A guide to a successful product launch

What’s the last time you bought a brand new product only because its package design looked nice? 

According to the statistics, 72% of American consumers say their purchasing decision is influenced by the packaging design.

But, the packaging design is only half of the story.

It’s safe to say that every time you buy a new product (or use it for free) — it means its launch has been successful. 

In this blog post, we’ll try to unravel all the bits and pieces of what lies behind a successful product launch. 

Be sure to read until the end, as we’ll also cover some interesting good and bad real-life examples of famous companies’ new product launches.

Now, let’s dive in.

A guide to a successful product launch - cover

Table of Contents

What is a product launch?

Product launches belong to the late phase of the new product development (NPD) process

There are 3 phases to the NPD process: 

  • It starts with a simple idea. 
  • The idea is then further developed and becomes an actual product. 
  • The final step in this complex process is the product market launch.

To help you get a clear picture of how a product launch fits into the whole NPD process, here are several examples of typical activities in each NPD phase:

NPD Early phase NPD Mid-phase NPD Late phase
— Identifying new product strategy
— Business analysis
— Concept development
— Product planning
— Product development
— Product engineering
— Testing and validation
— Pilot production
— Commercialization
Product launch
— Post-launch review

The main goal of the product launch process is to raise brand awareness and build anticipation in target customers, which will ultimately result in making sales and earning a profit.

To have a successful product launch, you’ll first need to answer the following questions:

  • What (i.e. defining the desired outcome), 
  • Where (i.e. defining distribution channels), 
  • When (i.e. determining product launch timing), 
  • Why (i.e. defining your goals), and
  • How (i.e. choosing a product launch strategy).

Now, it’s time to tackle these questions, so, keep reading.

What makes a successful product launch?

The primary goal of a product launch is usually to promote the product and drive sales to bring profit to the company.

However, making money doesn’t necessarily have to be the only parameter to call a product launch successful.

Here are some other possible outcomes of a successful product launch, besides an immediate increase in revenues:

  • Raising brand awareness,
  • Drawing attention to your company, and
  • Promoting your other products.

These outcomes have a direct influence on building trust within your target customers, which indirectly drives sales in the long run.

Even when launches are not profit-oriented at first glance, don’t be tricked into thinking that they serve no purpose.

Whether directly or indirectly, successful product launches will drive sales.

So, if your audience is well-targeted and the product is solid — you’ll most likely pick the fruits of your labor and enjoy a growing revenue in due time. 

What you need to know before launching a new product

Before we start analyzing real-life examples, there are certain terms that you should be familiar with. 

So, let’s see what these terms mean:

  • Product differentiation
  • Market research

What is product differentiation and why is it important for product launches?

Product differentiation is the process of distinguishing your product from similar competitors’ products

And, differentiation is a key factor in launching a winning product. 

So, what’s the catch? How do you launch a one-of-a-kind product? 

According to the study on Success Factors for New‐Product Development, there are several key factors that distinguish new product winners from the ones that fail

FactorsProduct differentiations
Your product is unique and superior to competitive products.— It features good value for money. 
— It offers unique features that solve a problem that customers have with a competitive product.
— Customers perceive the product as useful.
Strong market research is done prior to the launch.— It makes your product customer-focused, and one that meets customer needs and preferences (e.g. has an appealing design or functionalities).
You’re launching a “global product”.— These are international products that are targeted at global and nearest-neighbor markets and are not limited just to the “domestic” market. 
There’s a clearly-defined product definition.— Being specific about who the target users are.
— Having a description of the product concept and benefits.
— Having a defined target price.
— Having a list of product features and specifications.
Your project team members are well organized.— Teams are cross-functional.
— Teams are dedicated and focused.
— There’s a strong project leader.
You’re operating within your field of expertise.— Working with familiar markets or familiar technologies increases the chances of product launch success.

All these factors combined should give you a competitive advantage and make your product stand out.

