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The launch lowdown: Coke's Asia alcopop, Hublot's first smartwatch and Waitrose's avocado eggs

By James Roles , Columnist

April 17, 2018 | 6 min read

Naming weather to try and give global warming a friendly face. Watching politicians symbolically throw dead fish into the Thames. More Brexit back-and-forth. Looking at March in the rear-view mirror, the month very much dragged out like an Armando Iannucci sketch, but with Easter eggs at the end of it. However, there was still a slew of launches across the month, spanning a variety of sectors, that really stood out.

Chu Hi, sold in Japanese convenience store / Japan Online

Chu Hi, sold in Japanese convenience store / Japan Online

Coca-Cola plans on getting mortal in the east

You never ask for Jack and Pepsi, do you? Coca-Cola’s long been a favourite mixer, and now with the announcement that it’s launching an alcopop in Japan, all eyes are on the big red behemoth to measure its success. It’s been framed as a ‘modest’ launch, but Coca-Cola unleashing its alcoholic potential in the east is surely just the beginning.

Although it’s a Chu-Hi drink specifically for the Japanese market, the principle applies worldwide. Coca-Cola could ride similar local trends in European markets, and given the sugar tax that’s coming into force in April, drinks brands will surely be looking at other revenue streams. We’ll have to wait and see, but it looks like it's only going to be a matter of time before this is happening across the globe.

Watchmaker Hublot gets with the times

Change is good. Healthy. You might dig your heels in and refuse, but it’ll just make the trip all the more violent. The luxury watch market has been resisting change for too long, and we’re now seeing manufacturers not just accept, but embrace digital. Luxury Swiss watchmaker Hublot has completely revamped its image, launching its first smartwatch with what is essentially the Avengers of the sporting world.

Jose Mourinho, Diego Maradona and Usain Bolt all endorse the product and were present at its launch event, which took place at the Baselworld conference in Switzerland. Not only that, but Hublot is sponsoring the World Cup this summer. This is all very elaborate, all seemingly unnecessary, for a watch that is only being made for a limited run.

But this is really important. It’s a rebirth, a subtle relaunch for the brand and the luxury watch market more broadly. As watch sales fall, Hublot is attempting to find new ways to tap into different markets and audiences. While beautiful, the watch itself isn’t the best bit about this launch. The cherry on the cake is how seamlessly the brand has transitioned, opening its world up to a completely different kind of customer who’s only ever considered a digital smartwatch.

Project 84 makes a statement

Every two hours, a man dies from suicide. That makes, on average, 84 male suicide deaths a week.

That’s a harrowing statistic, and one that’s made even more poignant when considering the stigma surrounding men opening up, talking about their feelings, holding their hands up and saying ‘I’m not okay’.

Partnering with suicide awareness charity CALM, ITV launched Project 84. Just as the bleak weather had subsided and the March sunshine started to crawl through, 84 male silhouettes could be seen on the ledges of ITV’s Southbank studio. ITV’s This Morning programme has also got involved, dedicating three days of programming to male suicide.

There shouldn’t be a stigma around mental health. It’s an illness, an affliction, just like anything physical. This campaign is a bold assertion of that fact, making the invisible visible.

A Way Out breaks free from traditional game launch tactics

Ever since its announcement at last year’s EA PLAY event, A Way Out has left gamers salivating. Because this debut release from independent studio Hazelight is special. Both online and off, it’s only playable in co-op, meaning that the actual product can focus on the thing it’s supposed to: the gameplay. For too long, player twos had to suffer being culled from cutscenes, having little to no relevance in the big scheme of things as player one hogs the glory. A Way Out allows proper collaboration, real interaction, and that’s what people want from co-op. It seems so simple, but loads of games get this wrong.

But further to the actual gameplay… what a coup for Hazelight. This is something unique, something that’s not been tested by larger, more established studios. Hazelight made its mark by setting a ridiculously affordable RRP (£24.99!) and then, the clincher – you get a free download code, allowing a friend to play along for free. Price is a real swaying point for games as retail prices continue climbing, so rolling out this method was an absolute barnstormer. Given how well the game has been received by critics and gamers alike, it won’t be surprising if big-name developers start following suit.

Avoca-do or Avoca-don’t?

Society is currently obsessed with the avocado, the fleshy green egg, the apparent reason for millenials’ lack of funds (no, it’s nothing to do with the economy, it’s avocados, okay?!) Waitrose launched Avocado-themed Easter Eggs. Not avocado-flavoured, scented, anything like that. They just looked like avocados.

Yet they sold out, up and down the country. What do avocados have to do with Jesus? At this point, it doesn’t really matter. Waitrose saw a commercial opportunity for what is, let’s be honest, a now very commercialised holiday, and went for it. It was a calculated, well-executed product launch, tying in with an event where people will be actively looking to buy, and a prime example of launching in a crowded market.

Coming soon: unicorn-themed dreidels.

James Roles is sales and marketing director at launch marketing agency Five by Five


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