Product Launch is a process meant to not only introduce a new product to consumers, but also create an image of the product and the parent company for recall value, which enhances the overall turnover and the company’s brand equity. However, not all product launches achieve this purpose as not all are successful; many fail to capture consumer attention or shelf space in an already overcrowded sector.
So, how much does the success of a product really rely on a high octave launch?
According to a recent Nielsen study: ‘Secret to successful new product innovation: Keep the boss out of it’!, innovation can be hampered due to top management. The study’s research across innovation processes (at 30 large CPG companies operating in the U.S.) reveal that CPG companies with less senior management involvement in the new product development process generate 80 percent more new product revenue than those with heavy senior management involvement. In addition, companies that employ this and other best innovation practices derive on average 650 percent more revenue from new products compared to companies that do not. “New product innovation is a top priority of every major company CEO, yet success varies so widely that it’s absolutely critical to understand what drives successful innovation and what undermines it,” explains Tom Agan, senior vice president and managing director, The Nielsen Company. “Once you understand it, then you need to ask yourselves, are we living it?”
First of all, the key leading factor behind a successful product launch is the innovation of a product, as brand expert Harish Bijoor explains. “The launch is just a process. The product is the central core,” he notes. “Everything falls into place around that. If I take the analogy from the world of packaging, the product is really the product. The launch is the way it is packaged.”
As with many other sectors, creativity in marketing the FMCG sector in India is influenced by its western counterparts. Most international manufacturers tailor not only the products, but also the advertising campaigns accordingly to capture and retain maximum consumer eyeballs. However, for most of those players, this is easier said than done. For instance, PepsiCo’s unsuccessful launch of Pepsi Blue in India. Although the launch was timed appropriately close to the ICC World Cup of 2003, with a high-frequency ‘Men in Blue’ ad campaign with the appropriate brand ambassadors to endorse the product, the lack of availability and interest from consumers failed to make the product a complete success.
Also, its blue colour was also claimed by many consumers to remind them of ‘kerosene’ and failed to excite the ‘youngistan’ consumers, which PepsiCo had aimed for.
Having said that, Pepsi Blue was certainly hailed as a great innovation; it just wasn’t a successful launch or a great product in itself. Lacking in core taste and colour, and going a bit too out-of-the-box, Pepsi Blue failed to become a hit even in the U.S., where it was initially rolled out. “A product or a service is a success essentially basis its product or service value. Brands are successes not because of launches. Innovative and new products that cater to the latent and hungry needs of people succeed more often than not. Brands that have differentiated themselves in what they offer work better in consumer markets,” Bijoor points out..
Success at Its Best
There are success stories that reflect a happy marriage of advertising creativity and product innovation as well. For instance, the 2007 launch of fast moving consumer goods company ITC’s potato chips and finger snacks products under the brand name Bingo. At the time of the launch, Ravi Naware, then chief executive, ITC had is an exciting and fast growing category with a big untapped market. We have extensively studied the market and product development team has created products with variants that will hold tremendous appeal to the Indian consumer.”
Bingo’s launch was ably supported by quirky advertising and attention grabbing flavours, which helped in it grabbing a market share of 9 percent within the initial year. “Bingo brought tastes that were familiar to the Indian taste buds but still carried a hint of unfamiliarity. Snacking is a mindless activity but we took ‘mindlessness’ very seriously,” said Simi Sabhaney, president – advertising, Ogilvy&Mather, Bangalore, the agency behind the Bingo campaign. While the thrust was on youngsters it did not want to alienate the family. “The communication has never been so irreverent that others reject it. Humour tends to involve everyone at home,” she added.
Three years forward and Bingo continues to gain market share due to its innovative flavours and off-the-beaten-track advertising. So much so that it has led to rival Frito-Lay to rethink its strategy for both its leading brands Kurkure and Lay’s, re-launching them with funkier ads (for Kurkure) and consumercontest-based product innovation for Lay’s.
Del Monte’s recent launch of Zingo and Twango is an example of product innovation based on need and creativity. “The attempt was to fill the need gap for sauces that suit the Indian palate and yet be different from all other sauces in the market. There was also an effort to break away from descriptor based names,” shares Yogesh Bellani, business head, Del Monte Foods Business, Field- Fresh Foods Pvt Ltd.
