Launching Your Brand

February 2020

Buy This vs Buy In

When launching a product, there are two important metrics that define its success: “buy this” and “buy in.” The first, “buy this,” is product purchase – that short-term sales lift that proves the product viable. The second, “buy in,” is about loyalty and advocacy. It’s a long-term goal that keeps people coming back for more, and sharing the brand with others. “Buy this” comes from a focus on product features and benefits. “Buy in” comes from a brand ethos that transcends the product itself. And while pricing, design, functionality, quality and user experience are important, they’ve become table stakes. A brand’s intention, or purpose in creating the product, can not only impact its social currency, but it can be a powerful tie breaker in a crowded competitive landscape.

The Power of Brand

When a client comes to us asking for help launching a product or increasing distribution, we always start with the brand positioning to understand the story behind the launch. The “First Four” is a set of initial questions we seek to answer as part of the Discovery process:

  1. Who is the brand/company and what does it stand for?
  2. Why is the brand/company launching this product/service?
  3. What impact are you trying to make on consumers/communities/culture?
  4. Who will care most?

You may have noticed that none of these questions are about the product or service attributes. That’s because those attributes are only as meaningful as the brand behind them.

The Formula for Success: C + I = $

A successful product launch takes equal parts competency and intention. Intention is the brand’s desired impact on culture. It is based from an insight or tension that transcends the category and competition. A brand’s intention is not a tagline or a message or a campaign. It is an internal purpose that drives the vision, decisions and principles of the organization and thereby, the brand. Intention doesn’t last a year or two then disappear into the campaign graveyard. It is a North Star that can never truly be reached, but guides both stakeholders and agency partners in their efforts to build the brand over time.

The other bookend to a strong product launch is competency. Competencies are the product or service attributes, from product features to customer service to the historical credibility of a brand, along with all those points-of-difference and reasons to believe. A brand without strong competencies can’t survive in a highly crowded and competitive marketplace. But competencies should always be reevaluated in order to ensure that they continue to be innovative and relevant. For example, it used to be that great product design could warrant a higher price point for a commodity product. But now, thanks in part to Target, who played a large role in democratizing design, a well-designed product is now table stakes, even for private label.

Data vs Understanding

Even with a great brand backing a product launch, many fail because they aren’t positioned against the right consumer need. It’s not enough to know what consumers want and how they behave, it’s also what they care about and how the product or service can credibly deliver on it.

We leverage data to achieve these four key goals:

  • To understand human nature. Humans are more than their purchase and consumption patterns. Our goal is to gain a holistic understanding of the audience, including the biases, beliefs and values that drive their thoughts and behaviors.
  • To uncover cultural insights. We have found that the most powerful insights don’t always come from the category, the competition or the consumer, rather the culture in which the brand and audience lives. Cultural insights help define the “intention” behind the brand – the greater impact the brand seeks to achieve beyond its products or services.
  • To grow emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand how the audience feels throughout their journey in order to demonstrate empathy. Rather than trying to change behavior or beliefs, we help brands relate to their audiences authentically and add value to their lives through marketing. Data can also help us optimize the level of emotional intelligence by telling us what is and isn’t resonating with audiences.

Example: Logitech G

Logitech G is a gaming peripherals brand that saw a need for a new entry level line of products for casual gamers. The majority of their consumers are serious, competitive gamers who are willing to spend more on top-of-the-line products. But 90% of gamers don’t self-identify as gamers at all, and don’t feel welcome in the gaming community. In order to make the product launch relevant, we had to rethink how the brand talks about gaming as a whole. We helped Logitech G redefine gaming as “play,” and tapped into the inherent universality of play among all consumers. By becoming more inclusive as a brand, they were able to open up the community, and the category, to millions of new consumers through the new product line.

Example: Microsoft in Education

Microsoft had an innovative new university communications platform and they spent the better part of a year trying to sell it in to IT decision makers. This technology had it all – it simplified their systems, allowed for more customization, had all the bells and whistles. And best of all, it was free. Believe me when I tell you…they literally couldn’t give it away. They came to us when they were ready to scrap the entire product for one last Hail Mary. So we talked to IT decision makers at universities to try and understand why this product wasn’t appealing to them. Turns out, the last thing these IT guys wanted was more technology. More technology meant more work. What they really needed was more help. Budgets had been cut, their teams had shrunk, and they needed more people to get the work done. So we positioned the product as a person, and called him Mike Roesauff (note the pronunciation). Mike was an IT guy for hire, who offered his services in the form of a resume and website. He was the perfect person to augment the IT department, and they didn’t have to pay him a dime. It worked. Microsoft exceeded 6-month sales goals in less than three. All it took was a little emotional intelligence.