Five Creative PR Ideas for Launches

As we close in on the holiday shopping season, many marketers have had their minds occupied with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and similar marketing opportunities.  Yet those that are thinking ahead are already planning for next year when January is destined to bring a plethora of new product launches (you can bet Vocus has one in the works).

According to Forbes, businesses launch a quarter-million new products every year. Upwards of 90% of them fail.  That’s a staggering statistic and so we’ve combed through a number of posts and articles to find these five creative ideas for effective launches:

1. Use a tradeshow as a venue. What does the VCR, Commodore 64 and the Blue-Ray Disc have in common?  All of these products were launched at a tradeshow – the Consumer Electronics Show or CES to be exact – because tradeshows are a tried and true venue for launching new products.  The advantage of launching a product at a trade show centers on the fact that stakeholders – customers, media, bloggers and analysts – are already there, as opposed to tackling the challenge of driving attendance to a one-off event.  The drawbacks include competition and constraints:  many companies choose to also launch products at tradeshows so attention is at a premium and, often, the event companies that produce the tradeshows have limitations on what activities you can do to promote a product launch.  I once worked for a $30 million dollar high-tech company that launched a new product at a Gartner tradeshow and during two sessions, analysts mentioned the new product which drove traffic to the booth and media attention we might not have received otherwise. The company was successfully acquired a few months after that product launch.

2. Launch a new product category with anticipation.  The most challenging part about buying a new TV may well be setting it up in your home.  Between finding space among other decorations – and the inevitable mess of dangling wires – it’s an inconvenience that Ikea aimed to solve with the launch of Uppleva this past spring. Not furniture and not a TV, the Uppleava is a little of both – although some argue the television is furniture. Ikea is attempting to achieve a pinnacle of marketing here: creating a new product category to fulfill a need we didn’t realize we had.  The launch made a big splash in the U.S., despite only being available in select locations in Europe and won’t reach the Americas until 2013.  The company is teasing consumers with anticipation and building demand at the same time.

3.  Launch new life into an old product.  Within editorial circles, there’s a line between news and advertising.  However, advertising done well can drive news, and when that happens it brings advertising and PR together for even better results. Nationwide, known for insurance, did this effectively in support of its lesser-known financial products.  The company blended its advertising campaign, “Life comes at you fast,” with an outdoor promotion that stopped traffic and earned news coverage because it defied expectations.  “There are some products most consumers buy, but almost none wants to see an ad about,” wrote the USA Today. “Prominent among them are car, home and life insurance.”  Financial products and techie B2B IT technology might be among those ads we don’t want to see too – but Nationwide turned this upside down by bringing the bland to life.  We can all take a page from that playbook!

4. Launch a new company with one phenomenal video.  Great things can happen when CEOs get involved in marketing and no one knows this like Michael Dubin who is the CEO for the Dollar Shave Club.  Dubin is tackling an inconvenience to hairy men everywhere:  the cost of shaving.  Razors are expensive and the Dollar Shave Club promises to send razors for a dollar a month. “Most thrifty guys and gals who wield a blade in the bathroom won’t need much convincing that that’s a good idea for a startup,” wrote Mashable. Some VC thought it was a good idea too, “The startup that found its way into guys’ hearts, or at least their bathrooms, when it launched in March of this year has attracted an almost jaw-dropping $9.8 million in venture capital funding from Venrock,” according to Wired. What did Dubin do with some of that money to launch his company?  He made a simple, low cost video that has earned more than 7 million views on YouTube and a ton of buzz.  Warning:  the video does contain some vulgarity.

5. How to launch a rebranding project.  Have you heard of Grasshopper, Inc.?  It’s the entrepreneur’s phone system, as the company’s tagline reads.  Three years ago the company was named GotVMail and the top brass felt like they had an identity crisis:  the company claimed 10% market share which made them a large phone system company with little brand awareness.   The company decided to rename itself Grasshopper – an admirable insect that can jump 10 times its body length and only jumps forward.  To launch the rebranding campaign the company took unusual steps to FedEx chocolate covered grasshoppers to 5,000 influencers – from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal to Guy Kawasaki.  The results were phenomenal, but what really caught my attention was the fact this wasn’t planned by PR or marketing types — the company’s most prominent spokespeople during the campaign were a former recruiter and the chief technology officer.

What are some of the most successful PR launches you’ve seen?  Please share in the comments?

Photo credit:  NASA, beewoodbuzz. .

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