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Optimization for the NPD Post-Launch Happy Endings

“Once upon a time you launched an innovation… And despite retailers taking fewer new SKUs, you managed to get your brand spanking new product on the shelf, and even the e-commerce grid, with most of your retail distributors. 

Congratulate the teams who labored long through the stage gates and NPD milestones! Your 18 month innovation cycle started with a consumer insight that (sort of) made it through the gauntlet of R&D, manufacturing and regulatory realities, and all your brand stakeholders’ assumptions about their RTBs compared to competitors’.  

You did some magical math and developed forecasts and projections. You invested lots in pack design and a shiny, clever integrated campaign (finger in the wind that your agency got the creative and the messaging right, not to mention the media plan for targeting your presumed shopper.)  

But you made it. Kick your feet up and wait for the revenue to pour in! 

Job done. On to the next innovation cycle! And everyone lives happily ever after!” 

This is the part in most fairy tales in which something really dire happens: an evil stepmother appears with a poison apple, a giant with a club and a grudge steps into the clearing, an ugly sorceress claims your first born because you made a foolish bargain.  

For any brand who has gotten to that enchanted moment of the NPD launch, when consumers are actually in the stores, you know this is the point before the fairy tale ending in which things can go horribly awry.  

What happens Post Launch that has the potential to scuttle your fairy tale ending? 

Retailers have the simple, if opaque, benchmark to evaluate how well a product is doing in-market.  It takes the form of sales data, and if the number is not what you forecast, or in a COVID compromised environment it is not what the retailer NOW sees as essential for THEM to be profitable, you face the ugly potential call that says you are being delisted. 

Up until now brands have lacked simple, affordable, clear and unambiguous ways to evaluate exactly what is going with their NPD launches once the product is actually in the stores.  

Brand stewards have broadly accepted the 6P’s of Marketing (Price, Place, Promotion, Product, Pack, Proposition).  But they have had no way to operationalize monitoring these metrics post-launch in a way that is actionable and reliable. 

 The ‘Cinderella’s glass slipper’ would be the ability to benchmark launches alongside others, whether they be the brand’s own or their competitors, against the same category or different categories. This is important so you can intervene with validated data, scoring the new product against the 7P’s (we’ve also added Purchase Potential).  And if your data is based on consumers’ own words and behaviors captured on video, you have a greater chance to influence your retail partner in your favor.  You would have guidelines to either amend the product or your promotion or perhaps even the price, and save the expensive investment you have made to get you this far. 

Lest you think that is just a fairy tale, ripe for animation, song and dance and Disney distribution, but not a real danger for you and your brands, consider a cautionary data point from one of the world’s largest retailers.  A recent Forbes article quoted Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner who told NRF attendees that the company is focusing on a “simplification of the product line with a significant reduction in SKUs which it feels will cut down on decision fatigue for shoppers.” 

Now admittedly, this was a pronouncement made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic upended retailers’ supply chains,  when ANY variety of toilet paper, pasta or peanut butter would fly off the shelves, instore or virtual.  But when normalcy returns, retailers are likely to begin to reassess rationalization of product lines. Retailers will expect their suppliers to be armed with multi-dimensional data to challenge delisting or retention decisions. This is likely to disadvantage smaller suppliers who typically have less access to data and shopper insights.  

So how can brands secure the “happy ending” in the post-launch environment?  The best magic spell will come from research partners who can develop rapid, affordable, easy to understand post-launch consumer reviews that can operationalize the recommendations based on 6P’s that brands can apply to win.  

This used to be a fantastical wish for our clients. Not any more – it’s what we’re delivering to our clients today. 

Drop me a note if you’d like to improve your NPD success and protect against delisting.