waitrose christmas 2015

While the rest of us are still discussing BBQs and cricket, the grocery multiples have their sights firmly set on Christmas. For the fmcg sector, the festive season is a major window of opportunity for launching exciting Christmas variants. But with the crescendo of marketing activity that surrounds St Nick’s annual visit, what can brands and retailers do to ensure launch success?

Firstly, it is essential your new product has a real reason to exist. Whether your new product is just for the season or launching for the longer term, just leaning on the fact it’s the time of gifts, parties and treats isn’t enough. Start with the consumer need. Know how your product fulfils that need, and be able to articulate it clearly and powerfully (ideally in one line) so that people feel they need your product in their world – or at the very least, in their Christmas.

Next, identify your golden thread and stick to it like glue. What is the theme that binds together all your campaign elements? What unites stakeholders, audiences and channels? It should be built, inextricably, on your reason to exist. Simply adopting ‘Christmas’ as a central theme is unlikely to achieve launch cut through. The way you tell the story around your golden thread, and make it meaningful to the audience is very important. Lidl’s ‘Little Present’ Christmas TV ad for instance, neatly demonstrates what sets them apart from other supermarkets. With tasters left astonished that their meal hadn’t come from Waitrose or M&S, the ad encapsulates the golden thread that runs through Lidl’s communications – quality food that doesn’t break the bank.

This kind of storytelling – of identifying challenges, and helping the consumer to overcome them – is a great way to broadcast the essence of your campaign, especially in a period defined by one of the most famous stories of all time. Even better when it brings to life your reason to exist in the way that Lidl’s taste-test does. That said, there’s no rule against brands covering a number of bases. Despite ever-increasing fervour for inventive products, savvy supermarkets like M&S don’t neglect the classics. Even when they are launching prosecco crisps, there’s no mistaking they can be still trusted to deliver more traditional Christmas fare as well.

However, all this strategy is meaningless without products on the shelves. Our own consumer research into product launches revealed that having heard about a new product they want to buy, 35% of consumers were then unable to find it in store. If you’re looking to take advantage of this festive period, ensure what you’re releasing is readily available. Think Heston Blumenthal’s hit Waitrose Christmas pudding.

After Heston’s prize pudding sold out in stores and appeared on eBay priced at £250 during Christmas 2010, Waitrose increased total orders of the dessert to ten times that figure for 2011. An intelligently marketed product that meets a consumer need is little more than a dead cost to the business if nobody can buy it. Supply is as crucial as demand at launch.

Ultimately though, launch success isn’t nailed in the boardroom. It’s dictated by the sales teams on the ground. The process may start with a marketing brainstorm, but it ends with selling your new product in to your customers and every other stakeholder along the launch chain. The Christmas festive window is short and crowded. With one chance at getting a launch right, a carefully thought-out strategy can make all the difference.

Gareth Evans is business development director at launch specialist agency Five by Five