The Big Launch

The big launch

The new Wärtsilä 31 engine – launched amid great fanfare at Nor-Shipping in June 2015 – is one of Wärtsilä’s greatest ever R&D projects. And while the product marks a major achievement for the company’s engineers, the launch itself was also a huge feat for the Marketing team.

Text: Isabelle Kliger Photo: Johannes Tervo

The Wärtsilä 31, launched on 2 June in conjunction with the Nor-Shipping 2015 exhibition in Oslo, Norway, is a new, medium-speed marine engine that features the most advanced technologies in existence. The performance of the Wärtsilä 31 engine, in terms of usability and fuel efficiency, is unrivalled by the competition. For the Research & Development team, the launch of the new engine is the result of more than five years of intensive development work, making it Wärtsilä’s largest development project of all time.


Once in 20 years

“A launch of this magnitude doesn’t happen every day – more like once every 10 years,” says Catarina Fant, Senior Marketing Manager for Wärtsilä’s Engines business line. “This is a completely new engine, not just another version of a previous product, but something our R&D department has developed from scratch.” Fant explains that, when she joined Wärtsilä in November last year, the Wärtsilä 31 launch was one of the first projects that landed on her desk.

“We didn’t tell the market what our new product was until the day of the launch. About a month beforehand, we started a teaser campaign, saying that something was coming up that would re-define efficiency, but exactly what that something was remained secret,” she says.


Keeping secrets

According to Fant, keeping a secret like this is a necessity in Marketing.

“If you want a campaign to be a real success, you have to be prepared to keep things under wraps until the day of the launch,” she says. “As soon as details start leaking, the product loses its power, assuming the leak isn’t planned.”

The launch event itself was not the only thing Fant and her colleagues had to prepare in the lead up to Nor-Shipping. The introduction of a new product requires a complete, integrated marketing campaign with a well-prepared marketing mix. This includes everything from training material to brochures, new websites, videos, pictures and sales materials.

Social media was another important part of the marketing mix. “In the weeks before and after the launch, we promoted the Wärtsilä 31 heavily in a variety of social channels, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. During the launch week, we had a total of over 212,000 impressions and almost 10,000 engagements on social media overall,” says Fant.

In addition to the external marketing, there was also an internal marketing campaign within Wärtsilä. According to Fant, internal activities are as important as the external ones, in order to prepare the Wärtsilä people with customer-facing roles who also need to be on top of the news.

The launch event itself took place in conjunction with the Nor-Shipping 2015 exhibition in Oslo, Norway. Nor-Shipping is one of the world’s top events for the maritime and shipping industries. However, the invite-only, VIP launch event was not held in the exhibition centre, as initially planned.

“Several months before the event, we encountered a major obstacle, when we discovered that we could not get the engine to the exhibition centre itself.”

The options for Fant and her colleagues were either to hold a launch event without the product, or move it away from the Nor-Shipping exhibition.

“Neither of these options seemed ideal, but then we came up with an idea. We decided to do something completely different, something that had never been done before in our industry.”

The Wärtsilä 31 engine was brought to Aker Brygge, which lies at the heart of Oslo’s shipping community and is a popular destination for shopping, dining and entertainment in the Oslo city centre. The engine arrived there on 30 May, ready to be unveiled at the launch event on 2 June.


Be willing to take risks

“It was a risky decision,” admits Fant. “When you do something new like this, it might be a success, but it could also be a disaster. Not to mention the fact that we were holding an outdoor event in Norway. In fact, it rained all day on 2 June until 45 minutes before the event, and, when the event began, the sun came out.”

“Doing things differently is always a gamble,” says Fant. “But, if you want to grab people’s attention in marketing, you have to take calculated risks. Nobody is going to sit up and take notice if you’re doing the same as everyone else; you need to stick out from the crowd, create a dialogue, touch people, engage them. You will never please everyone, but you will hopefully get the desired response from the people you are targeting.”

Now that the launch is over, Fant admits to feeling happy but also a bit deflated.

“It’s always exciting to work on something this big,” she says. “You think about it all the time. For the last few weeks, you work on it 24/7, and it gives you an adrenaline rush because it’s fun, interesting and challenging, all at the same time.”“When it ends, it’s a great feeling, but you’re also left with a sense of ‘what next?’,” she adds.

Luckily, there is plenty of work left to do. Next, Fant will be working on following up the launch and marketing the Wärtsilä 31 in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, along with other, more long-term marketing activities.

“Keeping up the momentum and continuing to find new ways of attracting the market’s attention is always a work in progress. This product contains our latest technologies, and we’ll be promoting it for a long time.”

In the world of marine engines, the Wärtsilä 31 has already made a big name for itself as a high-profile product. As the most fuel-efficient engine of its kind on the market, it is setting an entirely new standard for marine engines worldwide. While this may seem like a bold statement, the claim has, in fact, been verified by Guinness World Records.


World record holder

“The idea to apply for a Guinness World Record came up during the planning of the release event,” recalls Ulf Åstrand, Wärtsilä’s Director for Product Development Programs. “Every engine manufacturer says their engine is the most efficient. So we decided to prove it by applying for the Guinness World Record.”

The suggestion was originally made by Lars Anderson, Vice President, Engine Sales. But, as the person heading up the Wärtsilä 31 project, it was Åstrand 's job to pursue it.

“It was a long, complex process, as Guinness World Records requires extensive evidence before naming a world record holder,” he admits. In the end, the world record was confirmed just five days before the launch.


Perfectly timed

“The timing was perfect, as we could make the announcement at the launch,” adds Fant. “A representative from Guinness World Records was there to present the award, confirming that the Wärtsilä 31 has the lowest fuel consumption of any four-stroke diesel engine in the world.”

“I feel proud of the achievement and proud to have been part of this project,” says Åstrand. “It’s also a huge testament to all the people who have worked tirelessly on this project during the last five years.”

“The feedback from the launch was extremely positive, with lots of people confirming our belief in what this engine can achieve and the benefits it will offer our customers,” he says. “The positive reception also gives us the energy to keep up the good work and ensure the safe and reliable operation of this record-breaking product for many years to come.”

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