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Overcoming Risk Aversion in Marketing Launches

by Todd Berkowitz  |  September 9, 2013  |  Submit a Comment


In yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, there was a fascinating story about why large Hollywood movie studios release their big budget films during the summer, even though all of their competitors are doing the same thing. It’s true that many of the biggest hits have been released in the summer season (dating back to Jaws and Star Wars), but is that because then potential box-office appeal of the film may be driving the release date, instead of the release date driving the box-office performance. Many economists view this behavior as less than optimal.

Large movie studios tend to be extremely risk-averse. Peter Broderick, the head of film distribution notes that “Decision-making in Hollywood, perhaps more than anywhere else, is driven by conventional wisdom and inertia and a whole lot of things that are more complicated than just being rational.”

As a marketer, you might ask yourself what this has to do with technology product launches? While technology companies are far less risk-averse than movies studios, there is a still a lot of “going with the crowd’ behavior when it comes to launches. Marketing heads at startups often cut their teeth at larger, more established (and often more conservative) vendors. There is a basic set of marketing tactics that have to be executed for every launch.  PR agencies often provide similar advice based upon previous success with clients. So it’s no surprise that a lot of marketing launches look the same.

While social media can quickly amplify a successful launch by making videos viral, that only happens on a handful of launches, particularly in the B2B space. Most launches have only a moderate degree of success, although for certain types of launches (say an upgrade from version 7.4 to 7.5), that is all that can be reasonably expected. So how do you drive an launch that is both creative and successful?

There are several things you can do including;

  • Differentiate your positioning; A bad message will torpedo any launch. Test your messaging using my colleague Hank Barnes’ handy test (subscription required).
  • Make sure you have addressed all the basic requirements; See my colleague April Adams’ note about How to Design a Successful Product Launch (subscription required)
  • Ensure that you have the right approvals and alignment with the field and consider using MRM applications to codify and ensure adherence to this process; See my recent note for more information (subscription required)
  • Preview with your launch strategy with Gartner; Hank and I work with clients all the time before they bring solutions to market. We can review strategy, positioning and materials and give you the outside voice early in the process. See this blog post from Hank’s for more details.
  • Take your cues from unlikely sources including animal videos and the outreach campaign for Obamacare.

But most of all, take some risk.  Not every launch is as high-stakes as the one Apple is doing tomorrow. You’re not releasing a $100M film, so you can afford to be bold and different.


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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: mrm  positioning  product-launch  social-media  working-with-gartner  

Todd Berkowitz
Research Vice President
3 years at Gartner
18 years IT Industry

Todd Berkowitz is a Research Vice President focusing on B2B technology marketing and sales. He advises product marketing leaders, CMOs and sales enablement leaders on how to improve the effectiveness of their demand generation, sales enablement, account-based marketing and upsell/cross-sell efforts. He also looks at how data, analytics, content and tools can improve marketing-sales alignment and overall effectiveness.. Read Full Bio

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