Magazine article Marketing

And for My Next Trick

Magazine article Marketing

And for My Next Trick

Article excerpt

Scoring a big brand hit can be a hard enough task, but keeping the momentum going is even harder, reports Claire Murphy.

In the music world, it's known as the 'difficult second album' syndrome: when you've created a huge success, how do you follow it up?

On the face of it, every marketer would like to suffer from the problem, but launching a spectacularly popular product, ad campaign or promotion is only half the job. If you raise the profile of your brand, you risk consumer boredom once the novelty wears off.

Sustaining momentum is the next challenge for the marketers who bred Walkers Sensations, for example, a sub-brand that became so popular it brought in pounds 78m worth of sales in its first year. Or Puma, the latest fashion brand to be seen in all the right places.

Fashion is a sector that invariably suffers from changing fads. Everyone in marketing wanted to be associated with Burberry two years ago after the famous check adorned a bikini modelled by Kate Moss and rocketed the brand into the limelight, but it has since suffered from over-exposure and unwanted associations (see box).

Once a marketing team has delivered a big hit, though, support is easier to win from senior management, sales and finance. British Bakeries divisional marketing director Paula Moss says the year after the successful Hovis relaunch was the only time in her career when her fourth-quarter budget wasn't cut back.

When the company launched vitamin-enriched loaf V-Force this year, it managed to get huge supermarket listings for it on the back of the Hovis revamp and the successful launch of Best of Both. But V-Force didn't live up to the expectation.

Arguably the first of the 90s mega-relaunches, Tango made careers and profits for all associated with it, but the launch of Still Tango two years later showed how easy it is to spoil a good thing.

Spoof ads from Britvic at launch warned customers to avoid Still Tango; weeks later the company had to run serious ads asking consumers not to drink it because it was fermenting on shelves and making people ill. More than one million products were recalled. By the end of the decade, Tango was registering double-digit drops in sales and has allowed Coca-Cola back into the fight with a revitalised Fanta.

After a high-profile launch there is also a danger that some members of the original marketing team find better jobs elsewhere. Nothing wrong with that, except that with each new intake of marketers the original core message of the brand can become more diluted.

People often leave the place where they scored a big hit because the post-launch phase can seem anticlimactic. 'It's like having a baby,' says Chris Wood, chief executive of branding agency Corporate Edge. 'Conception is fun, everything is new and exciting in the next nine months, then you've got all the exhaustion once you've got the baby.

'The irony is that, like a baby, the first years of a brand's life are even more crucial to its long-term development than its time in gestation.'

Some companies, says Wood, make the mistake of thinking that marketing support can be reduced once a product has been born. 'But all the competitors you've taken sales from in year one will come right back at you in year two,' he points out.

This is particularly true of FMCG markets, where consumers are happy to try something novel and brands can gain very healthy first-year sales figures. But it can take two years before the brand finds a place in consumers' established repertoires.

A more beneficial approach is to regard the launch as phase one in a long-term plan of market attack. Andrew Harrison, the marketing director in charge of Nestle Rowntree's successful launch of Nestle Double Cream, says he regards sticking rigorously to the original management recommendation document as the only way to go post-launch.

'We're pleased with how well the brand has done in its first year, but I'll see the true measure of success after year two or year three,' he argues. …

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