launch of the newest model of the Apple® iPhone®. Features and nuances of the up­coming model are slowly released to the public prior to launch, creating a frenzy of sorts.


In today’s fast-paced market climate, surround-sound mes­saging is paramount. This means not only taking advantage of newer mediums such as social media and mobile, but also ensuring consistent and constant messaging across all chan­nels. To stand out from the crowd and effectively emerge from the pack, brands must begin messaging early in the product development cycle and maintain frequency through the launch and beyond. Too often messaging reaches a crescendo once dis­tribution is gained. This is potentially a huge mistake since the adoption curve of any new item should be measured in months (and perhaps a year or more) rather than in moments.


It surprises me the number of times providing samples is not considered a core part of a new item launch strategy. Of course not every product lends itself to sampling, but for those that do, devising a creative means of delivering a sample makes all the sense in the world. As an example, for a weight training nutri­tional supplement — and before a consumer opts to purchase a large, expensive tub — imagine a stick pack delivery of a serv­ing or two. Consumers can try the product and make sure it is agreeable before opening their wallet. Sampling is also useful in influencing pharmacists and other health care professionals. Nothing builds advocacy and endorsement more strongly than first-hand trial.


Speaking of health care professionals, where appropriate, presenting the product to this highly-influential group can bolster patient recommendations and build credibility for the product. Generating support through provision of informa­tion, clinical details, product comparison charts, and patient coupons can be important components of a comprehensive product launch program.

Let’s face it; new product development is risky business. Statistics consistently suggest that fewer than one in ten product launches find success at retail. Despite demand for product in­novation and expectations for more options at shelf, consumers are very hard to win over. Therefore, today’s marketers need to assure that conditions for success are in place: deeply under­standing their customers’ needs, investing only in the right tar­get markets, picking high impact communication channels, and wrapping program elements around the brand.

Here are five quick steps to improve the success of a product launch:

  1. Objectively assess the market potential
  2. Zero in on the key product message and be consistent
  3. Create a pull strategy that drives consumer action
  4. Remain committed throughout the launch — do what you say you’ll do
  5. Continue to create excitement for your brand (re-imagination has become a necessity!)

The biggest risk in launching a product may be thinking a launch is the main event — something that happens with a big bang. I personally believe that my dad was right when he said SKUs come and go, but thoughtfully-orchestrated launches tied to strong ongoing programs have staying power.