Launch lessons: How to launch a brand in a drug store chain


For both brands and retailers, media is key to introduce a brand or product and ensure it flies off a retailer’s store shelves.

The facts are these: Brands need media to let customers know they exist.

So many times we see a new brand, new product or re-emerging brand focus solely on distribution. Often this is the case for good reason: It’s all the brand can afford. But it’s always a mistake, and here’s why.

If a newly launched brand or product doesn’t show a sales trajectory of up-up-up, it’s bad for the brand and the retailer. Not only will the savvy retailer not pick up the brand for national distribution, but it will most likely drop it altogether. Without sales, a brand is at risk of being pushed out.

A U.K. skin care line was recently in just this situation. The company had made it into a prized U.S. chain retailer, which was a great achievement, but few customers in the area had heard of the line — and the middling sales reflected that. Just as the company was about to lose the account, it placed an ad in two national celebrity-focused print magazines, both of which are sold at the retailer and great for driving in-store traffic. The company immediately saw a difference in sales. Shortly thereafter, it took out more ads and broadened its scope to include beauty magazines. Again it saw a significant lift.

A new color brand built around a celebrity wants to make a splash with a 75-store regional test as a run up to national sales and distribution. Its future hinges on blowing out sales in the test so it will get national pickup. Just being in the store is not enough.  So the company plans to use digital advertising with targeted zip codes and out of home advertising, such as ads on buses near the stores, where the product will be distributed.

Research shows that about 27% of women who buy beauty products at drug stores are very likely to try something new. These are the “Swayable Shopaholics,” according to a fall 2011 study by GfK Mediamark Research and Intelligence. This group loves the latest trends and celebrity-endorsed products. They don’t mind spending extra for something if it’s consistent with their image, and they tend to make impulse purchases. Surprisingly, they are not influenced by salespeople or price — which means novelty, prominent placement on the drug store shelf — and advertising and marketing are the most likely ways to catch their attention.

Once media is taken care of, consider other ways brands and drug store retailers can work together to launch a new product. A partnership between a drug store retailer and a brand that share similar images and customers can benefit both.

For example, a snack food aimed at women launched into one chain whose values it shared. The brand exploited every opportunity, and in turn, the chain bought broadly and deeply in the brand. Brand and store worked together to drive in-store sales by partnering on coop advertising, hosting in-store sampling and setting up a table outside stores to attract women to brand-sponsored charity events. The halo of the brand and the retailer extended to both. Women shopped that chain knowing they could buy that brand and certain flavors of that brand only there. The brand has since gone national and expanded its distribution to a wide variety of retailers.

Coupons and sampling are other good tactics that retailers and brands can use together to launch a brand. So are events that combine the virtual with the real, as when a brand mixes a contest or charity drive with an in-store appearance.

Integrated campaigns work best because all channels feed off each other. Marketing messages are more effective when they are viewed and heard in more than one channel or venue. When brands support retailers with advertising and retailers support brands with distribution, both benefit.

 Bonnie Kintzer is CEO of Women’s Marketing Inc., the authority on how women consume media. Women’s Marketing Inc. services more than 300 clients in the beauty, fashion and health space by delivering the best integrated advertising solutions in digital, print and out-of-home. Kintzer has built a distinguished career in the media world with a strong focus on revenue creation and re-engineering. She can be reached at [email protected].

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