An example of good product differentiation — Apple:

A recent study has found that Apple uses a series of effective techniques that help establish its brand image and secure an outstanding position in the market: 

  • Instead of competing on pricing, Apple focuses on developing its unique value position by releasing new product designs every year.
  • They use a free trial strategy combined with influencer marketing — influencers are given a free product and asked to talk about the product. This raises brand awareness, attracts more customers, and ultimately generates more sales.
  • Apple products are created to reflect its customers’ lifestyles, based on the understanding of customer needs. Because of this, purchasing an Apple product evokes positive feelings in its customers.
  • The simple and elegant design of Apple’s products also impacts purchasing decisions.
  • Apple’s marketing and content are simple, transparent, and engaging, without any flashy or complicated messages.
  • Apple sends out an email to its new users one month into the usage of a product, asking for feedback, which is useful as it gives the company insight into their customers’ personal opinions. They can use those insights for future improvements.
  • When it comes to pre-launch, Apple tries to be mysterious and create hype.
  • Apple doesn’t focus on simply selling the product, but on creating a unique customer experience — from ads to packaging.
  • Apple created its own ecosystem, where all its products are in sync, which sets them apart from other similar companies and their products. 

All these factors help Apple differentiate itself from the competitors, and make each new product launch successful.

Why is market research important in a product launch?

Efficient market research provides valuable information on customer adoption (i.e. how the product will be received by customers). It allows you to fine-tune your product and secure a successful launch.

Market research includes different kinds of information-gathering activities:

  • Surveys, 
  • Interviews, 
  • Focus groups, and 
  • Customer observation.

Through market research, you can collect data on:

  • Target customers, 
  • Competition, 
  • Current market trends, and
  • Economic environment (i.e. the current economic situation).

To be more precise, market research might include:

  • Identifying customer needs and wants — i.e. the “must have” and “nice to have” features in a product,
  • Identifying market size and growth rate,
  • Identifying key competitors and their strategies, and
  • Conducting financial analyses and determining costs.

All in all, doing a market analysis equips you with enough information to: 

  • Make your product unique, 
  • Prepare you for the product launch, and 
  • Make the product more likely to succeed.

How to launch a product successfully in 9 simple steps

Though every product launch process varies depending on the product type, there are some general steps to follow to stay on track.

Of course, you can always alter or add some steps towards your perfect product launch.

If not exactly sure where to start, we suggest these 9 steps.

Step #1: Creating a product launch roadmap 

Before you embark on the product launch mission, our advice is to create a visual display of your plan, i.e. a product roadmap.

As a product launch is a complex process, you’ll probably want to save some valuable time on making the roadmap from scratch. 

To do this, you can use a pre-made product launch template, such as the one available in the project management (PM) tool — Plaky

A product launch roadmap will help you easily manage the entire product launch process, from the pre-launch to the post-launch stage. 

Also, it will help you keep all teams and team members aligned, starting from the product and development teams, all the way to the marketing and sales teams.

To help better illustrate what the product launch roadmap actually looks like — here’s an example:

Product launch roadmap template in Plaky (a PM tool)
Product launch roadmap template in Plaky (a PM tool)

In the example above, you can see how you can easily organize different tasks using different boards (e.g. Q1, Q2) and its customizable fields, e.g.:

  • Assignee field to assign one or multiple team members to different tasks,
  • Department field to assign different teams, such as marketing or sales,
  • Due date field — to define deadlines for tasks, and
  • Launch status field — to keep track of ongoing tasks with colored status labels, such as In Beta, or Done.

What’s also great about this template is that you can further customize it to fit your specific needs by adding as many boards and fields as you want.

Step #2: Following the launch process via a checklist

Another great addition to your product launch planning process is — a checklist.

This simple way of keeping track of the launch is more effective than it initially appears. 

Using a checklist works wonders as you can easily tick the task you’ve done and move on to the next one, avoiding getting overwhelmed by too much information at a time. 

The biggest pro of a checklist for a product launch is that you can include a wide variety of tasks in it, whether simple or complex, e.g.:

“Enter the due date for the ‘design website’ task in Plaky” or

✅“Finish website design”.

Here’s a free checklist template you can use in your product launch:

Product launch checklist

Download a product launch checklist template

Step #3: Doing pre-launch marketing

All the marketing you do before the official product launch is called pre-marketing, and it belongs to the product pre-launch stage. 

Pre-launch marketing strategies include:

  • Email promotion, 
  • Content marketing, and 
  • PR.

With a well-developed pre-marketing strategy, you’ll both create hype around the upcoming product and test different marketing channels. 

Gathering feedback about the product in advance is also important as it allows you to make any necessary changes before the final product launch. 

