Prior to May 2012, Clear was an unknown brand to U.S. consumers. But by the middle of the month, hundreds of thousands of women and men were buzzing about Unilever’s newest hair care brand. While it certainly helps that Clear tapped Heidi Klum to be the face of the nascent brand, celebrity alone does not a successful product launch make; rather, it has been Clear’s strategic launch initiatives across Facebook, Twitter, video and PR that have drawn consumers into the conversation, and most importantly, led them to try Clear’s products.
Businesswomen can learn a lot from Clear’s recent product launch, whether they have millions of dollars to spend on promotion or just 10 bucks. Here are five tips that will help make your startup or product launch more successful:
1. Employ a trial strategy. One of the aspects of Clear’s successful campaign is that its call-to-action is rarely "buy it now." Instead, Clear encouraged consumers to visit the brand’s Facebook page and snag a sample of the product. Giveaways like these get consumers excited to engage. And, by getting the consumer's contact information in exchange for promotional products, brands hook the consumer into a measurable sales funnel. Consumers like to try before they buy, so new launches benefit from allowing relevant consumers to sample or test new products or services.
2. Drive home how you're different...and better. Clear is a shampoo and conditioner line that could easily blend in with the rest of the hair care products on the shelf, especially if the brand had gone with a typical "your hair will look gorgeous" pitch to consumers. Instead, the brand articulated a unique point of differentiation: Clear is the only hair care line that focuses on nourishing the scalp. Regardless of whether that message resonates with all consumers, it is memorable. If you’re in a crowded industry like Clear is, avoid vague promises of consumer satisfaction like, "This is the best new product!" Instead, zero in on specifically why the consumer should care about your product. Then, share that story throughout your promotional efforts.
3. Aggregate the conversation. With so many places online to engage with users, it is critical that the brand leads the charge of bringing those conversations together. For example, Clear developed hashtags specifically for the product launch that consumers were constantly made aware of, making the discussions across multiple social media channels easy to bring together in one feed. This makes it easier for team members to respond to consumers’ comments, and a high volume of comments in one place act as a signal to other users that a product is popular.
4. Build up communications forces early. Clear constantly engages with consumers online and aims to never leave a question or comment unanswered. Responsiveness shows that the brand cares about its consumers, which helps build brand loyalty. Rather than being on the defense when it comes to the influx of interest around a product launch, Clear proactively ramped up its marketing communications forces ahead of the launch. Having a plan for how to scale your communications with consumers is critical in today's world, where something can go viral quickly. You needn't spend a lot of money investing in this at the start if the scale isn't there yet, but do have a plan for what you'll do about company communications if the product launch exceeds expectations.
5. Create share-worthy content. It's one thing to tweet out, "Hey, check out our new product!" and another to offer a fun or helpful video, infographic, or other piece of content that encourages engagement with your brand. Share-worthy content allows your product to be seen in a more captivating way, and as it’s shared online, can attract attention from consumers who may not have heard about your products before. In Clear's case, they created a mini-series called “Best Night Ever” with celebrities like Jane Krakowski and Andy Cohen.
While that's big-budget, creating engaging content for your launch does not have to break the bank. For example, check out the launch video from startup Dollar Shave Club. It has great production value with minimal cost (Dollar Shave Club spokesperson Ben Kellogg says the video cost just $4,500 to produce), and they've reached nearly 5 million views in just a few months! If video isn’t your style, consider an infographic that educates or entertains while it features your new product. Good infographics are not expensive to create; there are even easy-to-use tools out now like Infogram or Piktochart. Share-worthy content can have big payoff as it amplifies your launch efforts.
Doreen Bloch is the author of the book, The Coolest Startups in America, and is the CEO and Founder of Poshly Inc. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business where she was awarded the Jack Larson Fellowship for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.