A launch needs to tell a story about how it is solving the end user’s problem, even if the problem they are solving is not one that users were previously aware they had.
Recently, our client Miller Brewing Co., pulled off a deliciously fun little stunt at the expense of its category’s hottest trend.
In a series of tweets, the brand teased it would join major competitors (and even a few of its Molson Coors siblings) with a seltzer “launch,” only before revealing a few days later that, by “launch,” it meant “into rocket-propelled oblivion.”
The gag (executed in partnership with the creative agency Mischief) resonated deeply with media and consumers, who immediately understood that no matter how much they might love the options currently available, the world did not need yet another hard seltzer. And, in fact, it would benefit from one or two cans leaving the planet.
Aside from being good for a laugh, the episode also brings into sharp relief the communication priorities for traditional (i.e., non-rocket-propelled) product launches: A launch needs to tell a story about how it is the solution specifically to the end user’s problem.
We help clients launch dozens (perhaps hundreds) of products each year, and the ones that succeed always get this right, even if the problem they are solving is not one that users were previously aware they had.
As Henry Ford allegedly said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Case in point: Years ago, our team helped launch the Fitbit brand and, with it, the fitness-tracker category. While it’s safe to say few people were demanding to know their exact daily step counts, Fitbit understood that there was an appetite to better understand fitness and health, and both media and consumers quickly embraced the new category and the personal data and insights it provided them.
These “problems” can be controversial, and in some cases, it helps if they are. Consider the case of Heinz Mayochup, a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise the brand introduced in the Middle East that drew notice (and debate) in the UK.
Working with our clients at Heinz, we brought the overseas kerfuffle home in the form of a Twitter poll that asked if Heinz should bring Mayochup to the U.S. The most-engaged-with poll in Twitter’s history led to an intense debate—described by the Washington Post as “an international controversy”—and the “yays” prevailed. Mayochup was so successful that Heinz not only made it a permanent addition to its assortment, in addition to other mashup condiments like the ketchup/ranch hybrid “Kranch.”
Whether or not you think the trouble of having to mix one’s own ketchup and mayo is a “problem” to solve, it is focused on the consumer’s convenience.
When launch communications fail, it is often because the problem they communicate around is the company’s, not the consumer’s. A consumer does not care if your new food product gives you an offering in a high-growth category where you were previously absent. Likewise, they don’t care if your new mobile payments solution will reduce the credit-card interchange fees that you, as a merchant, hate paying to Visa and AmEx.
These are your problems, not theirs. And if your launch communications center on your problems instead of your consumers’, your end users are going to assume the news has more value for you than it does for them.