Are foodservice product announcements at NRA a bad idea?

OK, let’s be clear.  I love attending and find great value in the NRA show.  As well as NACUFS, NAFEM and all the other alphabet-soup named industry gatherings.

But major events are the wrong place to announce your new high-fiber-key-lime-pie-on-a-stick.

Yet, each year many manufacturers save up the “big reveal” right before or during one of the big shows.  The idea that operators (or brokers or distributors) are tuning into these events is, well, wishful thinking.  In fact, most probably have no clue that the events are happening — let alone planning to attend a show.

You voluntarily agree to compete for attention when timing your launch around an event. Even worse, you delay starting the long process of letting the news filter down to the street as you train brokers… brokers sell into distributors… DSRs learn about the products… and, finally,  maybe getting DSRs to mention your product to operators.

Tens-of-thousands of new foodservice products are launched each year, according to NPD.  How many do you remember from this year besides your own?

  • February can be a good time to announce to draw in interest around the May NRA show. There’s less competition for the media’s attention and it’s a relatively slower time when many operators can actually pay attention.
  • Watch the promotional pros — the movie studios! They begin advertising and distributing “previews” way before a film is close to being finished.  It’s all about building awareness and demand before the product (i.e. a new film!) becomes available — which may apply more for the foodservice business than even Hollywood!
  • Schedule promotions, special websites or other marketing at least a month or two after the launch. It takes months for operators to hear the news by the time the information flows through the sales chain.  There’s nothing more frustrating than finally hearing about a product — just as a promotion ends!

Learn from Apple, the master of audience hypnotism.  While they don’t promote leaks, they are happy when news slips out (see: reveal your product secrets).  “Coming soon” hints are the best and cheapest frenzy building strategy around.  Nor does Apple rarely makes major announcements at industry events… they’re careful to control the timing of the official message to get maximum exposure.

So, what’s your launch schedule for 2015?

Considerations for November planning