by Alex Palmer | April 01, 2013
A product launch is one of the most public events a company holds. It is an opportunity to show the latest and greatest offerings that an organization has developed, often announced with great fanfare, particularly if held in a high-profile destination like Las Vegas. 

But when putting together a product launch event, it is key for planners to keep in mind that they are trying to reach several distinct audiences at once, each with its own specific needs. Making sure a launch is as effective as it can be requires targeting each of these groups — customers, employees, and the media — and knowing how to do so.   

Wowing Customers
The first audience that a product launch is speaking to is, of course, the customers themselves, who are potentially going to be buying the new product. Organizations find that they can draw customers in by combining practical, hands-on information about the product being launched with a fair amount of flash.

When cosmetics company Lash Royalty set out to launch a limited edition line of Swarovski crystal false eyelashes, the company leadership decided to go beyond just sending out an email blast to let customers know what’s new. It decided to use the rollout as a chance to make a deeper connection with customers, both new and existing. 

Though the company is based in Los Angeles, the sense of glamour and fun that Lash Royalty wanted to convey made Las Vegas an ideal destination for a launch event. Not only that, Lash Royalty had held a very successful company launch party at the Wynn Las Vegas two years earlier, and its lashes are sold at the hotel’s apothecary, as well as in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

“It’s a unique product that has a little sparkle to it, and we knew Las Vegas would give us the right atmosphere,” says Elizabeth Le Pek, managing director for Lash Royalty. 

Lash Royalty reached out to nightclub Marquee LV, in The Cosmopolitan, with which it had partnered for previous events. While it functions primarily as a nightclub, Marquee can also be secured for meetings and events during the day. Lash Royalty brought in a live DJ, served signature cocktails, and offered a “Lash Bar” where attendees could meet with makeup artists for consultations, trying out different styles of lashes. And of course, everyone could check out and try on the new Swarovski lashes.

This kind of first-hand experiencing of a new product is crucial to a successful launch, according to John DeLeon, director of business development for Motivation Through Incentives, a meeting and incentive company based in Overland Park, KS.

“Interactive elements work really well with a launch, especially when you can get the customer to try out the product on site,” says DeLeon. “If done right, it’s the kind of 
experience that will get them telling their friends or colleagues about the new product. It’s really one of the main advantages of a public launch.”

He adds that it is also an opportunity for customers to speak directly with members of the company’s product development team — those who understand the new offering deeply and can offer their personal insight to the clients. All of Lash Royalty’s staff were in attendance as well, mixing with the attendees and telling them about the company and its new lashes. 

In total, the event brought in about 75 people to Marquee — a very successful launch, according to Le Pek.

“It was a great way to let people know that we not only offer our staple line, but can also have some fun, too,” she says. “It’s good to get a little extravagant with Las Vegas. It’s such an unusual place where you get visitors from all around the world, so it’s great exposure.”

Motivating Employees
Often, a product launch can be as much about informing and educating a company’s own staff as it is about reaching the general public. For Mike McAllen, co-founder and owner of Oakland, CA–based Grass Shack Events & Media, most of the product launches his company has planned for clients have been of this variety.

“It’s a chance to get them all in one place, and do the event in an engaging way so when they walk out the door, everyone is on the same page,” says McAllen. “They could send out an email or explain things through a webcast, but it’s not as effective as getting them face-to-face.”

His observation confirms recent research from IMEX and the Meetology Group that found a higher amount of creative ideas are generated by groups meeting in person, 
rather than virtually. 

A product launch can accomplish several key goals with employees. It is a chance to inform the staff of what exactly the product is. This can mean a simple keynote from a company leader or, for more intricate offerings, full educational sessions and training workshops to ensure that team members know the product well enough to demonstrate it to customers or their own direct reports. With all the relevant staff there, the organization can ensure that any reservations or questions are addressed right out of the gate.

“If it’s an international sales meeting, you get the product on site — the technicians can show the sales people exactly how the products work,” says DeLeon. DeLeon speaks not only as an event planner, but as a former sales manager for appliance brand Kenmore. He recalls that when that company would launch products, it was often critical to have several departments involved, helping to provide details to a prospective client. 

“It takes a team to sell a new product,” says DeLeon. “If a new gizmo came out and it would make the business better, you have to get [the sales people] to believe it. They’re the ones who are going to catch trouble if it doesn’t work.”

According to Tad Yosten, chief marketing officer of San Francisco-based event planning company More Global Group (formerly More Than A Meeting), a product launch event 
almost always includes a training session. 

“You have to get the sales team up to speed,” says Yosten. “Even before you’re thinking about earning press attention or getting other interest about the product, you need the people who are selling it to understand it.”

But a well-executed product launch offers an additional opportunity as well — to get staff excited and motivated. 

“A lot of times, our clients are trying to get the attendees primed for the step after the product launches — reaching out to their 

client contacts, trying to make additional sales, or taking other steps to really get it to the next level,” says McAllen.

