Thinking Differently... About Launching NPD


On October 23rd, 2006, Amy Winehouse released the song “Rehab”.


The idea for the song came when Winehouse was taking a short walk with the producer Mark Ronson.


She was telling Ronson about a time after she’d been in hospital and everyone had been warning her about her drinking.


She said “You know they tried to make me go to rehab and I told them no, no, no.” Ronson replied, “That sounds hooky. We should go back to the studio and turn it into a song.”


So they did.


Winehouse wrote the lyrics. Ronson developed the sound. He brought in the soul band The Dap Kings to create a 60’s feel. By the time they were finished, Ronson said “it just sounded a million times better.”


He was right. You’ve probably got the song in your head right now.


‘Rehab’ was the lead single from the album ‘Back to Black’. The album went on to sell 17m copies. It’s the 6th biggest selling album of the 21st century.


Winehouse brought the angst, voice and lyrics. Ronson brought the distinctive sound.


It turned out to be a winning combination.


Why are we talking about this? Thousands of new products are launched in the FMCG industry each year. Yet most new products fail. 80-85%, according to Nielsen.


We think a key reason is that there is too much consumer thinking and not enough shopper thinking.


Too much focus on developing the perfect product and proposition for the consumer. Not enough focus on setting a new product up to be bought (more than once) by the shopper. It’s like Amy Winehouse with no Mark Ronson.


Shopper thinking can’t polish a t*rd. You still need a good product. But it can make a good product much shinier.


So, how can you inject more shopper thinking into your new product launches?


If you’re thinking shopper… you think priming. Most new products have a very narrow launch window. They appear in store supported by a 2-3 week burst of activity. But a lot of FMCG products have a longer purchase cycle. The communication burst doesn’t give them the time to succeed.


So, what if you gave a new product more time? Primed shoppers by telling them the product is coming. Then told them when and where to find the product in store. Follow the Apple Model. They tell you the new iPhone is coming. They build awareness and anticipation. Shoppers are waiting to buy it when it’s released. OK, shoppers might not queue outside Tesco for your new flavour of yoghurt. But you can probably do more to prime them in advance.


If you’re thinking shopper… you think stand out. To attract shopper attention, you don’t design for beauty. You design for stand out. You need assets (Pack, SRP, POS) that are so well branded they are instantly recognisable. That are visually distinctive from everything else around. That are visually consistent over time and across touchpoints.


Too many new products slip onto the shelf unnoticed. Then a few months later slip off the shelf. Still unnoticed.


If you’re thinking shopper… you think proposition clarity. If you’ve been working on a new product for 12 months, the proposition is clear to you. You know it inside out. When you did the concept test it was clear to respondents. They had a few minutes to read about it. But the shopper doesn’t have that knowledge. They don’t have that time.


Shoppers just need to know a couple of things. What the product is. Why it is good. How and when to use it (where relevant). This is important for all products. It’s even more important for new products. They are new.


If you’re thinking shopper… you think incentive to buy. Most new products give shoppers an incentive to buy. It’s called a price discount. It can often work in the short term – shoppers will buy you at half price. But it can store up trouble over time – shoppers haven’t shown they will buy you at full price.


There are ways around this. You can reduce the financial risk of trial AND protect base price. You can have introductory pricing. You can have smaller trial packs. You can have money back guarantees. You can even… trust the proposition! Give shoppers (non-price discount) incentives in the short term that protect (shopper & retailer) price expectations in the longer term.


If you’re thinking shopper… you think repeat. Many new products are good at getting trial (often because of those price discounts). They get shoppers to buy for the first time. However, they are often weak at getting repeat. Getting shoppers to buy a second time. Then a third time.


It’s partly a result of launch tactics. It’s partly a result of measurement - too much focus on trial numbers not enough on repeat. It’s partly a result of moving on too quickly. Onto the next new product launch. Then the next one. In golf there is a saying “Drive for show. Putt for dough”. In our world it could be “Trial for show. Repeat for dough”.


Consumer or shopper? It’s not an or. It’s an AND.


Winehouse had the song. Ronson got it heard.


Feel free to forward. Have good weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.