Brand Communicators Toss the Product Launch Playbook of Yesteryear

In years past, launching product was a boon for publicists. It was fairly easy. In 2020 and beyond, not so much.

In addition to breaking through the noise of COVID-related news, brands with product launches were forced last year to compete with stories about social justice and the election. Combine that with shrinking newsrooms and an inability to host live events and the appetite for product launches was just not the same.

While press coverage is never a guarantee, the 2020 news cycle was especially challenging, says LT Taylor, senior director of communications of online furniture company Burrow, which launched 11 products in October and November—a move that was not in the brand’s initial 2020 plans.

While the first inclination early in the pandemic was to hold off on launches, some companies may see the moment as an opportunity, Todd Hansen, principal at O’Malley Hansen Communications, told us early on. Companies should ask:

Is there a good chance [the product or service will be] purchased because it would be appealing to the stay-at-home lifestyle?
Is there a compelling business reason that will help you determine your timing?
Is there a way to redesign the launch so that it more appropriately fits how people are getting their information

Timing is Everything – or Is It?
Product launches are becoming more of a marketing play, and need to be part of a more newsworthy moment, says brand communications strategist Erin Grant, who recently helped men’s care line Huron launch into the haircare category.

With shrunken mastheads at most newsrooms, journalists are less likely to write about a launch just for the sake of reporting on a new product; they need to understand how a new product fits into a larger story.

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