When did ‘Launch & learn’ become ‘Hit & hope’?


John Cassidy


Categories Blog Innovation
Tags Innovation

I found myself in reflective mood yesterday.


I was in a briefing meeting listening to a conversation which has become increasingly commonplace recently. The client team explained how a new line, launched a year or so ago, was in danger of being de-listed and they needed to understand what had gone wrong and how to rectify the situation. One maverick pointed at the elephant in the room and wondered aloud how they’d arrived at the current situation. Cue awkward silence. Usually I find the underlying reason is pretty much the same across clients: undue haste overriding good marketing principles.


A few years ago the most frequently used phrase in marketing seemed to be “We need to behave like a start-up”, closely followed by “Let’s just launch & learn”. Well folks, we’re now reaping what was sown. Unless you’re fortunate enough to work in a sh*t-hot marketing team, what usually happened is that the pressure to get to market would have enabled the team to avoid the usual checkpoints and protocols to fast-track the innovation. While theoretically avoiding the ‘red tape’ enables us to react quicker to emergent trends, like a start-up, too often this would have been without the solid bedrock of

  • – understanding the consumers’ core needs
  • – or honing the proposition iteratively
  • – or ensuring the packaging optimised comprehension of the new offering….

Which brings us right back to today, or rather, yesterday.


Start-ups can be so effective because they unlock a killer insight first and then capitalise on it: all of the fabled examples (Airbnb, Uber, etc, etc) are founded on deep, strong intelligence! They then learn and adapt quickly, pivoting week on week, allowing them to adapt and grow. The approach we’ve seen by many large brands has been more a case of ‘hit and hope’. Too often, businesses abandon or devalue the ‘learn’!


I’m all for being more agile, but let’s be smart about it, folks. Rather than spending limited budgets on sub-optimal research and crossing your fingers behind your back, why not consider tapping into the fund of knowledge we’ve built up over 25 years’ experience of talking to consumers?


One of our clients commissioned a review of their current pack and a critique of some new design routes. We produced a pithy document with clear and insightful direction for design development and they said it represented the best value £5k they’d ever spent.


Now I think that’s worth reflecting on.