Business Irish

Saturday 21 April 2018

How to bring a brand new product to the Irish market

Orchard Thieves, a new cider brand has arrived on the Irish market. Heineken's marketing chief Sharon Walsh tells the inside story of how it was launched

Sharon Walsh
Sharon Walsh

Like building an architect-designed, original home, or masterminding a block-buster movie, everything starts with a concept.

In the world of beer or cider it's no different.

The concept for a new cider may be, for example "to create a super-premium cider with functional benefits". The concept must have the product at the centre of it and the intrinsic values of that product must be genuinely linked to the concept in a real, authentic way.

Build a world-class team and set some targets

Like any major project, having an incredible cross-functional team is crucial to ensure you're organised for success. This includes representatives from different divisions to include: commercial, production, category and marketing. Working in a collaborative way, with a clear vision and concept, is the foundation of any great brand.

Having measurable deliverables at the early stages is also crucial and will ensure targets are built, and understood, early on. Targets can include anything from the number of outlets where we want the product to be available, the number of people we want to trial the product and/or the amount of re-orders we want to achieve within a certain timeframe.

Develop an incredible product

The next step is to work on the product. In the world of food, beer or cider, this is the single most important aspect of a brand's development journey. It's what people will talk about, remember, and hopefully - if you've done it right - come back for! For the development of a new product like Orchard Thieves, concept product testing is incredibly extensive, with sensory taste panels delivered at a number of stages, testing the product & concept in multiple ways, with multiple audiences. We tested Orchard Thieves with over 1,000 cider drinkers.

In some cases, this stage of brand development will take place in a lab. In the case of Orchard Thieves, the product was developed by cider mill experts within our Heineken NV network - the biggest cider maker in the world. This stage can be very time-consuming, but a carefully-constructed product reaps the rewards in the long run, so the time invested at this stage is very worthwhile.

Getting the logistics right at the outset is also crucial. Decisions on sourcing, packaging types and suppliers and other supply networks, all contribute to making smart moves early. In the case of Heineken NV, smart sourcing means we ensure we get the quality we need, without compromise.


What's in a name?

At this stage the brand may or may not have a name. Very often a name will come about organically as the product evolves, but naming and trade marking of names in itself is a lengthy process - especially if it needs to work globally.

Build the brand

The next stage is to build the brand. This part of the brand development is crucial to get right. At this point, typically with a creative agency and strategic marketing partners, we would ask ourselves the following:

1: What role will this brand play in consumer's busy, brand-cluttered lives?

2: What are the benefits, both emotional and functional, of this brand?

3: What kind of personality does this brand have?

4: Who exactly is our target audience?

5: What's the insight we have on this audience? What need-state does the consumer have that our product can deliver against?

6: And, finally, what is the overall brand essence and proposition? What does the brand really stand for?

Having a strong understanding of all of the above, alongside a solid understanding of the competitor set, contributes to creating an advantageous brand positioning.

At this stage, work begins on the development of the brand logo and brand name. At every stage, consumer research will ensure the creative work being developed is answering consumer's needs and desires.

Wrap it all up

The next stage is developing the packaging. While it's a very creative job, it also requires smart commercial and logistical decisions to succeed. What size glasses are required, what size and colour bottles will work for the product, what outer packaging, the brand and the consumer, etc.

Let's get legal

The product and packaging, and all the marketing activity, needs be approved so that it adheres to the strict industry marketing communication codes and regulations. We would do this with our legal partners, who are experienced in product development for the beer and cider market. It's imperative to ensure that all claims we make are true and that our brand is marketed responsibly. At Heineken Ireland, we take this very seriously.

Test, test, and test again

Listening to our customers and future customers is always crucial and the latter stages of brand development is no different. Final testing with consumers - brand name, logo, outer packaging, and marketing communications is done before any marketing activity kicks off.

Get it out there!

This, the final stage of a brand launch, is making sure the target audience has easy access to your product. The strategy depends on the investment and scale of ambition. For example, some brands may choose to launch in one or two counties or only to certain types of bars, and others will have a more ambitious approach and larger launch budget. In terms of marketing, it's important to ensure that a certain level of distribution is achieved before you press the green light on the advertising and marketing.

The moment of arrival

After launch, you should soon be able to evaluate early-stage performance against targets.

All going well, the creative route that you've chosen is beginning to steal the hearts of consumers, diverting their attention from the competitors and making them act as advocates for the brand. Customers are compelled to try your product and start recommending it to their friends, and shortly it becomes their brand of choice.

Then, once that's all done, it's time to sit back, take stock and enjoy a glass of your great new product yourself!

Sharon Walsh is the marketing director of Heineken Ireland, distributor of Orchard Thieves. Orchard Thieves is a new cider brand created by Heineken Ireland, a subsidiary of Heineken NV, the biggest cider maker in the world. ; ; @OrchardThieves

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