Launching something genuinely new into a category is a seriously high stakes proposition. Getting traction in the early days to create understanding of what you actually are - as well as driving growth, stability and repeat sales to prove your business - is hard. It takes careful strategy and thinking, with lots of learning too. So how do you gain awareness and create the love for something unique, to ensure you gain new vital listings?
Working closely and socially with the advocates and lovers of your ‘unique’ category is key. Those who have been early adopters or triallists of these types of products are your invaluable ‘passionate users’. These are the people who tell you in research that they ‘must have it’, rather than ‘might have it’, and are able to tell you how they would improve on your ‘perfect’ product, honing it for greater success. Ideally, 40% of your target market would state that they would miss you if you were not there, suggesting you are bringing something new that either displaces an existing choice or meets a new unmet need.
It’s important, if you are very different, to ‘normalise’ your brand and convey your virtues and benefits most effectively, focusing on the ones that matter most to people. Take seaweed, which is currently experiencing huge growth in the US. Most people would expect to see it on the shores, but wouldn’t think of eating it. It happens to be a great source of iodine, which is necessary for a healthy thyroid and helps relieve symptoms of fatigue and low mood. A great potential benefit, not to mention the protein levels it contains. SeaSnax & Selwyn’s are now normalising seaweed via snackability.
Moreover, it’s so critical to get your positioning right. Greek yoghurt had graced the shelves for years as a unique niche player, until the focus became about high protein and 0% fat. At that point, huge growth followed. New segments including kefir, chia drinks and hemp all need to think about how best to position their unique benefits as they too are quite different and need to be understood in order to be loved. They have huge potential to not remain niche.
One final bit of advice would be to launch - for sanity not vanity - ‘on a trickle’. Just when you think you have everything right, test launch with a few but important people, not via a show-off expensive launch. Listen as much as possible, learn and most importantly react and tweak based on feedback before you launch bigger later. Simplee Aloe, an aloe based drinks brand, is admirably slowly and surely growing, due to its openness to tweaking the core proposition to get it 100% right. I’m sure it will be worth the effort.
Claire Nuttall is founder of The Brand Incubator