Lego's five tips for a successful launch

Lego Batman: long-standing brand partnership became a movie this year
Lego Batman: long-standing brand partnership became a movie this year

Launching a brand or product is an increasingly complex, challenging task for a marketer, but observing certain principles can help to maximise the chances of success, according to Lego's digital marketing director.

Sara Holt was speaking at Launch 360, an event held in London this week by specialist launch agency Five by Five.

Before joining Lego in January this year, Holt held roles at BBC Worldwide, taxi-hailing app Hailo, UKTV and St Luke’s, where she was involved in launching BT Broadband.

Commenting on that launch, Holt said: "It was an easy formula to get right – that launch brought broadband usage to the masses in the UK, but compared to what we are going through today, it was super easy. There was no competition, and at that time that was a marketing formula that could be applied."

It was "ironic that a very traditional marketing launch changed all launches forever in the UK, by bringing broadband to the UK" and ushering in the increasingly complex world in which marketers operate today, she added.

Here, we share her five pieces of advice for doing it right.

1. Speed and agility

"How quick are you to get off the ground and into the air? At Hailo, it took 12 months from six people in a coffee shop, conceiving an idea, to the very first hail being taken in London. From that day’s first trading, the live data was taken, the product was iterated, every single marketing channel was tested and learned against before any big taps were open. It took a good piece of time before we were convinced we had the model right.

"Agility within the product must be at the core – ideate, hypothesise, experiment, start again. The best launches avoid failure with iteration, agility and speed. They don’t go big until they know things work."

2. Kill the old formula

"Just because you’ve had success before, doesn’t mean you will again. When I worked at UKTV, the team there had tremendous success with the launch of Dave. We felt we had a formula that worked really well: highly creative channel-first branding, a really clear positioning, a really decent adspend.

"So we went on to rebrand the entire UKTV network. Does anyone remember Blighty? That was another channel that everybody was equally excited about. It followed exactly the same formula as Dave, but the world had changed, people had moved on, there was better fresh TV, and it just didn't work any more."

3. Innovate with the marketing

"At Hailo in January 2013, Facebook app installs had just gone live. We did a small test in London and Dublin. The volume and cost per acquisition was incredible, so we went to see the venture capitalists, requested an extremely large amount of money, put it into Facebook app installs, and came back with the exact ROI that we had expected. It was a very different way of working to most big businesses – the time to get our ROI was a matter of days.

4. Put creativity of all kinds out there

"When we launched Planet Earth II last year, this little iguana caused quite a storm on the internet, and quite a storm at the BBC – it was probably the most talked about marketing moment of the entire series. We couldn’t let it out before or after the show aired in the UK, because BBC Worldwide is a commercial organisation – you cannot let the best bits of the show go out for free.

"But a lovely gentleman on Twitter put out a snippet he had made himself, it went global, and we made a really big decision to not take it down. We can’t say this caused it for sure, but that was one of the few programmes I’ve ever worked on where the second episode ratings went up from the first.

"Later on, the programme launched in America, and in the US we worked with Snapchat. It may seem like an extremely unlikely bedfellow for older, core family, natural history viewers. But last year they launched a new feature, Snapchat Stories. We created a series of premium short form Snapchat things that ran in people’s feeds, and it got significantly more viewers than the US traditional TV viewing audience, and a lot more views than any traditional advertising. Is this marketing, is it content? No one knows. But at the end of the day, it means you need to know your platforms inside out."

5. Learn to embrace VUCA

"It’s a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. The global political situation is one demonstration of that, but there are many things that are disturbing for marketers right now. At Lego, we’re realising that millennials have grown up and hit the workforce, and now the main shopper audience is a parent and a millennial.

"We have the enormous complexity of a physical product that needs to be built, sold and shipped to retailers which takes a lot of time. On top of that, we are often working with IP partners, and if we’re working with a big bang movie franchise, everything has to be pre-planned to make that moment really work.

"True product agility, when you are working with physical bricks will always be extremely difficult. So, we are building for success on a different way. We are building marketing teams who are audience first, and giving our teams a problem to fix and not the solution. We are starting to embrace a test and learn approach, which means failing. As long as you don’t spend millions of pounds on it, it’s ok, you just move on and do the next thing. It’s the beginning of a long journey, but that’s the way that we have to move."

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