Brexit is on the horizon once more. Here are three valuable launch lessons for Europe… regardless of what happens next. By Nick Lawton
Brexit will change business and with the election results coming in soon, there’ll hopefully be a little more clarity on where we’re headed. It’s an exciting idea to some, but coming out of the world’s largest trading bloc will undoubtedly alter how FMCG production, transportation and promotion occurs. That doesn’t mean no deal for your new product launch though – not by a long way.
Whatever happens, launch will undoubtedly become more complicated within a continent which already comprises 44 countries and 24 official languages. There will most likely be numerous regulatory hoops and tariffs to negotiate, and something that looks so simple on the surface, like logistics around labelling, could end up harbouring a huge cost implication.
The brands who manoeuvre Brexit successfully will be the ones that continue to invest in innovation while maintaining visibility. Again, like many things Brexit-related, that’s easier said than done. So, you need to start first by starting small. It’s wildly tempting to canvas Europe’s audience of 774 million, but even the best insight can’t be shaped enough to work to its full potential. Transposing a campaign, a new product offering, across that massive market just won’t work. For example, the positioning of a new crumpet brand will be vastly different in the UK to, say, Italy, where crumpets don’t hold the same weight in terms of cultural significance and popularity. In these circumstances, it’s often best to focus on just a few initial markets where your launch has the best-looking success rates. If you take something like Love Beauty and Planet, which is owned by Unilever, you clearly see how this pans out in practice.
Following its successful US rollout, the ethical beauty range launched in just France and the UK to begin with. The former country has forever been on the cutting edge of green innovation – it’s actually the world’s top-ranking country when it comes to food sustainability and prohibits the destruction or disposal of unsold food in supermarkets.
The latter nation possesses the same lofty ambitions, and while the execution isn’t quite on the same level, public appetite remains. So something like Love Beauty and Planet, which is sustainable, cruelty and plastic-free, ethically sourced and promising to tax itself if it exceeds its CO2 emission goals, fits perfectly in those markets.
Yes, launching in the US followed by the UK and France isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of launching ‘small’. But compared to some multinational brands, which do have the option to deliver simultaneous worldwide launches, Love Beauty and Planet was an exercise in modesty and restraint, testing its hotter markets and learning from them – only then expanding further afield into the rest of Europe.
Once you’ve got your target markets down, you still need to keep an eye out for the GDPR iceberg. It’s almost comically easy to forget the furore GDPR caused before its implementation in May 2018. But now the dust has settled and everyone’s stopped asking the IT department what is and isn’t GDPR-compliant, there’s a bigger can of worms in the cupboard.
Each EU country enforces different levels of data strictness under GDPR, and therefore fines vary. Remember British Airways earlier this year? The airline giant was given an eye-watering £183.39 million fine for infringements pertaining to customer details.
For this reason, it’s vital to know how the variations in each potential market will affect you, particularly if your launch involves heavily personalised customer campaigns. Especially when in 2018, a study of more than 800 IT and business professionals by Dell found that 80 per cent of businesses know ‘little or nothing’ about GDPR.
A report by TrustArc, conducted over a year after GDPR’s implementation, revealed only 20 per cent of businesses believe they are now GDPR compliant, and more than one in four companies (27 per cent) have yet to begin work on making their organisation GDPR compliant.
In order to launch effectively in this aspect, it’s vital you keep your data in order. Ask your teams: what data do we actually need to keep, and how do we use it to map what we want from customers? Let them explain this to you. Because it’s not about harvesting information and doing nothing with it – you can still make data work for you, but there needs to be a ‘why’ and ‘how’. Otherwise, you’re just sitting on potentially sensitive information, not launching to the right people, and potentially two steps behind a hefty fine. It takes time to get your data in order, but if it falls to the side, cybersecurity becomes a massive issue. And it’s not just the job of your teams to sort this – you need to ensure they’re being GDPR compliant so it becomes second nature.
With GDPR in the bag, it’s time to launch with positivity and purpose. It might sound obvious, but why are you launching a new product to the European market? Does it fill a gap in the market? Are you tackling a new consumer problem that hasn’t been solved so far? What consumers want from brands and businesses is changing – 81 per cent of brands sold across Europe could disappear and consumers wouldn’t even care, according to Havas Group’s Meaningful Brands 2019 report.
You need more than a reason to exist – you need to turn heads in a climate where over 40 per cent of launches fail. A recent shining light is something like The Meatless Farm Co. Its brand of plant-based meat substitutes chime with people not just for the cruelty-free aspect, but also the carbon footprint angle. In 2019, where Greta Thunberg is one of the biggest names in public discourse, the green agenda has never been more pertinent – The Meatless Farm Co aligns perfectly with that movement, alongside predictions that the UK’s vegan population will more than triple in the next year.
Meatless Farm Co only began life three years ago but has recently secured a seven-figure advertising deal with Channel 4. Why? Equity. It’s a start-up with only a bright ideal and product as leverage, but its message taps into C4’s core audience of 16-34 year-olds – all that focus on its clear-cut purpose as a brand has now paid off. And of course, you can never please everyone, all the time. But with so many different people in one chaotically complex continent, it can sometimes feel like there are too many issues to please anyone at all.
Keeping it simple, employing a coherent GDPR strategy and getting to the root of issues like sustainability are by no means the complete checklist for launching in Europe. But they are three vital, unforgettable points you should always bear in mind. Because while reaching 741 million people might seem like a tough job, it’s also 741 million potential new customers to engage with your launch.