“Our brand proposition is about taste and innovation. Our tagline says: Taste. Like Never Before. The creative idea we pursued was therefore closely aligned to it and elaborated on the fact that if you love a particular taste your curiosity would be aroused and you would ‘chase the taste’, literally and figuratively,” he explains.
Even as the launch of Zingo and Twango is credited with providing a new variant of sauces besides ketchup in the condiment sector, Del Monte also was able to take advantage of the long interval since the last major launch in this sector. “With Del Monte Zingo and Twango, we were not just offering new products but strengthening our brand proposition,” Bellani explains. “Zingo and Twango have been clearly positioned as innovative products. In terms of taste they deliver on the promise. And we have tried to carry through the innovativeness in naming the products, in their look and feel as well as the packaging.”
As Nielsen’s study points out, to have a successful product launch the mantra for new product development should be: a) Consistently and Precisely and, b) senior management needs to play a more important role in new product development. Nielsen’s research also shows that another important key to success is for senior management to precisely manage the new product development process, not the ideas themselves. According to Nielsen, CPG companies with rigid stage gates (decision points in the process where a new product idea must pass certain criteria to proceed forward) average 130 percent more new product revenue than companies with loose processes. “New product development success comes down to two important principles – managing ideas lightly, while managing the process precisely,” Agan elaborates.
“We follow the Stage-Gate process in product development, which is a funnel approach to innovation. We draw inspiration from our customers, retailers and partners. We also encourage our field force to give their inputs and ideas on our product range. Our key accounts also contribute their ideas. Ideas are converted into product concepts and fine-tuned further in terms of flavours/ packaging etc,” Bellani reveals.
“At Del Monte we believe in taking forward products that offer the twin promise of taste and innovation. Supply side strengths have to be matched with demand and only viable opportunities may be explored. It may take over a year from the date of concept testing to the commercialisation phase,” he adds.
“It is important to us that the new product fits in with our current range of ketchup and sauces, fruit drinks, Italian and packaged fruits and adds to company revenues. It is also important that it serves a strategic purpose as well and adds to overall brand image. Therefore, as a next step to the launch of Del Monte Zingo and Twango, we are now launching a long-awaited mustard variant, which will suit the Indian palate.”
In the recent past, several new products have employed an innovative approach prior to launching in the Indian market, including Parle Agro’s Hippo snacks and Britannia’s Tiger Milk’s Choco Decker; both of which were entering into already penetrated sectors. Although both have seen successful so far, it may be too soon to take a call on where to give credit… the innovation or the product! Their future success and shelf life in the market may speak for itself.
Thus said…Creativity may lie in the hands of the creator, and in this case success lies in the hands of the consumer. So, for FMCG products success doesn’t completely rely on innovation, but more on the product itself and the purpose of the product. As stated earlier, no matter how innovative a product, if there isn’t a demand or a need for it in the market, success isn’t likely. And if there is market space or lack of innovation in a sector, consumers are more likely to try an innovative product to fill the gap, as in the current case of Del Monte’s Zingo and Twango. Hence, no matter how much the ‘big guy’ gets involved in the creative process of a product launch, manufacturers must first analyse the need for the product in the market before innovating it!
As the creative head from Contract Advertising, the agency behind Del Monte’s Zingo and Twango sauce advertising, explains: “We were single minded in our approach to establish the two new sauces in town. The idea came from the fact that whoever tasted the sauce would ask: ‘What is this sauce?’ Based on this insight the TVC was crafted to deliver the fact that a person is so mesmerised by the taste that she actually chases down a group of boys in heavy traffic just to find out the brand name.”
“We at Del Monte strongly feel that Zingo and Twango are two highly innovative products that have found wide acceptance due to their taste. The superiority of the product is an important factor for its success,” explains Bellani.
“But it was important, especially at the launch stage, for a relatively new brand like Del Monte to create a certain amount of brand awareness and credibility around the mother brand. Our objective was to create curiosity around the brand and induce trials,” he adds.
Although India may have seen a rise in creative advertising and innovation in consumer products recently, brand heads and analysts still agree that ultimately the product sells itself. Hence, the cycle continues – good products lead to brand acknowledgment and enforcement, which leads to better product expectation and delivery, which involves innovation!