I interviewed Jennafer Ross this week about those fabulous product launches and business opening style events. She has a wealth of experience as you’ll see from this fantastic interview that you can’t help but glean some gems of pro know-how from:
Launching a new brand or the opening of a new business is crucial for public perception and “buy in”. People are innately attracted to things they can experiences, because it attracts their senses. SO, for example, if you are opening a new hospital, the community in which the hospital supports MUST be engaged before it even opens its doors to foster an inviting community-based environment that is welcoming.
In many cases a launch or opening is the first introduction into a busy marketplace and hosting an events allows for the attention to be focused SOLELY on that product without competitors and allows the product/venue to shine for all that makes it unique.
By hosting a launch with an event, you have a captive audience, allowing you to reach them with multiple touch points before during and after the event. Your process leading up to the event allows for multiple opportunities to put that specific product in front of the audience, through social, print and electronic media well before the actual event takes place. Then once the event does launch you immerse the audience within the brand so that they too experience everything this new product or facilitates has to offer. It engages the consumer’s sensory needs and if done correctly the products brand is imprinted. After the event, the audience is still engaged in the product and it will be fresh in their minds during the follow-up marketing process.
The invitations to the opening or product launch should cast a wide net based on which end users, consumers and buyers would be most impacted and attracted to this product. For the grand opening it’s crucial to consider all those affected within the venue’s area. For example the people who will work in the new venue and their families – giving them a sneak peak of the venue prior to its opening will engage the employees and foster a stronger relationship. Additionally key members from the local municipality, police, fire rescue as ultimately these are the people who will provide external emergency services support. The surrounding community who will utilize, benefit from or has been impacted by the new structure should also be considered. Consider hosting two grand opening events – once geared toward community-at-large and the other for VIPS, board members, community leaders and executives managing the facility as well as other donors or sponsors.
Timing for a product launch is dependent on the type of product being launched. Many consumer products, while not seasonal themselves, need to consider buying trends. For example avoiding the holidays or being far enough in front of them in order to be able to go to market in time for consumers would be a clear factor on when to hold the launch. Unless your product is specifically a warm weather item avoid the summer months – this is prime vacation season making it harder to attract an audience. Also, be sure to position your seasonal product well in advance of the target season but close enough to stay in the forefront of consumers and buyers.
And always be aware of the media deadlines for going to press, be it print, digital or advertising. These can only strengthen the product if timed well. Engage the media and press to learn of their deadlines that are important to your product and prior to locking in dates to ensure positive outcomes for coverage.
LAUNCH PARTY: How long a launch should last again is product specific. If you are launching a product to the public, typically a few hours is acceptable. If you are launching to your sales team this requires the exciting product “reveal” to the team, but also the necessary training so that when the sales teams take the product to consumers they are fully engaged and knowledge about the functionality of its products. For example, with a drug launch, the pharma reps need to be fully immersed in its capabilities, target doctor market, possible side effects and FDA trials information into order to successful sell to the doctors who will in turn endorse the drug to their patients. This type of launch could be help over multiple days to allow for its initial introduction and subsequent training. If we are talking about a new type of alcohol to the public, then a completely different type of launch is warranted. One is which would denote a party atmosphere and emerge the buyers and consumers completely in that brand and its new product.
GRAND OPENING: Grand openings take on a very different vibe from a launch party. Here the venue is being showcased and does not typically need to last more than a few hours. Enough so that the audience as the opportunity to view the new venue, experience what it has to offer and possibly hear from the executive leadership team, board or owners about the opening process and the relationship on the community. For example, if an opening is public – meaning anyone can attend – you are dealing with an unknown number of people and need to be concise in the communication – times open and expectations will allow you to control the process but plan for extra time as you have many unknowns here. For an invitation based opening, 3-6 hours is ample time to accomplish any speeches, entertainment, acknowledgements, tours and of course wining & dining. One important consideration when hosting a grand opening event is being the least impactful on the new infrastructure as possible to ensure that the physical opening is not impacted.
