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Editorial: Does Stealth Make Wealth

By Len Monheit

If we dramatically oversimplify the market, we see two primary strategies for product introduction (ingredients or finished products), one which uses as much and as loud communication as possible, and one which uses stealth to introduce products in a much more low key manner to a selected list of prospects. Of course, the latter approach might be dictated purely by economics, but in this age of e-communications, frequent and relatively loud communications really do not cost that much. So the choice of loud versus stealth essentially becomes one of strategy.

Experts in marketing and communications generally agree that communication with the media is desirable, in the form of news, announcements and press releases as well as periodic updates and status meetings – to keep your company top of mind when articles are being prepared etc. One can certainly keep an active ‘profile’ yet be low-key in various product offerings and we’ve recently seen several ingredient launches where this exact approach has been followed. In the cases I’m referring to, while the company has been quite visible, the new product introduction has been very targeted and channel directed – with little or no media fanfare.

Of course there are also those (typically early-stage) companies who for reasons of IP, resources or vision, stay well below the industry radar as they seek traction as a company or for specific products. At some point, presumably, these companies reach critical mass for a bigger splash, fade away into oblivion, or sell or license their product to another organization.

When is your approach certain to be correct? Is it always a case of “go as big and as loud as you can?”

Industry experts will say that there are certainly times when a low key approach is favored. In some cases, this might be due to supply issues, but it might also be due to having a defined channel plan. We might see an ingredient supply organization wait for the ideal direct marketing partner to take an ingredient, halting other sales efforts until the direct marketing approach and sector has either been engaged or exhausted. Where the target population is extremely well-defined, there might in fact be only a few potential marketers of interest. Even in these cases however, creating the demand side of the equation is key. True, many manufacturers have capability as marketing engines, and can really turn up volume for both ingredients and finished products, but there is still a role and responsibility for the top-tier ingredient supplier.

One must also consider the impact of timing, on a calendar/industry cycle basis, or in the context of building to product maturity. If you enter the marketplace with huge fanfare and repeat the fanfare with limited market traction, eventually you’ll be displaced by the ‘next big thing’ at the very moment when you need huge media play in order to ‘cross your chasm’. In cases such as this, your biggest noise must be carefully timed to capitalize on small success and parlay that into widespread market access – and of course there are mechanisms to do just that.

In short, there is really no ‘one size fits all’. Circumstances always impact strategy, including market dynamics. An interesting observation though is that our industry has seen companies try several different approaches before achieving success – whether they start low key or high pitched, leading one to assume that key characteristics of these successes are resourcefulness, persistence and commitment.

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