Altogether, pre-launch marketing will prepare the target audience for the launch by creating a sense of curiosity. Plus, it’s likely to create a waiting list of your first paying customers.

For example, a simple countdown timer on your website or social media page coupled with a compelling copy can raise anticipation and create some positive buzz around the upcoming product.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

The pre-launch stage is a great time to think about a long-term marketing strategy. Here’s a guide to help you plan your marketing strategy:

Step #4: Setting your product launch goals

Another important step in launching a new product on the market is setting clear goals. 

Without defining S.M.A.R.T. goals, it will be harder for you to reach your desired outcomes, as you’ll end up aimlessly wandering through the vast market. 

So, be sure to set long-term and short-term goals.  

When it comes to different goal types, they can be:

  • Revenue-oriented (e.g. looking to gain profit from the launch),
  • Market-oriented (e.g. searching for the right market to fit your product),
  • Customer-oriented (e.g. targeting the appropriate consumer base), or
  • Brand-oriented (e.g. raising awareness about the product).

Whichever the case, it’s always good to know exactly what you want to achieve and where you want to see your product in the future, so as not to get lost along the way.

Step #5: Choosing a product launch strategy

Depending on the outcomes you want to achieve, there are 2 types of product launch strategies you can opt for:

  • A soft launch, or
  • A hard launch.

Both of these strategies can prove successful, providing that they’re well devised. 

Being aware of both their pros and cons will increase your chances of making the best use of whichever you choose.

Soft launch strategy

A soft launch is like a sneak peek of an upcoming product. It doesn’t include any formal announcements — it’s conducted with more subtlety (e.g. a simple email announcement to your user base). 

A soft launch might include a gradual release of certain product features or components that precedes the grand release of a fully developed product. 

Pros of a soft product launch: An important pro of this launch type are its feedback possibilities — companies can collect important feedback on the product and make modifications along the way, this way preparing the ground for the upcoming big release.  

Cons of a soft product launch: On the other hand, the reach of such a soft launch is quite limited, as it targets a narrower audience, which further implies lower initial sales. 

Hard launch strategy

A hard launch is a formal release of a market-ready product, released with full-force efforts from the very first day. It comes as an important announcement after a period of creating hype among the target audience.

Pros of a hard product launch: A hard launch targets wide audiences, and raises significant attention — which naturally implies higher sales expectations from the beginning.

Cons of a hard product launch: In spite of many benefits, a hard launch can be risky — after the product has been launched, there’s no going back from that point. So, if you don’t deliver what you’ve promised, you might end up disappointing your customers, and all the buzz you’ve created will be in vain. 

Step #6: Determining product launch timing

Good timing is a critical factor in determining the product launch’s success. Plus, there’s only 1 product launch day — so, you should pay extra attention to doing it right.

Getting the time right is by far the most important factor determining product launch success. 

Due to the inability to define the right moment, in many cases — you’re often left to the mercy of your intuition.

However, there are some general questions to ask yourself, that can give you a sense of direction — and thus increase the chances of capturing the right moment for your product launch:

  1. Are your target customers in dire need of your product or your product feature at the moment of the launch? Your product should be a problem-solver and make the lives of your customers easier at the moment of the launch.
  2. Are your target customers aware of what your product is about? You need to be sure that the market is familiar with the product in general — otherwise, people may be reluctant to use it. 
  3. Is your product up and running at the time of its launch? You don’t want to rush into launching a product too early and suffer undesired technical or functionality issues. 
  4. Have you raised enough attention to the upcoming product with pre-marketing? You should launch the product at the moment when the target audience is aware of the upcoming release and is expecting it. Be especially careful not to miss the launch date, as it could disappoint and drive off your potential customers.

But, all in all — there’s no recipe for the perfect launch timing. You need to rely on your own senses and reason.

Step #7: Defining distribution channels

When you’re about to decide which distribution channels to use — i.e. how you will deliver the product to the end user — market research comes into play, as it gives data on how target customers buy similar products.

Based on the current market situation and your target audience preferences  — you need to choose the way you’ll place your product. And, there are 2 ways to do it:

  • Directly, by selling the product to the customer, or
  • Indirectly, with one or more intermediaries included.

The option you should choose mainly depends on the size of your business. 

Usually, smaller companies opt for direct distribution channels, such as:

  • Retail store sales,
  • Door-to-door sales,
  • Telemarketing sales, or
  • Direct online selling (via websites or social media channels).