Each and every event (grand opening or product launch) has a uniqueness about it that makes it unique and individual – therefore a clear understanding of the intent, objectives and derived benefit must be clear on the front end to ensure that the appropriate event its planned and that the particulars are specific to those objectives. You certainly would not insist the CEO talk to the audience if there was no dedicated stage or scheduled time to capture the audience. SO each element is quite unique to the event and there is no standard this MUST have. However, a clear , concise plan, emergency preparedness plan and security plan are a definite in planning every event. Foresight and pre-planning will only enable to success of an event.
1. One of our clients designed their new facility to foster health and wellness and really included a lot of Eastern design and green practices into their concept. For the VIP opening event we were tasked with incorporating this into the de
sign of the event and recreated the outdoors and a Zen feeling in a semi-permanent 47,000 square foot structure. This was accomplish with living décor, water features, Zen gardens, etc. For this reception we created a living bar – that moved with the natural movement of the environment. All the materials utilized for the event itself from the serviceware to the linens to the décor elements were made from recycled products. Anything that was a living plants was then planted in the rooftop garden post event. The catered created a compost for the food leftovers as well. (see attached picture)
2. For a hospital’s community grand opening event our objective was to showcase the hospital products and services in an out-of-the-box way. Instead of your standard tradeshow booth approach, each department has to create a fun, interactive and informative display that would educate the guests while also tying directly into the core beliefs of the hospital and support the GREEN initiative of the hospital. A great example of how we helped each department think differently about how they were promoting themselves was with the maternity department. Instead of staff members standing behind a table and handing out literature, we partnered with a maternity clothing company and hosted a fashion show for expecting moms. This got the staff members and attendees chatting in an informal way about the maternity services at the hospital while admiring the latest fashions. Another great example was the sports medicine department. We had a golf swing analysis machine in this area. Attendees would “take a swing” and then the doctors and therapists would chat with them about the different muscles they were using and how to keep those muscles healthy.
3. Another hospital client really wanted to educate the community about the different services they offered by having a “hands-on” experience. When hosting an event that saw over 7,000 people in less than six hours, it was challenging to devise a plan that gave everyone that unique experience. We accomplished this by having over 100 knowledge experts throughout the hospital to explain and demonstrate the different services. Guests were able to get inside the operation rooms, see equipment demonstrations, and experience a mock-triage area in the emergency room and much more.
In the initial stages of planning, first determine why a launch or opening is essential. What are the objectives of holding these events and what is the expected outcome and how will that be measured? Is it to gain more brand loyalty? Is it to book private event space for a new venue? These are crucial in determining what type of events to host. Look at the surrounding industry and competitors and where able avoid competing event dates to ensure your event gets top focus.
Entertainment is audience specific. Just because the CEO loves country western music does not necessarily mean it’s the best fit for the overall audience. Tact and careful positioning necessary but it’s the professional planner’s responsibility to coach, guide and make solid recommendations for the best outcome for each and every event. Who is in attendance should determine the type of entertainment. For example you would want to ensure that your entertainment is demographically appropriate, not controversial and will only benefit your opening or product launch in its appeal to the targeted audience.
Not managing to the budget is a crucial mistake many naive planners make. Establish a clear concise budget with a healthy contingency fund up front that has been approved by the client. This will avoid many challenges in the long run. For community based events, working with local fire, police and EMT are key. There are many safety requirements that a large public event brings that a novice planner is not going to know about. If you do not involve these local partners from the beginning you are headed for disaster. They are key in making your event happen.
Any company or product can host a grand opening. SO long as it has the budget to be placed appropriately and in a manner that will enhance, promote and elevate the product placement in the marketplace or the grand opening to its end users. If this cannot be achieved, first consider a smaller launch or opening. Do not reach too far just to compete but stick within a specific budget and do not overreach. Launches for a smaller sized product can be varied through any manner that draws positive attention – smaller target specific events where the attendees become ambassadors of the product after the event could be more successful that a wider cast net of unknown audience and unknown outcomes.
Jennafer Ross has been in the events industry for 15 years and specialises in the whole range of event planning services a company may need from conferences to openings to exhibitions. You can read more about her at www.jrglobalevents.com