Posted by Tessa Wegert on July 21, 2016
Lessons from Coca-Cola Co., Hostess and Volkswagen.
We’ve all been there: the trailer starts to play, and that sense of déjà vu creeps in. This is a movie we’ve seen before. Whether it’s King Kong or the new Ghostbusters reboot, hits likeFather of the Bride or flops like Conan the Barbarian, Hollywood is notorious for revisiting past projects.
But Hollywood isn’t alone. Take a look at the consumer products on the market today. Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Pony, Polaroid and Volkswagen’s “Beetle Classic” are all relaunches of past products.
The mindset behind movie remakes and product relaunches is virtually the same: the original did well, so let’s do it again. The process involved in executing on a remake and a relaunch is similar, too. Consumer sentiment, fan demand, and positive cultural conditions all factor in. But regardless of that, there are always some flops; past wins don’t necessarily guarantee future ones.
What, then, is the best course of action when you’re considering reintroducing a defunct product or service? Let the hits—both in Hollywood and in the consumer-driven marketplace—be your guide.
Evaluate the Market
Before a production company green-lights a remake, you can bet it has dug deep into sales figures and ticket trends to determine whether the movie will gain traction with its intended audience. Coca-Cola Co. did the same prior to relaunching Hansen’s and Blue Sky sodas, acquired from Monster Beverages, earlier this year. The company’s Venturing & Emerging Brands group anticipates “great opportunities for growth in this emerging part of the beverage business.”
Hostess, meanwhile, is relaunching its Suzy Q’s chocolate cakes. Chief executive officer of Hostess Brands William D. Toler explains that the company based this decision in part on consumer demand through social media. The new Suzy Q’s packaging references social media users who requested that the item be brought back. “Those are (based on) actual comments consumers made to us on social media, so we put them on the box to make it a little more of that connected message with our raving fans who love Suzy Q’s,” Toler said.
Knowing with certainty that your product category is maturing or poised for a surge in interest, be it specialty sodas or sci-fi, is the first step in deciding whether or not to move forward.
Millions of moviegoers have already lined up to see Ghostbusters since its debut this month; as is the case with products like My Little Pony, 80s nostalgia is a powerful thing. When you’re on the fence about relaunching a product, it’s important to determine whether it’s likely to incite enough sentimentality to appeal to lovers of the original.
Part of the current Pokémon Go craze, for example, is what The Washington Post calls “a heavy dose of mid-1990s nostalgia.” Consumers who played with Pokémon cards more than a decade ago are back at it, or playing side by side with their kids. They feel connected to the concept and the characters, and devotion like that can last a lifetime.
The same might be said of Twinkies, which Hostess stopped producing when seeking bankruptcy in 2012. The following year, the snacks were brought back after two private equity firms stepped in. According to NPR, “Hostess was able to use an outpouring of public nostalgia to persuade an investment company, Metropoulous & Co., to fork over a check for $410 million.”
The short of it is that while your product will of course find new fans, the support of past customers can be invaluable—particularly when it comes to recruiting brand advocates and social influencers, and generating positive word of mouth.
Offer Something New
While nostalgia plays a part, there’s little reason to relaunch a product unless you have something fresh to offer, too. Such was the case with the new Volkswagen beetle. “Fandom—even on the scale of the Beetle—can only get you so far,” Adweek said of the 2015 product launch, while the car’s product planner noted, “We didn’t want to turn people away by offering only what the Beetle was in the past.” As such, the company paired vintage design elements with updates like modern fuel-efficiency and more trunk space, providing value to every type of target customer.
Hostess took a similar approach when it announced earlier this year that it would be introducing multiple new products, part of the corporate renaissance that has followed its bankruptcy. While some products are entirely fresh, others—like Hostess Mini Muffins—have been converted to whole grain to meet consumer demand for healthier snack items.
Give Talent the Attention it Deserves
What makes a remake a hit? The people. In large part, it’s the caliber of the acting and directing.
By the same token, your product relaunch shouldn’t kick off without a stellar team. Product engineers and sales teams aside, marketers, product managers, and public relations professionals all play key roles, and are equipped with the knowledge and experience needed to ensure your relaunch goes off without a hitch.
The product that you’re considering relaunching may currently be a ghost of its former self. With the right strategy, though, it stands a good chance of enjoying blockbuster success.