Is Your New Product Buzz-worthy ?

October 28, 2009

Positive and impactful new product “buzz” is something that every Marketing executive aspires to, but few achieve, particularly in the CPG space. Much has been written about word of mouth (including my previous post “What’s Wrong with Word of Mouth Marketing“) but too little has been focused on the more narrow topic of what is known about buzz and how it contributes (or doesn’t) to CPG new product success.

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New Product Buzz -- What Really Drives It ?

I recently read an insightful Nielsen white paper on this topic:  “The Origin and Impact of CPG New Product Buzz” (disclosure:  I now work for Nielsen).  For this purpose, “buzz” was defined as product specific mentions and discussion on blogs–positive or not. Nielsen researchers reviewed buzz and sales data to better understand and isolate the key drivers of new product buzz and it’s impact on sales. What did they learn ?

Key Learnings — Buzz in CPG New Product Launches

  • A very few CPG brands account for most of the buzz.  Only 10% of products account for almost 85% of the buzz within a category. Many new products experienced little to no buzz whatsoever. This raises an important question for Marketers: are there some categories and brands that are simply un-buzzworthy? Is it just a waste of time and resources to try and build buzz in some categories? Or is it just that many new products failed to go to market with an effective buzz generating plan?
  • Ad spending and distribution play a significant role in driving buzz.  This learning defies conventional wisdom, as many people think of buzz as being more “pure” than paid media. On closer inspection, it makes sense, though. Advertising and distribution are both key factors in driving awareness, and consumers must be aware of a product to talk or blog about it. So, it’s not entirely surprising that buzz is driven to some degree by advertising and distribution.
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Buzz Levels -- Directly Related to Ad Spend

  • Buzz can be predicted to some extent by category purchase frequency and distinctiveness.  The more frequently consumers buy the category, the more likely they are to experience your new product. Perhaps even more important, the more distinctive and unique your product is, the more likely people are to talk about it. This is especially true if it solves for a very important consumer need that other products haven’t solved.
  • Buzz tends to peak before sales.  Does sales drive buzz or vice versa? Obviously, there is some interactive effect that works in both directions. However, the data clearly shows that buzz builds and peaks in advance of sales, which you would expect if buzz is truly driving consideration and purchase.

Most important of all, the research also demonstrates that the level of buzz directly impacts sales. Statistical analysis showed that the quantity of buzz was a key variable in predicting sales. And, new product volume forecasts with buzz included were more predictive of actual sales results than the same models without buzz included.

Implications for CPG Marketers

The learnings above have several important implications for Marketers:

  • Launch new products that provide distinctive solutions against unmet needs. This sounds so obvious and basic, but it needs to be stated. Too often, firms are guilty of creating and launching undifferentiated products. Products which are different, special and better than competitive offerings are more likely to generate strong buzz.
  • Not every new product should be striving for buzz with their product launch. There are some low involvement categories and products which are simply unlikely to generate buzz no matter how much the Brand Manager would like it to be otherwise. If your category is low involvement, and your new product is a very close in concept to the parent brand and/or doesn’t score high on uniqueness in concept and use testing, you should think twice before investing in a strong buzz program.
  • A buzz only Marketing program is unlikely to succeed. Of course, we can all find examples of new products which have launched successfully which didn’t invest in traditional advertising. But the facts show that advertising and distribution are significant contributors to buzz levels. Category purchase frequency, uniqueness and solving for important unmet needs are all prerequisites for generating buzz. In turn, these are amplified or not by the amount of awareness creating advertising and distribution.

What the learning doesn’t address is the key role of “influencers” on the web, and how Marketers should engage highly influential bloggers who can have disproportionate impact on a brand or new product launch.

Every brand should seriously consider a buzz inducing program as part of their new product launch plans. Key to success, though, is having a distinctive product focused on solving an important need, significant investment in advertising and distribution, and development of plans which leverage early momentum in the new product launch.

What do you think — is your new product buzz-worthy ?

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