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The top five food product launch must-haves.

By Greg Sherry

Launching a new food or beverage product into an ever-growing, highly-competitive market is never an easy task. How exactly should marketers ensure their brands stand out and build an audience right from the get-go?

It can be done, as long as the proper preparation is completed in advance. Below are five key considerations to consider during the planning phase to help ensure success when it comes time to launch.

1. Execute a Competitive Market Analysis.

It’s no surprise that an effective digital marketing strategy is crucial to a successful product launch. Now, more than ever, connecting digitally with the right consumer through the right channels at the right time is key. Before you initiate your marketing plan, make sure you understand where your product fits into the overall market, without making any assumptions, and as unbiased as possible.

If you are going to give yourself the best chance to succeed, you need to first confirm there is a need. If you believe you have a competing product, then identify competitive positioning and adjust your messaging accordingly. You’ll likely be joining an existing category and will need to develop a plan to differentiate yourself. Knowing the defining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your company/product compared to the competition will be the basis for any marketing plan.

2. Complete a Digital Audience Analysis.

After identifying exactly where your product fits in the market, it’s then important to understand your core audiences. While you might think it’s the same as your competition, that may very well not be the case.

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There are two parts to a digital audience analysis – the conversation analysis and an audience survey. The conversation analysis is essentially a review of social media conversations about the product market in general, and specifically about the category you’ll be entering. Are social media posts generally positive or negative about the market and similar products? What is the overall sentiment? Does it fluctuate throughout the year or geographically? This type of an analysis will inform where you can participate in the discussion and where there are opportunities to differentiate your product.

Next, conduct an audience survey. This can be done through an independent survey platform of which there are several good options. Make sure you understand your audience’s true attitudes when it comes to different products and how they fit into their lifestyles and their “pains & gains.” Who and what is influencing their decisions? How much loyalty do they have to your potential competition? All these questions are very important when it comes to crafting key messages.

3. Engage in influencer marketing.

The impact of influencers has become increasingly valuable. There are all types of influencers ready and willing to work with you, but it’s important to think about your audience and budget when determining how to market your brand. Look at your prospective influencers’ audience – does it align with yours? How about the types of products they market – would they complement your product well?

Budget is usually determined by an influencer’s following, so be mindful of the numbers. Keep in mind: you don’t always need to tap the influencer with a million followers and the accompanying cost; micro targeting can be just as, if not even more, effective. Micro-influencers are those with fewer followers but who deliver engaging, authentic content to a niche audience. This can be a cost-effective and powerful tactic. In addition to social media influencers, health professionals, such as nutritionists, registered dietitians and fitness experts, can also have a huge impact on your brand as consumers often trust these experts for advice. Aligning with these types of influencers can help underscore your product’s messaging, credibility and in turn, have a valuable impact on sales.

4. Stay in the loop with food trends.

As we know, the food industry is always changing based on latest research, industry trends and fad diets, a lot of which influencers help shape. Trends will always come and go, and it’s important to pay attention to historical fads and future forecasts. It’s also important to note that not all food trends are tied to health. With food-based Instagrams popping up everywhere, trends are often tied to aesthetics.

Knowing where your product fits within these trends can help you leverage messaging to align with what’s hot. Trends can also lead way to some unique marketing initiatives that help showcase a product’s relevance. Just be sure that while you’re creating something new, you’re staying authentic. While it’s important to have fun and take advantage of trends, be sure to only do so when they are true to your roots.

5. Know your messaging.

Whether you’re working with an outside spokesperson or an internal executive will be handling media interviews, it is critical that every member is trained to deliver consistent and clear product messaging. One way to ensure this is to go through a team media training. At this time, you can lay out key talking points, answers to potential questions and practice your delivery. Aligning the team on messaging ensures that your product will be properly presented in all aspects of communications, whether it’s a tweet, blog post or print interview.

Greg Sherry is an award-winning marketing and communications executive with 25+ years of experience developing strategic, integrated campaigns for many leading global brands. In addition to serving as founder and CEO of his own agency, which he built and sold to Publicis, Sherry has held senior level positions with several top independent firms and also directed corporate communications for a $1+ billion global consumer products company. Sherry can be reached at [email protected]

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