Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Averting Disaster – Do Your Research (Part 1)

I was recently privy to one of the worst branding disasters I’ve ever encountered. The effect on the team launching the product was near catastrophic and hindsight proved just how avoidable it all was. There are a few simple rules to a product launch and I’m hoping that my recent experience can shed a light on how to avoid this problem in the future.

The following story is true. Certain names and details have been altered to protect the privacy and integrity of those involved.

The Product

I work as a digital media consultant responsible for developing content for various companies that choose to market their business on the internet. A well-intentioned individual who runs a website and blog devoted to tea was looking to expand their audience by hosting an online tea conference bringing experts from all over the world to discuss everything concerning tea, called “The Tea Council”. The online conference would be composed of 30 presentations and interviews on various subjects as they relate to tea marketed for free over a one-week period, and available for sale thereafter through the blog and various affiliates for $29.99.

The Team

A tremendous amount of work is involved to put together one of these online conferences for which there are numerous benefits to the consumer. First, during the week of the conference the information is available for free. Second, there is no need to buy a ticket, purchase a flight, or book a hotel room in another city - the entire conference can be enjoyed from one’s bedroom. And finally, the information is available to the consumer in perpetuity. In order to create this product, a whole content team and marketing team need to be assembled to create the product and to put it out to the world. Web space for the “theteacouncil” was purchased and all content and marketing for the conference would be channeled through that space. A single online conference takes a solid 2 to 3 months to put together employing about a dozen individuals all trained in their specific discipline as well as coordinating with a large group of experts who all have a stake in how great the reach is for this conference.

My Role

As the one responsible for designing the content, it was my job to consult with our client on how to make the best use of digital media to communicate the information of an expert with an audience of lay people. An interview is conducted between the conference host and the expert that is recorded and edited, and then turned into a final podcast-type deliverable for the consumer. Those interviews are then transcribed, from which a power point presentation is created. This power point is then turned into a video and is matched with the audio presentation which itself is delivered to the consumer. All in all, for thirty presentations, on my end alone, it was about 100 hours of work.

How It All Broke Down in the Blink of an Eye

We were less than a week away to launch. All the content was in place, all the affiliates were on board, and initial pre-registrations had already taken place. Heavy traffic was already heading to the website and sales were already being made. The client received a cease and desist letter from the owner of a website called “”. After an initial review from a lawyer, although being reassured that the Council on Teas didn’t have much of a case, legal fees alone would cut significantly into the budget of the conference. The owner of the Council on Teas was also adamant that a deal could not be struck and that the Tea Council was in breach of a trademarked product and would be legally blocked from launching their product, and would face legal repercussions and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, should they continue with their launch as planned.

 Lesson Learned

A simple Google search would have shown the existence of the Council on Teas company and their website, and the initial decision to launch the conference as “The Tea Council” had to be considered a terrible oversight. Even if the desired web space was available, it would have been preferable to do some initial market research and explore any websites and names that might have even been remotely similar to anything they wanted to launch.

Read on to Part 2 to find out what it took to finally get a completed product completely rebranded and launched.