He cites the example of a medical client that launched a new product in Las Vegas as part of a larger trade show where its sales reps had set up customer meetings over subsequent days. The 350-person event not only offered the team all of the details they needed for their upcoming meetings, but also provided a burst of momentum as they headed into the week.

It’s in this area that Las Vegas is especially “built for conferences and product launches,” according to McAllen. Because of its size and ability to accommodate large groups, with venues for all manner of activities, dining, and entertainment, makes it an ideal destination for holding a product launch event that combines both business and pleasure. 

But McAllen adds that planners will want to consider the surrounding area as well as The Strip itself when putting together pre- and post-launch events. He gives an example of a recent client that held an event at Red Rock Canyon, about 20 miles west of Las Vegas proper. 

“[Las Vegas] can be so big that if you aren’t managing it as an internal thing at a tradeshow or something similar, it can get washed out,” he says. “If you hold something off the Strip people can really stick together.”

Impressing the Press
The other main audience that a product launch appeals to is the press, which can help promote the new offerings to the public and wider industry. Trade shows don’t get much bigger than the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas every January. To stand out to reporters and producers, companies launching new products must get creative not only with the rollout itself, but with the seemingly minor details of timing and preparation. 

That is a lesson taken to heart by Livio, a company that simplifies the connection of new apps, updates, and the various hardware devices on which they run. 

At this year’s CES, the company was launching its new FM Connect technology, which allows drivers to interact with FM radio stations (for example, getting store address information for a local sponsor being advertised, or details on a song), as well as several new app and hardware partnerships. The company was determined to get ahead of the onslaught of news created by CES, which runs from Tuesday to Friday. So they held their press conference on Monday morning. 

“As it gets later in the day or the week, press conferences can get hard to find at such a big event,” says Nicole Yelland, director of marketing and communications for Livio. “Even if you hold it at 2 p.m., people from the press might have gotten caught up with something else or their editor is saying ‘we needed a story this morning.’”

With much of the CES media coverage already in full swing by the weekend, and without much competition from other automotive product-related announcements, Livio was able to attract more than 50 members of the media to its product launch at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The company’s CEO and founder Jake Sigal made the announcement and introduced the new partners. 

“When it’s a high-profile event, you want to get as prominent a member of your team as possible to represent the brand,” says Yosten of More Global Group. 

But the announcement itself formed just one part of a three-pronged product launch strategy for Livio. The second part was a party held later that evening: the second annual CES Autos ‘n’ Apps Meetup, co-hosted by online radio service TuneIn. Held at Bond Bar in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the event brought together members of the press, app developers, and auto industry executives from General Motors and Ford, as well as tech industry leaders from Skype, Mashable, and more to network and get primed for the official start of CES the next day. The event quickly sold out its 350 tickets. 

“We were the only party happening that night related to the automotive industry, so if you worked in that sector, you were there,” says Yelland. “It was a hell of a way to kick off the show — it hadn’t even started and we already had news coming out and were trying to find space in our CEO and business development manger’s schedule for add-itional meetings.”

With Monday successfully wrapped up, the Livio team spent the rest of the week on the third prong of their product launch efforts: keeping the momentum going. To lock in new business and press coverage, each member of the Livio team had a part to play. 

Leaders like Sigal, as well as the company’s business development manager and president, had a stacked schedule of meetings with investors as well as current and prospective clients, covering the company’s high-level interests. Project leaders and engineers offered in-depth demonstrations of the new FM Connect and the company’s other offerings. Yelland played air-traffic controller, helping to connect the right press outlets with the right Livio representatives.  

Yelland stresses that getting engineers and product developers — who are typically behind the scenes — to take part in interviews and demonstrations is a major benefit to both the product launch and employee morale. 

“We had our mobile technology lead do a couple press interviews, including one with TechCrunch. For us it was important that the people who were reading their coverage identified that this wasn’t just an executive in a suit, it was someone who was involved in every detail of the project,” says Yelland. “But this also let the creator get some recognition — for the engineers to explain the creation they personally worked on.”

Yosten agrees that this can be a valuable strategy, but emphasizes that it can be a delicate situation to have a team member talk to the press who may be an expert on the new product, but not on public speaking.

“We have brought in speaking coaches to help facilitate presentations,” he says. “If they have never had experience with this kind of a public event, it makes a big difference to give them some basic preparation.”

As with any successful corporate event, Livio balanced the hard work of each day with leisure activities. On the last night of CES, the entire team went to a club to see the performer DJ Ruckus. Earlier in the week, Yelland and another member of the public relations team went to see rapper Rev Run. Throughout the week, the company stayed in touch with one another using the GroupMe app, which allows for the sending of texts, photos, and videos between many people. 

“Vegas is the city that’s made for these kind of events — they have great venues, fantastic staff, and they’ve done it thousands of times,” says Yelland. “It’s literally the world’s stage for our company.”