Product Launch and Evaluation
7.2 THE STEPS IN THE PRODUCT LAUNCH
Once the top management decision has been taken for the launch, the product has to be launched to several groups of people, the most important being the company, the retailers, the consumers and the general public. The product launch can be regarded as three steps: launch to the company, launch to the market and launch to the consumers, and these are followed by the launch evaluation.
The activities are the typical operational activities of the company in departments such as marketing, sales, production, quality assurance, finance, but the new product causes changes and sometimes problems. The launch to the company has as its outcome the completed company organisation. The launch to the market involves the production and distribution of the product combined with the marketing to the retailers and the outcome is the complete set up ready to launch, and the final stage is the launch to the consumer. For the industrial products, the launch can be just to the company and to the customers, but there may also be distributors and agents in the chain.
The outcomes from the three steps are important, both in their quality and their timing. In timing, the company organisation for the launch needs to be completed before the launch to the market starts, or disaster can ensue; for example:
product that has not arrived at all the retail stores,
TV. advertising that cannot be booked for the launch date, and
printing of in-store promotional material that is two weeks behind.
Most people in product development have met these crises, and scrambled to solve them.
The quality also needs to be correct or again disaster ensues:
instant powder that does not dissolve in the correct time,
T.V. advertising that does not mention the product name, and
in-store promotional material that is a different colour from the packaging.
Once the product is launched to the consumers, there is not time to sit back and relax; there is constant checking of product, production, distribution, marketing, sales and costs. The checking will show up any problems that are occurring so that they can be rectified quickly. Are the sales increasing more slowly than predicted? Is this caused by lack of consumer interest in the product, consumer lack of acceptance of the product or retailers' lack of promotion or shelf space? The checking also collects the qualitative and quantitative information needed for the post-launch evaluation.
The post-launch evaluation leads into the final analysis which will decide the product's future - to be dropped, improved, or accepted immediately into the company's product mix. But during this time of evaluation, there is a need to continue the improvement and the stabilisation of the product qualities, the marketing, the production and the costs.
The activities and the outcomes in the four stages of launch and the post-launch evaluation are shown in Figure 7.1. Within these stages, the activities are organised as suits the company and the project, but the marketing and product organisation are not separate as shown in the Figure but are integrated and coordinated.
Figure 7.1 Activities and outcomes in the product launch and post-launch
INTERNAL COMPANY LAUNCH
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