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A Product Launch is Like?

Over two years ago now, I wrote a blog post talking about product launch and shared this wonderful quote from Neale Martin,

A product launch is like a rocket – you have to break the tremendous inertia that is holding the body at rest.

At the time I was working on a global product launch that had a ton of moving pieces and coordination required before it went out the door. Hence the “lots of anticipation followed by a big bang” analogy made a lot of sense.

Looking at it now, it feels like the statement isn’t very broad and only really applies to the situation where you are launching into a known market with a known product line – think Nintendo Wii or  iPhone 5. This is the end state that you hope to reach but I don’t think it is the general rule.

I have been thinking about all the different types of product launches analogies and have come up with a few ideas. For example, the Hockey Stick launch for a new product that takes a long time and potentially several iterations before taking off.

Then there is the Boomerang launch for a product that gets out there in the wild but gets sent back to the mothership by an unsatisifed marketplace – think Microsoft Kin.

So, what are your favorite analogies for launching a product? Have any good ideas to share? Here’s a few more that I was brainstorming on:

 

 

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  • http://williamtoll.com William Toll

    Interesting analogies. Product launches are full of anticipation, emotion and suspense. In the old days (pre social media) it was normal to be “in the dark”.  However today with the real-time web there are many ways to boost a launch with rocket fuel so that the launch is not only a success- but sustainable until you reach your goals.  No doubt you have heard “that is a good problem to have”  – in the old days that was jammed phone lines and sold out inventory – today it’s a slow webserver and jammed registration system. 

    Another fun analogy might be a steam train.  It’s filled with pent-up energy when it leaves the station and with the brakes released can go for miles once underway.  Again, the key is to see the launch as just a day in a series of weeks/months where further fuel and momentum are needed.

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      William,

      Thanks for the comment and great point about real-time feedback. It is a challenge but as you put it, a good problem to have when it comes to managing during launch. 

      I like the steam train analogy – you need lots of work to build up that steam and need to keep the fire primed if you want to keep moving!

      Thanks again,

      Josh

  • http://twitter.com/DavidWLocke David W. Locke

    When I was a kid living in Huntsville, Alabama, every afternoon, they would strap a Saturn rocket engine into a cradle and fire it off. This was a very long time before launch. These were tests, not launches. Finding the right fuel mixture was probably the point.

    With that hockey stick, you can change your scale, timeframe, and what you are calling a launch.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidWLocke David W. Locke

    When I was a kid living in Huntsville, Alabama, every afternoon, they would strap a Saturn rocket engine into a cradle and fire it off. This was a very long time before launch. These were tests, not launches. Finding the right fuel mixture was probably the point.

    With that hockey stick, you can change your scale, timeframe, and what you are calling a launch.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidWLocke David W. Locke

    When I was a kid living in Huntsville, Alabama, every afternoon, they would strap a Saturn rocket engine into a cradle and fire it off. This was a very long time before launch. These were tests, not launches. Finding the right fuel mixture was probably the point.

    With that hockey stick, you can change your scale, timeframe, and what you are calling a launch.

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      David,

      Thanks for sharing! Being able to test your rocket engine pre-launch would be a great situation. It would be pretty nice to be able to find that right mixture before it got out the door.

      Thanks again,

      Josh

  • http://twitter.com/DavidWLocke David W. Locke

    When I was a kid living in Huntsville, Alabama, every afternoon, they would strap a Saturn rocket engine into a cradle and fire it off. This was a very long time before launch. These were tests, not launches. Finding the right fuel mixture was probably the point.

    With that hockey stick, you can change your scale, timeframe, and what you are calling a launch.

  • Jim Holland

    I’m not sure I have a favorite analogy, but often have experienced “Short-fuse” and Burn-out.” As David Locke mentioned, there’s a lot of energy spent in preparing and little time planning how much fuel is required to sustain lift-off and breaking the stratosphere. 

    I equate most product launch failure to a lack of product marketing roadmaps (yep, product marketing) and too much emphasis spent on checklist. While mission control has an exhaustive checklist, you can’t have a successful mission without a strong plan in place that looks at three things:

    1) What’s the purpose?
    2) Where are we headed?
    3) How will we get there and how will we get back. 

    • Jim Holland

      I forgot the “SPIT WAD” approach. Just soak the product in water and spit it out the door. Projectile Product Launches…NASTY

      • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

        Ah, the “spit wad” launch – will put this in the what not to do category.  Nasty is right!

