Limited Supplies or Found Everywhere

How can I launch thee? Let me count the ways.

When it comes right down to it, your launch strategy is going to be based on one of two basic strategies. One is a scarcity tactic, which varies from initially available in only one market (Coors, Starbucks) to out-of-stocks (iPhone, Wii) to exclusive segments (American Express Black Card) to a staged roll-out (movies opening in New York and Los Angeles before general release) to advertised beta tests (software).

The other is a full market saturation. These generally occur with product extensions or with products that have undergone testing of some sort—market (even the scarcity model may include a fair amount of market testing) or product (like that found with pharmaceuticals or operating systems).

Which strategy you choose depends on the product itself, the brand and expected consumer response. Let’s look at some of the uses of each:

  • Single or regional market availability—Often, this will happen naturally as a local or regional product starts gaining attention on a larger scale. Other times, however, you may need to employ this by necessity due to production limitations. Or you may want to focus your initial efforts on one or a few key markets with the highest potential before diverting resources to other markets.
  • Out-of-stocks—There are times when this will happen. It may be from sales far outpacing expectations or from production or delivery problems. Either way, it has to be authentic, for the right reasons and due to honest mistakes. If it comes across as contrived or a publicity stunt, consumers may cast a jaded eye toward the brand. Your saving grace will be your product over-delivering on its promise.
  • Exclusive segments—This is going to limit the brand or sub-brand’s volume, but, done properly, will make up for it in revenue. Remember, though, that exclusive has to mean exclusive. If your customers don’t believe that they and everyone else that has it “deserves” it, they’ll abandon it.
  • Staged roll-outs—Staging your roll-out is an excellent way to build attention and generate excitement in areas that are harder to reach based on results in those areas with the earlier exposure. It’s also an expense-saving measure, focusing more on a grassroots approach that a large media campaign.
  • Advertised beta tests—Many times, this will be beyond your control. You are working on the beta for a new product, people get anxious and excited about it, and some of your testers start talking about all the wonderful things it does…or doesn’t. You can go the other way and start spreading the news yourself about what you are doing, how things are going and what some of your testers are saying. It is a great way to build excitement among the rest of your potential market.
  • Market saturation through extension—If you have a well-known, established brand, then it makes perfect sense to launch a brand or product extension everywhere the base brand exists. Of course, you could use any one of the preceding methods, but only if this is not your best option.
  • Market saturation after market testing—Sometimes you have to test how potential consumers receive your product and its associated promotion before rolling it out to compete on a large scale. Done correctly, the testing will improve your confidence as you send your product out to the masses.
  • Market saturation after product testing—With many products, like pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food additives, product testing is mandated prior to selling to the general public (or through prescriptions). That is a good thing, for several reasons. Most importantly, it should give you more support for your brand promise. Or it should at least save you from embarrassment, or worse, if it fails miserably. For other things, like software, mechanically engineered products or even new flavors, product testing gives you the opportunity to tweak, debug or whatever it as you prepare for launch.

All of these are viable options. Make sure you choose the one that is best for your brand and situation. The wrong choice, made for the wrong reasons, especially if it is forced, will backfire.

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