Rocket Fuel

Launch It or Release It?

The Difference Between Launching and Releasing

It’s very common for companies to adopt a “launch-it-all mentality,” and to define and label all new beginnings. When everything is treated as a priority, there are no priorities. If everything is a launch, then nothing is a launch.

So, here’s a simple thought: You are either Launching or you are Releasing.

It’s black or white, yes or no. If you are not launching, you are releasing. This clarity can have powerful business impacts.

So, let’s define launch and release.



Launch is a verb. It’s a process that can (and we’d argue should) become its own discipline within an organization of any size.

Launching is a cross-functional business discipline designed to align stakeholders and enable the momentum necessary to break through internal and external market barriers to successfully guide a product to market and into adoption.

In fact, it’s beneficial to think about launching as an opportunity for organizational alignment. Launching demands more rigor, energy and collaboration than a release. By this definition, anything is launch-able if a company places a high level of focus and higher commitment into a process.



If your company does not choose to launch, it is a release. A release is principally about customer/ stakeholder engagement. There is nothing wrong with a release; it is not to be diminished. In fact, for the majority of marketing activities, a release is exactly what’s needed: campaigns, media relations, demand gen, brand building, sales enablement…what marketers do day in and day out.

So, pause to think about how many initiatives you’ve “launched” in your business lifetime and consider instead if they could have been labeled a release.


How to distinguish a launch from a release

Products, services, businesses, initiatives and programs — there’re plenty that can be launched. But how do we determine if it’s a launch or release?

It comes down to prioritization; putting the right business emphasis on the most important initiatives. To help here, we developed a quadrant graph, where the x axis is COMPLEXITY and y is IMPORTANCE. The more complex the project is to communicate to a given audience, the further to the right it will go on the x axis. Where as the more important it is to business success the higher up along the y axis it will be plotted. It’s possible to align on quantifiable criteria and plot it on a graph.

The initiatives that require a launch will become apparent — allowing you to allocate resources mindfully.


Consistently achieving launch excellence starts with reframing how you think about it, explore more ideas like this in the Orange Paper Rethink Launching (pdf).


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