On the other hand, larger companies often use more complex, indirect distribution channels, such as:

  • Manufacturer—retailer—customer sales, or
  • Manufacturer—wholesaler—retailer—customer sales.

Now, let’s further explain it with an example:

  • You’ll probably have a successful product launch if you choose to sell shoes in a retail store where people can actually try them on. 
  • In contrast, you’re much less likely to drive sales by selling, for example, educational courses, trips, or software — in retail stores. In this case, it’s better to use e-commerce.

Step #8: Execution stage

After all the pre-launch preparation steps have been conducted, it’s time to proceed to the execution stage.

Product launch execution includes both the launch day and the days and weeks to follow. 

The moment the product is launched, you should focus on maintaining the excitement about the release for as long as possible — usually by means of marketing. 

For example, a proven way to maintain excitement during the product launch is to use social media. 

Here are some marketing tips to help you at the execution stage of a new product launch:

  • Reply to comments on any posts mentioning your new product to increase the reach and show that you listen to your customers and care about their opinions.
  • Contact the influencers as they’re great at digital storytelling — plus they’ll help you spread the word about your product by reaching wider audiences. 
  • Collect testimonials, as they help customers build trust when they know others have successfully used your product.
  • Create giveaways where customers may get a taste of the product for free.

After all, the longer the buzz — the better the results in terms of sales.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

If you want to make the most of social media, you may want to take a more systematic approach and create a social media content calendar. Here’s a guide on how to do it:

Step #9: Post-launch stage

The post-launch stage is basically everything that happens after you’ve launched the product. 

It includes tracking both how well your product has been received by the target audience and the objectives you’ve met as a company. 

To measure the performance of your product launch, you may establish metrics specific to your product.

Apart from measuring success, the post-launch stage includes a range of other activities, such as: 

  • Continual content publishing, to keep the target audience engaged, e.g.:
    • How-to guides for your product 
    • Behind-the-scenes videos
    • Additional tips and tricks on product features
  • Analyzing the product launch results, customer reviews, and feedback, as well as the financial results, to allow improvement in the future.
  • Making additional changes based on the received feedback.
  • Making plans for the future (e.g. new features introduction).
  • Celebrating the product launch.

5 Tips for a successful product launch

Taking care of details is as important as thinking about the big picture. Details are exactly what sets apart successful launches from failed ones.

So, along with the 9 steps of the product launch you should follow, there are a couple of additional tips that’ll polish your strategy and bring it to the point of perfection.

Tip #1: Treat product launch as a separate stage of product development

Though introducing a new product into the market is a complex process that starts with an idea and ends with the launch — you should treat the product launch as equally important as, for example, the concept development stage. 

Paying extra attention to the product launch stage and how you manage it directly influences the success or the failure of the product, as it is the one that calls for the heaviest investment. 

Tip #2: Have a launch plan from the beginning

Making a strategic step-by-step plan on how and when you’re going to launch a new product should help both team members and stakeholders stay aligned with what you plan to achieve with the launch. 

One of the good ways to plan the launch is to use pre-made product roadmap templates, such as the one by Plaky we offered above. Apart from that, you can use product launch checklists. 

Whichever option you choose, it’ll surely pay up — your launch will instantly have an increased chance for success as planning helps you minimize any potential hurdles.

Tip #3: Don’t carve your plan in stone

Though having a plan is crucial for success, there’s no better plan than a flexible one. 

Being ready to make necessary changes on the go is an integral aspect of any good product launch plan, as is the ability to adapt to the ongoing market changes.

Tip #4: Build an experienced and motivated product launch team

Assembling a strong team is an integral part of a successful product launch. 

Try to build a team that’s both experienced and willing to collaborate. Choose product managers and team leaders with care, as they are usually the glue that brings the team together, both in the good and in the difficult times. 

Even skilled managers might go off course when faced with a big undertaking such as a product launch. However, your team members should be properly prepared for any challenges with extensive training and constant support.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

Check out this blog post to learn more about why communication matters in project management:

Tip #5 Your product launch marketing should be veiled in mystery

When it comes to the marketing you do in the pre-launch stage — you can think of creative ways to grab your customers’ attention and somehow stir their imagination. 

