How to launch your product successfully
In 2013 Canada Goose released what was described by one gear-reviewer as “Some of the best technical hard and soft shells [he’d] seen at the time”. The down-filled, urban apparel brand took a left turn from their norm to develop the Timber Shell Jacket and Ridge pant which, together, created a breathable, water-proof winter kit that gave players like The North Face and Arc’teryx a run for their money. The newest products lasted two seasons before being re-marketed as urban wear (featuring a Drake collaboration) or discontinued altogether.
While the outdoor industry has seen substantial growth since the onset of the pandemic (with annual US spending on outdoor recreational products reaching 184.5 billion), it remains a competitive landscape in which many brands are going to market with both similar products and messaging. So how do we break through the noise and become top of mind for an audience who’s plagued with choices on outdoor apparel, gear, and equipment? To avoid the trap of discontinuing a new product or scrambling to reposition post-launch, product launch success often hinges on the development and execution of an impactful go-to-market strategy. Different from the ongoing marketing strategy, a GTM strategy is your short-term plan for entering a new market or launching a new product/service.
While there are many components of a GTM strategy that rely on cross-departmental decision making such as product pricing, distribution models, customer support strategies and defining success metrics, the components that are often owned by the marketing team or product marketer include:
Market and Audience Definition
While your product(s) should already have been made with both a market and an audience in mind, the GTM strategy is the place where this target audience is fleshed out into defined buyer personas. The initial launch phase is also where you want to define who your early adopters are, especially if your product has a level of innovation that requires consumer education (as this group can help to educate the masses). Utilizing the buyer personas of both your early adopters and your target audience, you can then begin the customer journey mapping process for these segments.
Ex. Nike launched their first maternity collection, Nike M, after extensive market and design research, identifying a market for athletic pregnancy apparel.
Unique Value Proposition (UVP) and Product Messaging
Understanding your customer’s journey to purchase is one factor that will help guide the articulation of your product messaging. The second is your product’s UVP. Working lock-step with the product manager and/or design team, the UVP should include:
- The competitive advantage of your product
- How your product will solve the needs of your audience and improve their life
- Specific benefits your audience will receive from using your product
Once the messaging is established, you can then identify the strongest channels to push it in.
Crafting a comms plan that includes the ability to create hype around your product is another step in the GTM strategy. Where are the environments, media channels and moments we can target our buyer personas upon launch? This will partially be dictated by the consumer journey mapping process and partially driven by research and additional insights.
Ex: For the re-launch of the Outdoor Voices exercise dress, the company pinpointed a key moment for its NYC audience and seized the opportunity to create an experiential activation around it: passing by the Lincoln Center on the way to the gym after work. OV invited 1,500 guests to an Exercise Dress dance party as part of their biggest campaign to date.
OV also hit a home run by amplifying the campaign digitally. Grassroots and experiential product launches are often a wise consideration in the outdoor industry, but without digital amplification a product launch is destined for failure. Keep in mind that no matter the primary channel for launch, there must be a digital presence.
Adjacent to the comms plan, having a partner network to support the launch of a new product definitely helps to amplify your product messaging. Who are key influencers in your product’s niche? Utilizing key figures in the space can help to promote your product’s efficacy upon launch, especially if you’re playing in a new market or lack credibility.
Ex: For the launch of Arc’teryx’s new upcycled line: Rebird, the brand brought on their first ever ambassador who is outside of the outdoor space, Nicole Mclaughlin. Her social following is almost that of the brand itself, and her designs focus specifically on upcycling while keeping material deadstock and overstock out of landfills.
Finally, remember that as exciting and downright fun as product launches can be, no amount of strategic and creative brilliance around your GTM strategy can compensate for a substandard product. Then again, even the very best products are unlikely to survive a poorly executed launch plan. Our advice? Whatever you’re building, build it well. And then launch it with every bit as much energy, thought, and creativity you used to bring it to life.