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      Jim,

      Wonderful questions to consider. It is good to point out that once the product launches the work is not done and in some cases may just be getting started.  
      Having a roadmap and plan for those activities upfront is essential to “break through” the stratosphere.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Josh 

  • http://twitter.com/gander2112 Geoffrey Anderson

    You forgot one of my favorites.  The Banana launch.  You send it out and it ripens in the field.  Actually, I suspect that this is far more common than many of your models.

    My biggest complaint is that often a communications group will have this ginormous checklist of activities that needs to be fully completed prior to launch.  If you step back and look at it, you should start your launch preparations prior to doing any PoC work.

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      Geoffrey,

      The banana launch is fantastic! You can also play up the overripe bannan that doesn’t get out the door fast enough.

      Also, great point on launch preparations. Can’t agree more that you need to start as early as possible!

      Thanks for the comment,

      Josh

  • http://www.neverstopmarketing.com jer979

    I love this analogy, particularly because only yesterday, I cited the “statistic” that something like 95% of a rocket’s fuel gets burned up in the first 2 minutes in order to get to orbit. I couldn’t find the exact data, but (and this was tied to a marketing culture change discussion), the idea was the same…a TON of energy is required to break inertia.

    I think there’s a pivot/dimension to investigate here which would make this graph (which I really like) even richer.  Something that looks at the proportion of products/services/presidential campaigns and their likelihood of success/probability of falling on each of the curves you’ve identified.

    Rockets are great and everyone wants them, but if they only happen .01% of the time, then you are better off planning out your resources to drive a linear or hockey stick approach. Make sense?

    As usual, solid post. Thanks for bringing it to my attention (of course I would have seen it since i”m a loyal blog reader, but your outreach did inspire me to think more deeply about it and comment since I usually do my RSS reading on the iPad and it’s not as easy-for me-to comment that way. This is an interesting side discussion on its own ;-)

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      Jeremy,

      Great point – if you are trying to launch like a rocket you are going to need a lot of fuel and potentially the ability to refuel. If you use it all at once and don’t reach escape velocity, expect a big crash! 

      I like the idea around expanding the dimensions of the graph and adding more context. Could be an interesting exercise.  

      Thanks for the input!

      Josh

  • Pingback: Startup Launch Marketing | Rocket Watcher: Product Marketing for Startups

  • Tim johnson

    Then there’s the bird feeder launch.  http://value-prodmktg.blogspot.com/2011/06/product-marketing-is-for-birds.html

    The MRD is right, the TAM is right, buyers all over the place buying from other vendors (birdfeeders) but it still takes a long time to attract any buyers and you discover they buy differently from what you thought.

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      Tim, 
      Great post – love the concept that sometimes it takes time no matter how much seed you lay down. 

      Thanks for the comment!

      Josh

  • Darrin Stock

    I liken our product launches to baking and serving a cake. In the early stages you assemble ingredients (voice of the customer research, product features, market data), then select a recipe that will make the most of what you have to work with (identifying launch objectives and strategies).

    Next you start mixing it together (outlining tactics, lining up the resources), put it in the oven (tactical execution), frost and decorate (final touches on web content and collateral; final training push). Finally you present the finished cake (announcement/awareness/demand generation begins) and cut and serve (fulfillment and follow up to demand generation).

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      Darrin,

      Thanks for commenting!

      I like the idea of baking but not just one cake, more of running a bakery where you have to continually adjust your recipe and your processes based on your customers. 

      Josh

  • Rbraddy

    Most of us have had at least one of each type :)

  • Jennifer Doctor

    Unfortunately, the “yo-yo” launch is the one I have experienced all too many times. You gain velocity towards your goals, only to have it pull back up and make you start again.

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      Unfortunately, I have seen that one too. Ouch!

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://twitter.com/yonagigai Jonathan Seckler

    i have heard it said (by me usually :)) that good products dont launch; they escape.    I am curious – how important is launch really?  We marketers spend a lot of effort and $$ on that single point in time and i wonder if we’d all be more successful putting that effort into the post-launch campaigns and marketing — often the more thankless part of the job.  

    • http://www.arandomjog.com/ Joshua Duncan

      Great point and I am pretty sure I know where you are coming from :)

      I think that very few launches end up being the “rocket launch” right out of the gate and that most take a lot of post-launch work before they really gain momentum. 

      Thanks for the comment!