Eight months prior to retail launch, P&G began selling its Whitestrips and soliciting consumer feedback at a promotional Web site. Testimonials from early users were posted on the site. P&G also paid close attention to the type of visitors the site attracted, quickly realizing that Whitestrips resonated especially well with young and middle-aged women and the gay community. By the time P&G’s marketing team embarked on a broader promotional campaign, which included showcasing the product on the QVC Network, they had refined the marketing message and had a solid understanding of which groups would respond best to different types of advertising.
Managing a series of iterative product launches that incorporates feedback from consumers along the way requires a tightly focused, interdisciplinary launch team. The team must have significant authority, including wide jurisdiction over processes such as pricing and channel selection, not just media and communication. More important, the team’s responsibility should begin well before the product launches — in some cases when it is still in early development — and last until well after the product is selling in market.
Since P&G was attempting to launch a brand-new consumer category when it introduced Whitestrips, it was essential that all three launches — via dentists, via the Web, and finally nationwide — be tightly and seamlessly integrated and build momentum to maximize consumer sales. P&G’s team managed the process well: One year after launch, sales of Whitestrips had reached more than $200 million, and within five years, P&G had not only established a new product category, but enjoyed 70 percent market share in the burgeoning home tooth-whitening market. The Whitestrips launch demonstrates the value — the necessity even, in today’s market — of pushing internal units to work together to refine the product, branding, and marketing message.
Steve Silver ([email protected]) is a senior advisor at FTI Helios and an adjunct professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Jong Chow ([email protected]) is a managing director in FTI Helios’ economics consulting practice.