READER QUESTION: ‘I was wondering your thoughts on launching a brand or product. The timing of everything from media releases, social media teasers to the actual launch of the product. Do you have any tips or advice on this?’
Stephanie Patey recently asked the above question, and it is so important in the process, so this article is my advice on the topic of timings. I am going to structure this piece on launching new collections, rather then initial brand launch. At SAMANTHA WILLS we launch approximately 10 collection per year – This is across the entire business & product categories, so it is imperative that you the transparency across a company calendar.
A company calendar has the potential to be so complicated, it could be run by an astrophysicist! Our over arching company calendar holds everything from design timeline, to sales calendar, to marketing, PO (Purchase order) placement & dispatch. But for the point of this article, I am just going to focus on the marketing & sales element of it.
So, lets assume the product arrives in stores / launches on your online store on July 1. For us (as an Australian brand) July 1 is the release of our biggest collection of the year, it is when our summer product hits stores (which makes no sense really, because it is the middle of winter… but hey, I don’t make the rules).
So lets work backwards from July 1….
DECEMBER: From our first pass sample set (The samples that come back initially from my design sketches), I work with our Art Department & we shoot the campaign for this collection. The images then go away for post production.
The day after the campaign, the Art Department will also product shoot the collection. This is done in a studio, and will be used for the look + online cart detail pics. These then all need to be deep etched – It’s a big job, and very intricate.
MID JANUARY: Our Art Department creates the look books / line sheets. These are tools for the Sales Team to sell the collection with, and also for the PR Department to source media placement. These include campaign images + the product layout.
In addition to the lookbook, the Art Department will also create a collection of assets to hand over to the Sales & PR Department, for the launch of every new collection.
· Look Book / Line Sheets
· Designers Diary (A compilation of my sketches & inspirations behind the collection)
· Digital Invitations to invite Buyers & Media to view the collection.
· Strut Cards + POS (Point of Sale)
LATE JANUARY: We do a Range Release. This is where we release the collection & supporting assets over to the Sales & PR teams. Our Online team also attends this. In the Range Release I cover the inspiration behind the collection, anything new or noteworthy, any styles we are having great success with & how we have updated them.
It is a great day, with lots of energy & new product. After the range release, we always do a team building activity, as you often have agents in from other states, it is a great opportunity to have the team spend time together, in & outside of the office. Our most recent activity was a good one, the SW Regatta! You can read more about it HERE.
FEBRUARY: Pending what your product lead times are, February is the month our Sales teams are on the road selling this collection, in order for there to be enough time to place production orders with our production houses. Once the sales teams are finished selling, their samples are given to the PR department.
MID MARCH: Release Press release to Long Lead (Print) Media. This is where our PR department would host a media day for long lead media, presenting the collections to them. If you are a newer brand & don’t have media relationships, it may be hard to get them to come to you. I would suggest engaging a showroom to present the collections as they already hold media relationships. If you don’t have budget for that, sending or emailing your press release / line sheets / media kits to magazines is done now. You can read more about how to create your Media Kit HERE
This is done approx. 3 months prior to the product launching instores, because print magazines usually work 3 months in advance, so then when the piece goes the print, it is available instores & you can capitalize on the timing.
APRIL: With 3 months to go, I would release a social media teaser to show your followers what is coming up, and this would be a push to have people join your database, or a waiting list for that specific collection.
You don’t want to hype new collections too far out, because you want your customer focused on what is available now. As I said at the start – we have 10 collections releasing a year, so while this schedule is running, there is also an identical schedule overlapping it on both sides for other collection.
April is where we would also start to do Celebrity Seeding. This is done in the hope you get some great images of celebrities wearing the product & you can use these when you launch.
MAY/JUNE: Given the landscape now of digital media & influencers, we would then hold a day in our showroom to invite bloggers & digital influences in. It is important to brief them – you may not want imagery posted, or you may want it stated that it is not available til July.
At this time, we would also look to engage a focused list of influencers to help us launch the collection. This means we have contacted them directly & requested their rates for an agreed amount of posts. We send them a selection of product, and we would request that they post within a window of 4 days after July 1st. So they are posting when the product is available.
Lining your timings up is important, because if everything is pushed too early, by the time the product is available, the hype will be gone.
At this time, our online team would also be working overtime, prepping for everything to go online.
LATE JUNE: In the 3 days leading up to the release, I would start to hype it daily on social media.
JULY: Product Arrives In Stores & we launch online. If the lead up to this seems like a lot – it really needs to kick into high gear now that you have the product to sell!
The Online Team will have created product stories & worked with the Marketing Team & Art Department to best communicate these through visual communications, which are working into EDMs (electronic newsletters).
Its A LOT, I know. But once you get the formula, it is just about populating it with content. And content is king in this day & age. And while I could write a whole article dedicated just content creation, my overarching advice is quality. Shoot as much as you can (even on your phone), in the lead up to collection releases. But make sure it is of good quality.
If you are the only person in your business, do what you can with what you have. The above is explained from a business that has been in the market for 12 years – Do not let the above overwhelm you that you may not have access to ‘teams’ or ‘departments’. Use the above as a structure timeline, and be realistic in what you can achieve, what you can outsource, and what is not as priority to you at this point.
Finally, as I mentioned above, these will need to overlap with upcoming collections. So you can just focus from start to finish. It’s a juggling act as you bring new collections through. I don’t suggest you need 10 collections, but even if you are releasing 3 collections a year (which makes sense, Summer, Winter, Christmas Injection), ensure to be well planned.
I hope this helps, happy marketing! - SWx