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Successful Launches Still Possible

Oct 12, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Probably the toughest challenge for any television marketer is to launch a new product or service in an already hyper-competitive industry. Bringing a new offering to market with a limited ad budget can keep a marketer staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night.
How do you ensure the best possible chance at success under great pressure to deliver short-term results?
Are there some proven tactics to bring about immediate consumer acceptance?
When coming up with examples of companies that quickly carved out market share for a brand-new product or service, three immediately came to mind:
The health information Web site WebMD.com, GM’s Hummer sports vehicle and the Fox Business Network.
On the topic of launching a new venture, a WebMD.com spokesperson recently told me:
“Consumers now turn to the Internet first when they have a health-related question, and WebMD is the source they turn to the most. Our TV campaign is designed to reinforce our brand values and the quality and integrity of the health information we provide.”
When asked the same question, a representative of General Motors’ Hummer Division told me:
“Our goal with television is to continue to convey that Hummer is ‘Like Nothing Else,’ as always, but to do it in a fun and approachable way.”
What about successfully launching yet another national television news network? The latest entry into the TV business channel arena, the Fox Business Network, offers a perfect case study about how to scrape out market share in an already crowded landscape.
Bringing an entirely new network to the public is not quite like launching a Web site, and it’s certainly not like marketing a car. We asked Terry Baker, executive producer, and David Asman, host of the program “America’s Nightly Scoreboard,” how Fox was able to lure audience away from other popular business shows.
TelevisionWeek: Why did you feel there was a niche for yet another television business network?
Terry Baker: Really not my question to answer, but … it’s never good for people, whether they be investors or sports fans, to have just one avenue of information. In that case, the media gets cozy with the people or companies it covers and information gets skewed at best and manipulated at worst. Also, clearly, News Corp. felt that there was a legitimate business that could turn a profit.
TVWeek: What makes “America’s Nightly Scoreboard” different from other news programs?
Ms. Baker: Americans in general are all about keeping score. We keep score on the athletic field, but also in politics, business and our personal lives. “America’s Nightly Scoreboard” is a program all about keeping score: Who won today and who lost. We’re much more approachable than many other programs in this space. We take complex subjects and try to strip away the jargon and posturing and really get to the basic facts and issues.
David Asman: “Scoreboard” believes that businesses, like sports, depend a lot on spirit. Sometimes even when the odds are dead set against you, the spirit takes over and you win. And even if you don’t win, that spirit can keep you going until you get it right—even if it takes years. Eighty percent of all restaurants in major cities don’t make it. But folks keep opening up restaurants. And some of those folks will try a dozen different combinations till they get it right.
As part of that, “Scoreboard” loves the long shot—the underdog. We don’t ignore the top dogs, particularly the ones who still have that spirit of enterprise. But the beauty of our system is that when the spirit plays out of the top dogs, it’s the small teams that come up with the solutions and the innovations. It wasn’t giant IBM that brought computers into every home in America; it was a guy working in his basement named Steve Jobs and a nerdy college dropout named Bill Gates. Find the spirit of enterprise and you’ll find a winner.
TVWeek: How do you see network news evolving in the future as high-speed broadband home and mobile access begins to matter more than cable hookups?
Ms. Baker: First, we have to be more approachable in the ways in which we communicate with our viewers. Having broadband or mobile access [gives us] additional ways to communicate and we must take advantage of those. Also we have to understand that we are not the only source of information for our viewers, which means that we have to use our resources to give more perspective and to interpret events rather than giving a straight recitation of the facts. In this world, the “who, what and where” of a story are less important than the why, at least as far as we are concerned.
Mr. Asman: As host of “Scoreboard,” I always try to find people who have obtained as much inside information as they can without abandoning a common-sense attitude about how to deal with that information. And if we get folks on who try to “sound” smart without adding a thing of substance, my job is to slap them out of it and force them to untangle the rhetoric into straightforward language. It’s true that experts often have access to inside information—the legal and the illegal kind—that helps them make decisions that make them rich or more powerful. But we do our best to share that information with our audience as quickly and as completely as we can, to level the playing field.
So when you step back and look at what it takes to win business in an overcrowded sector, several metrics seem apparent:
—Come in at a unique “angle of attack.” Notice how a unique look and feel differentiates great firms. Me-too messages won’t work here.
—Create an interactive relationship with your customer. FBN recently aired a special on the nation’s financial issues that attracted more than 4,000 e-mail responses from viewers.
—Bring a higher-quality expectation. WebMD.com promotes the credibility of its information. Hummer sold the fun feeling of power when you drive its cars. FBN promises to strip away the fluff to give you a “real” take on today’s business news.
—Be patient. Give your audience of consumers time to find and sample your product. Watch for windows of opportunity to increase market share in the short term with special offerings or messages when a competitor seems to be taking their eye off the ball.
Introducing a new product or concept is how great marketers earn their stripes.
Here’s to your next against-all-odds marketing success.
Adam Armbruster is a senior partner with Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. He can be reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.

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