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Hothousing vs mass media - which is best for launch marketing?

There was a time, long ago, when launching new products and services was relatively straightforward. Media choices were simpler, audiences were less fragmented and marketing budgets were under less pressure. It was mass media usually, shout it loud and proud to as many people as possible and some one will buy. Since those dim and distant days there is often a debate over whether it is better to launch a new product via a highly targeted route, such as hothousing an area, or mass communication to a wider audience, on a national scale as before.

Let's return to Roger's Adoption Curve.

It’s a debate we often have when considering a launch, but before we go into this debate, it’s always a good idea to take a look at Roger’s Adoption Curve. When you first launch a product, it will inevitably be the Innovators – those that really need or want what you’ve got to sell, that pick up your product first. The majority of the population don’t have the need/money/guts to buy into that product/service without some further convincing. Now when you look at the percentage of the population that sits in this Innovator category for your product, it is only 2.5%. If you translate this into marketing terms, it is these people that you often need to target initially, really understand how they operate and then go after them with your launch marketing campaign.

The power of an advocate.

A simple fact of life is that word of mouth to this day, and probably forever, is the most effective form of marketing communications known to man. People trust other people’s judgement, so if you can inspire Innovators to buy into your product at launch, they will (hopefully!) start promoting your product/service to just about everyone they know. To support this with a statistic, 76% of Millennials make a decision whether to purchase something new based on reviews.

What is hothousing?

Hothousing is an effective launch strategy based on refining an audience to as precise a target market as possible using in-depth audience analysis. This audience consists of the highest percentage of people with a propensity to buy your product typically living within a specific geographical region; think Innovators all living next door to one another.

Generally speaking, similar audiences live in similar areas although there are notable exceptions (eg gamers). In many cases, you can often apply a geographical overlay to your target audience. The aim is to then saturate the media that the audience consumes most in that target area. This is often a combination of formats from OOH and radio to experiential and digital. The end result being that the target audience feels like the brand is everywhere, giving off a perception that it is much bigger than otherwise perceived in the wider market.

It’s worth bearing in mind that once you have attracted the Innovators, a different marketing strategy and messaging could be required for the next segment – the Early Adopters. Early adopters typically makeup 13.5% of the market place and could be less highly targeted to one geographical area. We used this approach for the launch of Sunlife’s new funeral plan using a select few areas across the UK that held the prime target audience.

What is mass media communication?

With all this in mind, we look to hothousing’s direct opposite – mass media communication. This method is about spreading the word on a much larger, much less targeted scale, ultimately it is marketing to the masses. This means that for every consumer who may be interested, there may be 10 others that have been hit by the advertising and who are not, which could be seen as a waste of money depending on your objectives and product.

Where mass media does have its place is when a product is relevant to a wide demographic. These products are low cost, so can be found predominantly in the FMCG sector. However, there are some exceptions with Amazon being a prime example. They created Alexa, a low cost (in comparison to what was on the market) piece of technology that answered the problem of a wide demographic audience – a digital Personal Assistant.

Which strategy is best for a launch marketing campaign?

Ultimately, it depends on the product or service and no one model can be templated onto another launch. Mass media has its place, but with technology and data now providing us with more insight and better targeting, hothousing is where you generally see the biggest ROI. When we relate this to some recent research in this area, the Launch Marketing Report: The Consumer’s Perspective, we learn that when consumers feel campaigns are ‘Everywhere’, their awareness of a new product launch is actually lower. Deeper brand engagement and affiliation is a stronger awareness driver than mass broadcast wallpapering.

Image Credits
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By Colin Clark
Planning Director, UK

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