Brand marketers that introduce a new product are in for some tough competition these days. Last year alone, 33,678 new food, beverage, health and beauty care, household and pet products were introduced, a 6% increase from 2002, according to Productscan Online, a database of new products from Naples, N.Y.-based Marketing Intelligence Service.
Due to the stiff competition, most new products will fail. To improve the chances of survival, many consumer packaged goods companies are turning up the volume of their marketing campaigns through experiential events, celebrity endorsements and other tactics.
"I'm seeing manufacturers start to look for nontraditional media to launch new products and get to the consumer," said Paul Kramer, president, Ryan Partnership, Wilton, Conn., a marketing services firm.
One way that marketers are doing so is by becoming more involved with high-attendance consumer activities, like fairs and sporting events.
"In order to become more relevant to the consumer, manufacturers have to put their products in an environment where the consumer wants to be and has elected to be," Kramer said.
Unilever Bestfoods North America, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is doing just that with a major Hispanic experiential marketing campaign designed to introduce new products and support existing ones.
Knorr, Country Crock, Lipton Tea and Soups, Hellmann's, Ragu and other UBF brands are participating in a voter registration drive at 13 Hispanic festivals around the country. The campaign kicked off in March at Miami's Calle Ocho Open House, the nation's largest Hispanic street festival.
The heart of the UBF initiative is a recreation of a Hispanic town square through La Plaza Del Sabor (the plaza of flavor, or taste central), an outdoor pavilion that UBF sets up at each festival. About half the size of a football field, La Plaza includes eight brand areas, a voter registration booth and a central stage. The plaza will reach a potential audience of 3.3 million who are expected to visit the 13 festivals.
"The Plaza is a destination within a major festival," said Jamey Fish, UBF's multi-brand marketing manager.
The plaza mirrors a town square in that brand booths are made to resemble buildings. The Ragu building looks like an Italian villa, while the Country Crock area is a large jump house for children. Visitors can stroll from booth to booth, where they are treated to gifts, interactive games, food and entertainment.
It's also a place for UBF to showcase and sample some of its new products, including Knorr ready-to-serve Mexican cooking sauces, mango-flavored Lipton iced tea and Country Crock Plus Yogurt.
All products are sampled both on their own and as part of product recipes. Fish described the effort as more of a brand experience than a traditional demo.
"Consumers are just trying a sample then walking away," Fish said. "They're interacting with our brands."
The low-carb craze has created a flood of new product introductions. In the first quarter of this year alone, nearly the same amount of low-carb products hit the market as the entire year of 2003.
From Jan. 1 through March 31, 586 low- and/or no-carbohydrate foods and beverages entered the U.S. market, compared to 633 introduced in all of 2003; and 339 in 2002, according to Productscan Online.
This makes the low-carb market a tough one in which to compete. Marketers are now forced to find new ways to distinguish their brands from the competition's.
DNA Dreamfields Co., Cincinnati, is using several tactics to get the word out about its new Dreamfields Health Carb Living Pasta, which contains 5 grams of digestible carbohydrates per serving.
Elizabeth Gabbay, a celebrity physical trainer and nutritional consultant, is endorsing the product.
A contest called "How I Ate Like I Never Dreamed Possible" challenges contestants to prepare healthy low-carb pasta meals.
"Our goal is to showcase how great the product tastes and how it can fit into healthy living," said Jon Hall, a principal of DNA Dreamfields.
Hall said Dreamfields is unique because it's made primarily of durum wheat semolina combined with a small amount of a fiber/protein blend that results in fewer carbohydrates being absorbed into the system. This gives it a better taste and texture than low-carb pastas, he said.
Launching a new product domestically is tough enough. To grow and prosper in a global marketplace, marketers today are tasked with expanding product introductions across borders.
Ryan Partnership helped Masterfoods USA, Hackettstown, N.J., leverage an exclusive relationship it has with Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., to support the introduction of the "Little Champions" brand in four overseas markets -- Argentina, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico -- last year. Little Champions is dog food sealed in a "Flavor-Lock" pouch.
The effort was tied to "Paws to Recognize," a program that honors service dogs. Created by Pedigree, Paws to Recognize is promoted exclusively at Wal-Mart.