Mystery has always been a powerful marketing tool as it engages customers and emotionally connects them to your brand. 

So, why not let them guess what new product/feature is being released based on clever marketing? 

Make them struggle a bit, thinking: “What’s all the hype about?”, “What’s the secret?”, and “What could it be?”

Just as Stephen Brown says in his article about retromarketing: “Torment your customers (They’ll love it)”.

How to measure success in a product launch?

Any good product launch plan should establish a system to measure product launch success.

Metrics of success are also known as key performance indicators (KPIs).

It’s important to include metrics in your product launch strategy as they help you understand how your product is performing, giving you a chance to further improve:

  • Revenues, 
  • Product adoption, 
  • Customer engagement, and
  • Customer satisfaction.

You should choose your KPIs with care (each new product is unique, hence it has unique KPIs). 

However, there are some examples of KPIs common for all new product launches.

Metric #1: Pre-launch sign-ups 

Keeping track of the sign-up numbers during your pre-launch campaign is important as it gives you some beforehand information on how your product launch is likely to perform. 

Plus, you’re assembling a waiting list of leads that might become your paying customers. 

Metric #2: Website traffic 

Following the website traffic will give you insight into the organic vs. paid traffic your product’s website gets from search engines. 

This information allows you to assess your content quality and improve it if necessary. 

Metric #3: Social media traffic 

It’s an important metric for analyzing engagement rates across different social media platforms (e.g. videos, podcasts, posts, etc.), as well as the reach you acquire on social media. 

As social media is one of the most powerful marketing tools at the moment, you should devote special attention to this metric. 

Metric #4: Lead generation 

Lead generation includes measuring the number of new leads (i.e. prospects) who’ll potentially become paying customers. 

Generating leads is especially useful during the pre-launch as it allows you to predict customer rates. 

Metric #5: Conversion rate 

You can also measure the number of leads who turn into paying customers — this process is called conversion. 

To do this, you can calculate the exact percentage of customers that came from your website, social media platforms, or your other marketing efforts. 

Here’s a simple conversion rate formula:

Conversion rate percentage = Conversions ÷ Total number of visitors × 100 

15% conversion rate = 15 conversions ÷ 100 website visits × 100  

Metric #6: Email open rate 

Email open rate implies tracking the number of users who opened your emails, compared to the total number of people you sent it to.

Here’s an example of a simple email open rate formula:

Open email rate = Number of opened emails ÷ number of delivered emails × 100

20% open email rate = 200 ÷ 1,000 × 100   

Metric #7: Clickthrough rate (CTR) 

Clickthrough rate implies calculating the number of clicks on the specific link compared to the total number of users who viewed your email campaign.

Here’s an example of a simple CTR formula:

CTR = Number of clicks ÷ number of opened emails × 100

15% CTR = 30 ÷ 200 × 100 

Metric #8 Costs and revenues 

This may be one of the most important KPIs, regardless of the product type launched. 

Before diving into the realization of your launch plan, think about some strategic budgeting methods to keep your launch costs under control. 

Also, to determine if your lunch has been financially successful, you’ll need to calculate how much you’ve invested compared to what you’ve earned. 

Metric #9: Customer retention rate 

This is an important metric during the post-launch stage, as it allows you to track the percentage of the existing customers who remain customers after a certain time period.

Knowing these numbers can help you understand:

  • What keeps your existing customers loyal to your company, as opposed to
  • What causes them to leave.

Here’s how you can calculate customer retention rate:

  • Find out how many customers you have at the end of a given period (week, month, or quarter) and subtract the number of new customers you’ve gained during that period. 
  • Divide by the number of customers you had at the beginning of that period. 
  • Then, multiply the final number by one hundred.

Here is an example of this formula:

(1,200 customers at the end of the month – 300 acquired new customers) ÷ 1,000 customers you had at the beginning of the month × 100 = 90% customer retention rate

3 real-life examples of successful product launches

Analyzing real-life examples of successful product launches can help you improve your own strategy. 

Plus, they can motivate you to strive for more.

So, keep reading.

What you can learn from Apple’s iPhone 14 launch

In light of the recent Apple 2022 “Far Out” tech event, we’ll explain how this company successfully launches its new products year after year. 

Every year, thousands of users anticipate Apple’s event for months, ready to pre-order new products before the official launch. 

