As a director of a consulting firm that specializes in product launches, I regularly have numerous discussions with business owners, brand managers, product managers, marketers and entrepreneurs looking for help with the release of their products to new markets and territories. When I ask them about some basic facts about these target markets (volume, key competitors, market dynamics forecast, market entry threshold, etc.), quite often I get as an answer something like that: “We don’t know, but we feel that our product so good that it will become number 1 till the end of the year”.
Unfortunately, consumer product launch statistics says that up to 95% of consumer products failed. Furthermore, less than 3% of new consumer products exceed first-year sales of $50 million, according to Joan Schneider and Julie Hall, coauthors of "The New Launch Plan". Even undisputable industry leaders sometimes fail with their product launches, for instance: Apple Newton (1993), Cosmopolitan Yogurt (1999), Microsoft Zune (2006), Blackberry Playbook (2011), Google Google+ (2011), Facebook Phone (2013), Amazon Fire Phone (2014), Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 (2016). What to say about those who are not industry leaders?
There are many reasons why product launches fail. For example, failure can be caused by customers buying habits, which are not easy to change. As popular marketing guru Jack Trout wrote: the average family invariably buys about 150 items of products, which covers 85% of household needs.
Clearly, the reasons are individual in each case, but on the basis of my experience I would like to point out the top 5 most commonly encountered mistakes that lead to a catastrophic product launch fiasco.
Mistake 1. Insufficient Market Research
Yes, market research is a must. But market research is not an end in itself, and its price and timing should match your risks associated with launching this particular product. The basic rule: the more expensive the product itself (development and production), the higher your risk — the deeper must be your market research.
Example of launching a new product without market research: Colgate Frozen Entrees.
Colgate, which is known in the market as a seller of oral care products since 1873, decided to start selling Colgate Frozen Entrees in 1982 and suffered a crushing fiasco. Customers did not accept food under the Colgate brand, which for over a hundred years was associated with oral hygiene products. Colgate obviously had to launch their frozen food products under a different brand after the appropriate marketing research and test sales.
Mistake 2. Weak or Raw Product
Golden rule: If your product is not ready, delay its launch until it’s ready.
Do not underestimate negative feedback about the raw product created by disappointed users in social media.
Example of not-ready product launched: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.
Under the pressure of competition, Samsung was in a hurry to release its revolutionary Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone as soon as possible. Due to such urgency, obviously there were mistakes in the selection of components, as well as their layout inside the case and assembly. This led to the fact that the smartphone was released to the market raw. After several cases of battery failure and combustion, Samsung had to recall the product from the market.
Credit Suisse analysts assessed Samsung losses at least US$17 billion in revenue from the production and recall of the Galaxy Note 7.
Mistake 3. Wrong Marketing
Your product or service can be very good, but marketing faults can ruin its sales. Since marketing is a very broad concept, mistakes in this area can be diverse, for example, marketing communications flaw, wrong merchandising, and so on.
Example of wrong marketing: Coca-Cola advertising campaign in Middle East countries.
This is a classic marketing mistake, when an advertising coup (message, idea) been successfully used in a home market and then was applied in new countries with different mentality and culture without taking into account local ethnic characteristics.
The Coca-Cola Company decided to use in the Middle East countries an advertising comics that demonstrated a good result in Western countries markets. As you know, in the Arab countries people read from right to left, therefore, this advertising campaign of Coca-Cola became a failure.
To avoid the failure it only needed to swap pictures with the running and lying person.
Mistake 4. Faulty Sales Strategy
You could have a perfect product, but faulty sales strategy can ruin your success. Sales strategy includes many components, e.g.:
- Sales Department goals and how they are going to achieve these goals,
- Sales Managers’ motivation scheme,
- Distribution strategy,
- Sales Managers’ expertise and skills, ability to apply appropriate negotiation techniques, knowledge of both your product and your competitors' products,
- And many other factors.
Each of the mentioned components of successful sales is worth a separate article in my blog. Here I just emphasize that a mistake in any of these components can lead your product launch to an unbelievable failure. Even if you have a very high quality product.
Mistake 5. Rapid Growth
In my practice I met lots of shareholders and top managers with decades of managerial experience who was not aware that rapid growth of their companies can lead to heavy losses or even bankruptcy. Most of them believed that fast growth is a blessing and they dreamed about it. Those who eventually experienced that “blessing” have suffered significant losses or bankrupted their companies.
Read more about this in my article Top-5 Problems Inflicted by the Rapid Growth of the Company.
For example, founder and owner of Svyaznoy¹ Mr. Maxim Nogotkov admitted in a recent interview that his companies Svyaznoy Bank² and e-retailer Enter Svyaznoy³ both failed, mainly because of their rapid growth: planned growth of business required about 180 million dollars of investment, but, in fact, due to outstripping growth the business demanded about $ 700 million. Thus, too rapid growth caused such a dramatic denouement.
¹ Svyaznoy in 2009 was Russia's second-largest independent handset retailer, with over 2,900 stores in Russia and Belarus. As of 2009, the company controlled 22.4% of the Russian mobile retail market.
²Svyaznoy Bank (founded in 2010, bankrupted in 2016).
³Enter Svyaznoy (founded in 2011, bankrupted in 2017).
Howbeit, mistakes are inevitable in any business. We learn from them. And if you are not ready to learn from your own mistakes (and pay for it), then perhaps the wise advice for you could be following: consider the experience and knowledge of professionals who, over many years of work, have accumulated a lot of knowledge and experience in that area.