Doctoral dissertation: The contextual nature of launching industrial new products

My doctoral dissertation, publicly defended on November 1st 2013 at Oulu Business School, Department of Marketing, examined the contextual nature of launching industrial new products. The starting point for the study was the question, why new product launches so often fail? Sometimes the product is at fault, but in many cases, the launch itself is conducted poorly. Firms tend to model their new product development processes but launch is not understood as a process in its own right.

It is argued here that launch process deserves more attention, and more specifically, how the characteristics of the product to be launched, the market, and the launching firm affect the way launch is conducted. Cases of an industrial product-based firm and an industrial project-based firm were examined to further dig into diverse launch processes.

Several general launch activity groups and sources for launch drivers and challenges were identified. Depending on the current launch situation, specific launch activities, drivers and challenges become relevant. There is no single pattern for launch and therefore it is important to understand the particular launch at hand. For example, launches in the product-based firm and in the project-based firms are rather different.

In the product-based firm launch is intensive, multi-phased and cross-functional process, which lasts from weeks to months. Launch is perceived as an important activity, supporting the sales of the new product. In that context, efficient distribution, carefully planned launch message, training of sales people, realistic schedules, cross-functional communication, and a well-organized launch process are important. Particularly external and internal launch communications, schedule delays, pricing, and launch process management cause problems.

In the project-based firm launch is not a straight-forward process. Launch activities are performed along a customer project, where the new product is also developed. Managing this kind of a process which can last for years is difficult. The first step in the process is to convince the customer and make the first sale for the planned new product. When product development has passed the most risky phases, preannouncements are made. After a successful first customer project, the new product is presented to the broader market and the first customer project is used as a reference. After that, it is typical that the product is re-designed and re-launched. Many of the launch drivers and challenges in that context relate to the first customer project.

This study presents the launch process as well as the influence of its context in a new, comprehensive and organized way compared to the previous launch research, which has been more interested in the launch strategies than on the launch activities. Hence, what makes launch such a difficult process? Launch is a highly context-dependent process and requires cross-functional and market-connected cooperation and communication.
The thesis can be found at

Tuula Lehtimäki
Postdoctoral researcher
Department of Marketing
Oulu Business School

Last updated: 18.6.2014

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