A view from the launchpad: How to market product launches effectively

A view from the launchpad: How to market product launches effectively

Five by Five client services director George Roberts reveals the areas to focus on

Five by Five client services director George Roberts reveals the areas to focus on

Only 3% of travel launches are recalled by consumers.

For every hundred, three make an impact. Just three. That’s it.

For an industry that is valued at 5.29 trillion US dollars in spending and one that launches holiday packages, cruise ships and brands on a regular basis it makes that statistic even more worrying.

So how can travel brands be more effective when it comes to launches?

Well the good news (if you can call it that) is, you are not alone. 40% of product launches fail every year (shooting up to 75% in FMCG) – but it highlights that the current system is not working for the majority.

When we analysed this we found that marketers only spend 40% of their time on actually launching a new product/brand. So it’s hardly surprising when something so important – not to mention time consuming and complex – loses focus, that things start to slip.

Further to this insight, we found that if the travel industry (and, to be honest, most industries), focused on solving three challenges then their launch would have a far greater chance of success.

1.Internal alignment

It’s important for all stakeholders to agree on a few fundamentals – experience tells us that target audience and your proposition are key. This sounds fairly simple, but it’s not! So much comes into play: competitors, market influences, pricing strategy…the list goes on. So spending time on this upfront will put you on the right course and will save you more time and pain in the long run.

Travel brands are essentially experience brands, more than just an all-inclusive or beachside view. The experience you want to be known for has to be felt throughout every single customer touchpoint. If the call centre’s not up to scratch, it’s going to affect those potential customers on the cruise deck.

Your employees must understand why you’re launching, what you’re launching, how you’re launching, when you’re launching and who you are launching it to. If everyone in the organisation can understand the audience and the role they play in delivering that experience then it will make for greater consistency and authenticity.

From a branding perspective TUI has really shone – every part of the customer journey is branded to the gills, from the taxi to the airport to the minibus to the hotel. All TUI, all smiles.

Speeding up internal processes

Naturally, I’m not privy to what goes on behind competitor travel brands’ closed doors. But if it’s anything like what happens in other industries, it’s a fight every step of the way. A tangled bureaucracy.

As competition gets stiffer and digital advancements boost the speed at which ideas come to market, something has to be done to speed up sign-off for strategy, creative and internal comms.

From my experience, brands using tech to move at pace are the ones that shine – there are programs out there that help streamline the sign-off process, but even then, it comes down to common sense. Get the fundamentals agreed with the senior stakeholders and then work out who needs sight of what at every stage, and you’ll have an easier time and significantly lower blood pressure.

Loud and clear marketing communications

Why are travel industry launches not being recalled? What is happening in their creative processes?

And just look at how beautiful, funny, heartfelt, inventive regular travel marketing campaigns can be. The Swedish Tourist Association’s The Swedish Number. Visit Britain’ GREAT campaign. WestJet’s Christmas Miracle. These are highly impactful campaigns. Big budget, conceptually watertight stuff. But launch campaigns just aren’t living up to this – as a result, it’s harder to reel in repeat and new customers, ergo, making it more expensive to run everything.

However despite all of this, when they do strike gold, they’re great – we just need more examples. VICE and Airbnb’s VICE Experiences is one such example – offering 100 entrants the opportunity to win curated trips to places like Tokyo, Paris and Cape Town, an online video reel covered everything from sex toys to fluffy dogs and underground DJs.

This launch was successful in framing Airbnb as more than just a couch-surfing service, pushing its experience credentials. Aimed squarely at the VICE audience, it proved you don’t have to be traditionally consumer-facing to successfully launch. You just have to know what your particular audience wants – I’m guessing this would’ve gone down like a lead balloon if TUI had done it?

Ultimately brands need to stop cutting back on launch marketing communications spend and effort. They should not be scared of them or think they’re not as relevant. If more companies took the plunge and invested time and money in getting them right, creating disruptive memorable campaigns, they’ll be the winners of the industry – stealing precious customers from competitors and becoming the stand out brands to go with.

Those were three areas of focus.

But that’s just the start. To really make the most of their launches, travel brands could do well by launching less (after all, it’s quality, not quantity); and ensure they’re not working to a launch date just for the sake of it.

Let’s also remember most brands bring marketing on board three months before launch. That’s too late. Bring your marketing team on from Day 1 because if they don’t understand what they’re communicating, then how on earth are your customers going to.

Finally, think long term. Launching a product does not stop on the day of launch. A huge amount of time and effort needs to be invested into pre and post launch as well. Your communications aren’t all going to hit everyone straight away, so it’s essential to persevere.


We can do better than that.