So, what can you pick up from Apple’s launching strategy and consider when creating your own? 

  • With pre-launch marketing, try to frame the mood of your target customers and get them excited by using certain words, visuals, and sounds. (e.g. the most used words in Apple’s 2021 event were: you, new, Apple, more, power, design, fast, performance, big, best, amazing, etc.)
  • People love the exclusiveness of pre-orders. Consider incorporating them into your launch strategy.
  • Build your customers’ trust with testimonials — get influencers and experts to talk about your product.

What you can learn from the Starbucks launch

So, what lies behind one of the most successful product launches in the world of coffee lovers?

Being officially launched into select London coffeehouses in 2009, Starbucks instantly conquered the hearts and tastes of coffee aficionados.

However, what few people know is that success didn’t exactly happen overnight. 

Behind Starbucks’ success story stands nearly 20 years of developing and perfecting the recipe. 

The goal was to make the stores a unique experience for the customers and differentiate their product from other instant coffee companies, e.g. by removing automatic espresso machines and introducing in-house grinding. 

So, the important things the Starbucks story teaches us is:

  • It takes time to develop a successful product launch strategy.
  • Even if you don’t succeed at your first launch, learn from it to make it better next time (just like Starbucks succeeded after many tries).  
  • It’s crucial to put the customers first and offer a whole experience, rather than just sell the product.

What you can learn from the KFC Double Down launch

There’s a saying — “All press is good press”, and not without a reason. 

In 2010, KFC gained huge attention from the press, but for making a somewhat controversial move — it “launched” a breadless sandwich, replacing bread with chicken filets. 

The company advertised it with the slogan: “This product is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun!”, as stated by David Cho for The Awl.

Not only was it considered an unconventional move, but it was highly criticized for its health risks.

Despite the controversy, it was love at first bite for thousands of customers. 

It instantly became a bestseller, and the company extended the limited run for another couple of months. 

All in all, we may conclude that:

  • Being innovative is key for product launch.
  • Sometimes, even the “negative” attention may turn out to be good for the launch’s success.

3 real-life examples of the biggest product launch failures

Even famous companies have faced occasional blunders over the course of the years.

Here are a couple of examples of bad practices in product launch history.

What you can learn from the NewCoke launch

One of the biggest failures in business history happened in the 1980s, during the time of the so-called “Cola Wars”. Coca-Cola started losing market share and found itself in desperate need to do something to gain an advantage over its biggest competitor, PepsiCo.

Instead of creating a new, separate product, they decided to replace the old product with NewCoke — a new, sweeter version of their trademark drink. 

However, little did they know that it would be a huge mistake. Soon enough, thousands of people started protesting and raging against NewCoke.

One of the former Coca-Cola executives said: “We did not know what we were selling. We were not selling a soft drink. We were selling a little tiny piece of people’s lives”. After only 79 days, the classic Cola was returned to the store shelves. 

So, what conclusions can we draw from this historical product launch failure?

  • Always think about consumers first, i.e. what your consumers need and how they would feel about the product launch.
  • Always safeguard your product’s uniqueness and don’t try to imitate your competitors.
  • Do thorough research before the product launch and try to understand your consumers’ habits. 

What you can learn from the Samsung Galaxy Note7 launch

Back in 2016, Samsung nearly fell apart after their new product launch began to explode — literally. The new smartphones’ batteries started catching fire soon after the launch, due to faulty batteries. 

Not long after, the carriers stopped selling the model, Samsung had to end production, and its shares started to drop dramatically. 

All in all, this might be one of the costliest product launch failures in recent tech history. 

It’s believed that one of the factors behind the failure was the desire to make the device as thin as possible, which left the batteries without enough room to expand. 

And, what lessons can we learn from this product launch failure?

  • All products should be rigorously tested before their release.
  • Quality over quantity — don’t be carried away by a fancy design that may comprise your product’s essential features.
  • If you notice a problem — act immediately to address it.

What you can learn from the Microsoft Windows Vista launch

Another tech failure that scores highly on TIME’s list of tech failures of the last decade is — the launch of Microsoft’s Vista

In 2007, one of the world’s largest software companies made the unfortunate move of launching a new operating system that was supposed to offer new and improved security features.

However, the users were highly disappointed, as Vista was not only incompatible with a number of older versions of PCs, but its new features weren’t much better compared to the old versions of the software.

