A banana and diamond side by side to illustrate the difference between a soft and hard product launch

The Soft Product Launch vs. The Hard Project Launch


The Difference Between a ‘Soft’ Product Launch and a ‘Hard’ Project Launch – What You Need to Know

When exploring strategies for the introduction of a new product, brand, or service through online searches, you’ll likely encounter the concepts of a ‘soft launch’ and a ‘hard launch.’ These terms represent two different approaches to bringing a product or new service to the market, each with its unique characteristics and considerations.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the key differences between these two launch strategies, exploring when and why you might opt for one over the other. As ever, a short video summarising this post, for the benefit of visually impaired visitors, can be found at the foot of the page.

What is a ‘Soft Product Launch’?

A soft product launch is a strategy that involves introducing a product to the market gradually and with a lower degree of publicity. This approach is often favoured when a company wishes to test the waters, gather feedback, and make improvements or fine-tweak before a full-scale launch. A soft launch is frequently used by mobile app developers, video games companies, software products and online streaming services to assess demand, fine-tune their products, and identify any issues before wider, global release.

The main characteristics of a soft product launch include, but are unlikely to be limited to:

Limited Audience: Soft launches typically target a smaller, select group of users, often referred to as “early adopters” or “beta testers.” This group provides valuable insights into the product’s strengths and weaknesses.

Minimal Marketing: Soft launches keep marketing efforts to a minimum, focusing on organic growth and word-of-mouth rather than investing heavily in PR, marketing and advertising.

Iterative Development: Feedback collected during a soft launch phase is often used to make improvements and adjustments to the product, enhancing its quality and user experience.

Reduced Risk: By limiting exposure, soft launches mitigate the risk associated with a full-scale launch, allowing companies to address issues before they become major problems.

Longer Timeframe: Soft product launches may have a more extended timeline, as the emphasis is on gradual growth and refinement.

Above: A soft launch is frequently used by mobile app developers, video games companies, software products and online streaming services to assess demand, fine-tune their products, and identify any issues before wider, global release.

So What is a ‘Hard Product Launch’?

A hard project launch, on the other hand, is a full-scale, high-visibility launch of a product, brand or service. It’s a strategy that is normally employed when a company is confident in the product or service’s readiness so it aims for maximum market penetration. Key features of a hard project launch are likely to include:

Large Audience: A hard launch is intended to reach a broad audience, targeting as many potential customers as possible to maximise initial impact.

Aggressive Marketing: Companies invest in PR, marketing and other promotional activities to build interest and excitement around the launch.

Limited Room for Iteration: While feedback is still valuable, a hard launch offers less room for significant product changes immediately after release, as customer expectations are high.

Higher Risk: With a broader audience and greater investment, there is a higher level of risk involved in a hard launch. Any issues or negative feedback can have a more significant impact on the service or product’s success.

Shorter Timeframe: Hard launches are typically executed with a sense of urgency, aiming to capitalise on market opportunities quickly.

Soft or hard? The decision rests on confidence, risk, planning…and budget

– Choosing a soft or hard product launch

When to Choose Soft or Hard Launch

The decision to go for a soft or hard launch depends on several factors, including the nature of the product or project, market conditions, and your risk tolerance. But here are some simplified things for you to consider:

Soft Launch: You might opt for a soft launch when your product or service is in a nascent stage and requires refinement. You want to gauge market response and collect user feedback before going all-out. Or you might be unsure about market demand and competition and test the waters. Or yet again, you may not have the funds for a large PR, marketing or advertising campaign and want to ‘drip-feed’ the product or service in the market.

Hard Launch: You might consider a hard launch when your product are service is fully polished and ready for a wide audience, if market conditions are favourable, and if there’s a clear demand. A hard product launch may also be right for you if you have a well-planned marketing strategy and budget.

A Summary

There is no ‘right or wrong’ when it comes to choosing between a soft and hard product launch. As we have seen, both options have their pros and cons. The decision about which course to take will ultimately be governed by your own confidence in your service or product. If you think your service or product has everything it takes to shout about it from the rooftops, then jump in with both feet and opt for a full-on hard launch. But if you’re hesitant and want to test the waters first, dip your toes into the market through a soft-launch option. Whichever option you take, we’re here to help with a range of product launch marketing services.

Steven Monaghan of Palamedes PR, the book PR and marketing agency

Steven Monahan

Steven blogs about PR and marketing, books and, occasionally, boxing. He has been known to play the harmonica with his nose.

Product Launch Marketing Services UK

Brand and product launch marketing and PR is more than simply publicising a new item – it’s about creating genuine consumer interest, engaging target audiences, and driving sales. That’s where our specialist product launch PR and marketing services come in. If you’re looking for product launch marketing services UK, give us a call and we can talk you through your options with a free 30-minute consultation with one of our brand and product launch marketing experts.

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