What makes a successful launch?

April 26th 2023 By Paul Williamson 5 minute read

When it comes to launching anything new, from a product, to a service, or anything in between – the build up to the launch is crucial. If you want it to be a real success, there needs to be lots of groundwork done ahead of launch. As they say in the 7 Ps - P*ss Poor Planning Precedes P*ss Poor Performance! 

With all of the different forms of advertising bombarding us – social media, TV, papers, billboards and an endless list of innovative ways of drip feeding us with messages throughout our day – it’s not enough to believe in something yourself and expect it to do well. In reality, most people don’t care about what you’ve got to say. Which means you have to get creative to really capture people's attention. 

One thing to note is that because your target audience is probably using lots of different forms of media, it pays dividends in researching where your audience is most likely to be. Of course, though, ideally, you want to plan it so that you capture the attention of the most people – as your optimum audience is likely to be in there too. And this is where multi-platform, creative campaigns become key.

I was having a look back at past examples of this, and one that caught my eye in particular was the launch of the 4th series of Netflix’s Stranger Things. Having first aired on Netflix in 2016, the show has gone from strength to strength and generated quite the global cult following. 

But given Stranger Things’ global appeal, it's important for its marketing team to try and capture the attention of different audiences worldwide. And in this instance, to do so they used a range of iconic landmarks to showcase iconic visual teasers for the upcoming launch. These included:

The Empire State Building in NYC
Bondi Beach in Australia
Duomo Square in Milan
The Gateway of India in Mumbai
Cologne Media Park in Germany
Malecon Barranquilla in Colombia
Menara Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia
Al-‘Ula National Monument in Saudi Arabia
XBox Plaza in Los Angeles
Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland
Medborgarplatsen in Stockholm
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao; Telefónica building, Gran Vía 28, Madrid; and Plaza del Callao, Madrid in Spain
These are incredibly eye-catching, and the fact they’re in such popular locations helped to create real talking points. Can you imagine walking past the Empire State Building and not being intrigued, having seen it lit up? I guarantee that will have been trending across social media when it was turned on for the first time!

Another thing they did to maximise these grand designs was to offer exclusive prizes and collectors items for those who visited the sites. Not only did this help generate excitement around the series, it widened the scope for who may be interested through association to the giveaways. Furthermore it often adds a news hook. Everyone loves a giveaway – and so do the press. If publications can present something to their audience as a ‘prize to be won’ then it helps pique the audience’s interest, while encouraging engagement. So, if launching something yourself, think: Is there anything you could giveaway, even if it’s a pre-launch purchase discount? It can help bridge the gap between reaction (“Oh, that looks cool”) and action (“I’m getting it”).

You may very well be thinking though “we’re not Netflix and we don’t have their budget” – but don't worry! Bigger budget doesn’t always mean a bigger impact (although, of course, it does help). Elements of this can be recreated on much smaller budgets (indeed, we’re national level award winners for Low Budget Consumer Campaign of the Year), but this is just a neat example of a way in which it’s been done well (and on a global scale).

Whilst this campaign was aimed at promoting the show’s 4th series, when it comes to your brand, you might be thinking about targeting those people who have no idea what you or your product is about – which takes us onto the importance of the messaging, people relating to you and understanding your objectives. The landmarks in the instance of Stranger Things all relate to things that happen in the series, which you may very well notice if you have seen it before, but  should still cause interest even if you haven’t. 
And if you have no idea what Stranger Things is about, they created a series of short YouTube videos which covered the key events from the previous series. They also created a series of interviews with the cast, directors of the show, even music videos and 80’s style adverts. These all link to the authentic look and feel of the show – and therefore the ‘brand’ – providing ranging support for the overall campaign. Adding layers to your marketing is key, and strategising multiple touch points and opportunities can really help to broaden impact and hammer home any message.

Everything the marketing team behind Stranger Things has done here though has been visually impactful and shareable, while encouraging engagement and interest. And, it’s fair to say, it worked.

According to Netflix, between May 23 and May 29, 2022, Stranger Things ranked first in 83 countries, and the series topped Netflix's top 10 lists in 91 countries (which was a first for an English TV series) while it became the first TV series to jump into the top three on the most popular list, with more than 621.8 million hours of watch time in less than two weeks following its premiere.

On top of this, it achieved an additional 159.2 million hours of viewing in its third week, becoming Netflix’s most watched English-language series with a staggering total of 781 million hours of viewing time – a figure that just continues to rise.

Four weeks after its March premiere, the Netflix original series remained at the top of the TV List with 102.3 million hours viewed, and it also ranked in the top ten in 93 countries, with 883 million hours viewed on the Most Popular list.

The numbers, then, underline the success of the launch.

Of course though, Stranger Things is mainly where it is because of the quality of the product. It’s a fantastic show, after all. But there are plenty of fantastic shows out there that have had nowhere near this level of success. So a lot of it then, can be attributed to the marketing behind it.

If you want your product or service to have a good launch, you have to think about your audience and look to meet them where they are at – covering all bases and maximising opportunity. And if you want any help? We’d love to hear from you and help maximise the reach of any activity you have planned – so if that’s the case just get in touch.

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