Launch marketing agency Five by Five interviewed more than 730 senior marketers across the UK, US and Australia and found that three quarters of brand marketers (74%) prioritised social media in their launch marketing plans.
Sales promotion ranked second among the most important channels, with more than half of marketers (55%) citing it; email campaigns came in third (53%).
TV advertising only ranked sixth, behind press advertising and PR – a finding that reinforced earlier Five by Five research which reported that only 6% of consumers saw TV advertising as a key factor in whether or not they bought a new product.
There are a couple of reasons why social is seen as the crucial channel, one being that this is increasingly where research is taking place.
Almost two thirds (64%) of respondents used social listening to support their new product development, ranging from a high of 72% in the retail sector to a low of 51% in financial services.
Furthermore, around half of marketers (46%) believed that the biggest benefit of social channels lay in generating awareness before the product actually launched.
"Shareable content and social engagement allow brands to create a groundswell of pre-launch interest in a way no other channel can match," noted Martin Flavin, creative director at Five by Five.
Time pressures are also a factor, with 70% of marketers reporting they usually had only six months or less to prepare for a product launch. And 81% said that the average time between the idea first originating and launching the product has shrunk over the past five years.
At the same time, however, 88% believed they were now able to make better-informed decisions about their product launches and a similar proportion (87%) said launch campaigns were now more measurable.
"Deadlines have got tighter, and costs have risen – but marketers now are more informed about their product launches than ever," said Michelle Mitchell, strategy director at Five by Five.
"This increased knowledge means that campaigns are braver, smoother and more effective," she added.
Data sourced from Five by Five; additional content by Warc staff