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The launch lowdown: 2019's biggest brand launches recapped

2019. It was one for the books, right? Whether those books be about forest fires, vegan sausage rolls, Russia, leaving the EU, TikTok, impeachment or Coleen Rooney, they’ll be Ulysses-sized tomes (albeit, a bit easier to read, and without the silly stream-of-consciousness stuff). 

And running alongside world events, women took the lead. Greta Thunberg, the Fifa Women’s World Cup, the continuation of #metoo – it’s taken way too long, and they still have to fight every day, but their achievements, concerns, struggles and hopes are being heard. 

And, in that spirit, this launch lowdown drills into a couple of the biggest launches of the year. They just so happen to be from women. 

What do Kim Kardashian West and Sonic the Hedgehog have in common? 

Kim launched her new shapewear line, ‘Kimono’. Yes, it’s the sort of pun you’d expect David Brent to come up with and snigger “I’m a man of culture, innit”; and yes, it’s the sort of pun one of the world’s leading influencers decided was all right. 

And it wasn’t – as most were at pains to point out, it fell into that murky pit many dub ‘cultural appropriation’, cashing in on an age-old Japanese tradition for a cheap buck and pun. Something a spot of testing in the pre-launch phase could have quickly rooted out saving time and reputational damage to boot. 

Despite originally stating there were no plans to rename the brand, she later changed her tune, stating on Instagram: “My brands and products are built with inclusivity and diversity at their core and after careful thought and consideration, I will be launching my Solutionwear brand under a new name.”

Perhaps it was due to the letter she received from an actual Japanese mayor. Or the social currency it could’ve cost her. Or a combination of both. Either way, she did the right thing, and went to Twitter fans for alternative name suggestions. SKIMS was settled upon and the brand launched successfully, rolling out with a social video campaign involving Alice Marie Johnson: the woman Kim helped free from prison last year. 

All in all, that’s a pretty neat turnaround. Condemned for cultural appropriation, actively listening, swift reappraisal, asking fans to muck in, big dollop of social consciousness to tie in with SKIMS’ feel-good brand identity too. She tidied up on launch day too - $2m worth of stock shifted in the first few minutes, despite no one item exceeding the $100 threshold. Perhaps Kim can get in on that Sonic the Hedgehog reboot… 

Lady Gaga’s Prime Monster

Be it wearing dresses made of meat, performing with Metallica at the Grammys or parking her winning synth-pop formula for a jazz album with Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga’s never been awfully normal. So when she decided to launch her new cosmetics line, Haus Laboratories, she did so in exclusive collaboration with Amazon. 

And that was weird. The e-retail giant has no real beauty pedigree in comparison to the usual industry suspects. Why would someone like Gaga, renowned for her eye for detail, lump in her lot with Amazon? 

Because she’d done her homework. Her target audience, Gen Z, spend more than half of their personal care budget online (and 28% of that goes through Amazon). 

And when the online campaign rolled out, headed up by gender-fluid twins Joseph and Jake Dupont, it made even more sense. Gaga isn’t integrating her brand into Sephora or Ulta, aligning with their values, their ethics. She’s going through Amazon, which is best-known for being convenient. That’s it. It doesn’t really do anything. It’s just there, omnipresent. A blank canvas the size of a skyscraper, if you will.

It pretty much gave her Carte blanche for any which way. Backed by her inclusive credentials, Haus Laboratories an air of authenticity which a brand launching on Amazon’s Prime Day, exclusively with Amazon, really shouldn’t be able to command. 

Boy tells other boy to throw metal ball at car, swears, is rich

Yes we’ve been hearing lots about female launches but we can’t pass 2019 by without mentioning one from a man. The Tesla launch. They’re always ridiculous. Remember the surprise Roadster reveal two years ago? Madness. 

Elon Musk maintains said madness by… well, getting his lead designer to throw a metal ball at the window of his new Tesla Cybertruck. ‘Armor glass’ windows, apparently. Smashed like Uncle Paul at Christmas. 

And despite Elon whispering “Oh my fucking god”; despite the vehicle looking like something from an early Halo game, more than 200,000 pre-orders had been placed the following Monday.

No advertising. No paid endorsement. No trickery, no jiggery-pokery. An established brand doing what it does, mucking up a bit, and reaping the rewards off the back of past endeavours. A calendar event, much like Apple’s keynotes, launching something we’ve never really seen before. Apart from in Halo. There’s no such thing as bad PR, right?

Roll of honour

And finally, in lieu of a proper sign-off, please find a shortlist of stand-out launches from 2019.

George Roberts is client services director at launch marketing agency Five by Five

 

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