Launching a tech product in lockdown

2020 has been a less than stellar year for more or less everything we get a kick out of so far, and consumer technology launches in particular have been hit hard.

We’ve seen Mobile World Congress, which usually heralds a flurry of smartphones and connected device announcements, cancelled as lockdown started to hit hard. IFA was next, although the resolve of the Germans meant it did go ahead in a much-reduced format. The PlayStation 5 was revealed in an entirely virtual event. Even the mighty Apple has been forced to abandon over a decade of traditional September launches, with the iPhone 12 landing in October 2020.

Launching your latest smartphone, gadget, game, speaker, TV or connected device is a tricky business at the best of times. So, what do you need to know to make a consumer tech or gadget launch an success in 2020?

Early access

It’s always good to give journalists a heads-up on a product launch, and under lockdown it has become even more important.

There are a few things at play here. While a lot of journalists have more time at their desks with less launches and briefings to attend in-person (basically none) the flip of that is increased pressure to get stories up online. With people unable to get out of the house, demand for online editorial is huge, and publishers are looking to capitalise on this – which means more headlines and more copy for more clicks.

The earlier you can give journalists the info on your launch, the better. A few days or a week’s notice on an announcement under embargo means they can work it into their schedule and plan when to post. It also means they’re working from your information and their own notes, for a better-informed write-up and not a quick hatchet job from a press release. Plus, setting an embargo date means you can get a nice wedge of write-ups published at once.

So, jump on a video call and give them a good 15-20 minute overview of what’s coming in advance, plus budget some time to answer any questions they might have. It’s the difference between a few paragraphs and a detailed write up.

Give them product

It may seem like a no brainer, but if you’ve got a great product and you want journalists to know just how great it is – give them one. And give it to them well in advance.

As with the above, a week gives media time to play around with a new product or service for themselves, and will add authenticity to their piece – allowing them to make real recommendations to readers rather than restating the facts and specs. Combine this with a briefing, and you get the great combination of facts and flavour in your editorial coverage. It also lets you troubleshoot any issues media have with the product before they publish, catching any niggles before they become a headline concern.

Nervous about giving away product ahead of launch? You can always commission a mock review. In this case, a freelance journalist will review your new gadget or tech for a small fee, and then write up a review as if it were appearing in a tech-focused publication. This can be a great way get a sense of how well a product will review, and if all goes well your mock reviewer can start pitching the product to a range of editors for you.

Give them a story

An easy one to forget, but with any product – and especially in the lockdown mindset – take a step back and think “who am I trying to get this kit in front of?” and “what have they been up to in the last few months?”

If it’s a smart home product, how can it help working from home? Is there potential for it to be an essential part of the ‘new normal’ home office? If it’s an entertainment product, does it work for groups of six or less? Fitness tracker? Consider how you can position it for beginners who’ve found time to regularly exercise in lockdown.

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