PC Magazine described it as follows: “Call it a nice-to-have product rather than a must-have.”

Today, this failure teaches us an important lesson about the product launch in general:

  • Launch only products that are a “must-have”, i.e. the products that actually solve some of your customer’s problems — and success should come naturally.

What causes product launch failure?

Ranging from bad timing all the way to poor product features, the reasons for product launch failure might be many.

We’ve seen some examples of failed product launches in real life. 

Now, let’s see what the professionals in the field have to say about product launch failure.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Joan Schneider and Julie Hall from Schneider Associates list the following 5 reasons for product launch failure: 

  1. The company can’t support fast growth.
  2. The product doesn’t deliver what is promised.
  3. The product isn’t differentiated well enough.
  4. The product is confusing your buyers.
  5. The product is innovative, but there’s no market for it.

Reason #1: The company can’t support fast growth

Apart from having a plan for product development and launch, you also need to be prepared for potential success. 

Schneider and Hall give Mosquito Magnet as a good example the company hit the perfect timing by launching a mosquito trap during the West Nile virus scare. However, after the company expanded its production, the quality dropped, customers got angry, and the company had to be sold.

Reason #2: The product doesn’t deliver what is promised

Make sure to live up to your customer’s expectations. 

Promising a functional and innovative product means really launching it. 

Otherwise, you may end up disappointing your customers, and what’s worse, losing their trust. 

After all, it’s the trusting customers that convert into paying customers. 

Reason #3: The product isn’t differentiated well enough

If you want a successful product launch, you need to be realistic and objective about your product.

For your product to be adopted by the target customers, make sure that it’s actually different from your other products or other similar products on the market. 

Thorough market research will help you gain these insights on time, i.e. before the final launch.

Reason #4: The product is confusing your buyers

In 2004, P&G launched an air freshener that looked like a CD player with CD-like disc inserts that gave off different aromas. What’s more, these aromas were named after popular song titles, such as “Relaxing in the Hammock”. On top of all, the company hired the singer Shania Twain for its launch commercials. 

Can you guess what happened?

The company ended up creating total confusion among its consumers, causing them to think that the device could both play music and emit scents. 

Unfortunately, the air freshener was condemned to failure.

So, to avoid any possible confusion, be transparent when it comes to your product features. 

Reason #5: The product is innovative, but there’s no market for it

You need to be specific about the target market and the price from the very beginning of your product launch plan development. 

Back in 2001, a self-balancing two-wheeled vehicle called the Segway was launched

There’s no doubt that it was an innovative product that worked perfectly well. 

However — there were no specific target users for it. Segway could be used by anyone, but people didn’t exactly need it (as they could just as well walk). 

Costing $5,000 at that moment (today, it costs around $1,000), it’s not surprising that it failed to raise the intended profits post-launch. Today, you can see police officers, warehouse workers, or urban tour guides driving Segways.

All in all, the lectures from this story are: 

  • Have a clearly defined target audience. 
  • Think of the specific use cases of your product.
  • Define a reasonable price.

Conclusion: Learn from existing product launch examples

We know that a successful product launch is a challenging undertaking for both beginners and experienced managers. 

Luckily, you can increase your chances of success by educating yourself on both the theoretical framework and practical real-life examples before embarking on this journey.

In this blog post, we’ve covered the following theoretical aspects of the product launch:

  • What is a product launch?
  • What makes a product launch successful?
  • How to launch a product in 9 easy steps
  • 5 tips for better product launches
  • Which metrics to use in a product launch
  • What are the reasons behind product launch failure?

Also, we’ve provided you with a list of successful and failed product launch examples in the hope they can inspire you when creating your product launch plan. 

We believe that learning through somebody else’s good practices is the best kind of learning, as you can avoid making some common mistakes and increase the chances of making your launch successful. 

✉️ If you can think of any other useful tips or have any interesting examples of product launches, feel free to contact us at blogfeedback@plaky.com, and we may include your ideas in this or any other future blog posts. Also, if you liked this blog post and found it useful, share it with someone you think would also benefit from it.

IsidoraDjekic Isidora  Djekic

Isidora is a project management author and researcher at Plaky. She graduated from the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade where she got her MA degree in English. Isidora’s guiding principle as a writer is to create reliable content enriched with both textbook and real-life examples.