September 19, 2014

SciMark Report from September Response

InvenTel's Luma Candles

My latest SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website.

For this month’s column I reviewed: Telebrands’ Clicker Mop [ss], InvenTel’s Luma Candles [ss] and another Telebrands project, Night Stars [ss].

Coming Soon

In the upcoming October issue, I'll review the following new projects:

September 11, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

  1. BBQ Nu. Starring: Beau Rials. Pitch: "Clean any grill without scrubbing instantly." Comments: A 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) Besides grill season being such a short selling season (and it being very late in that season), the Miracle Grill Mat/Yoshi Grill & Bake Mat duel will ensure this problem is solved for the consumer. Also, it's a chemical, a replenishment item and the process sounds complicated. Easy as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8! [ss]
  3. Genie Cool. Pitch: "Breathable, cooling fabric helps keep you fresh no matter what." Marketer: Tristar. Comments: An apparent 'fast fail' -- although probably a good addition to the retail line. (Link goes to spot.) [ss]
  5. Gorilla Green. Starring: Joe Fowler. Marketer: Simoniz. Producer: Opfer. Pitch: "Cleans just like the expensive stuff at a fraction of the price." Comments: Yet another 'fast fail' -- and yet more evidence this is a Siren category. (Link goes to spot.) Even the "cleaning products are mostly water" pitch has been tried a few times without success. As for the commercial, I like the way the creative team treated the 'leading brand' comparison. Nicely done. [ss]
  7. Handy Slicer. Marketer: Global TV. Pitch: "Slice fast and easy with one hand." Comments: 'Fast fail' No. 4. Good category, historically, but also becoming a tough category with many more flops than successes. [ss]
  9. Hot Peplum. Marketer: Edison Nation. Pitch: "A fabulous way to add glamorous pop to any outfit." Comments: The final 'fast fail of the post. I have no idea what a "peplum" is, so I'll leave it at that. Sounds like a pizza or sandwich topping to me. "I'll take that with lettuce, tomato ... and what the heck, throw on a few hot peplums, too!" [ss]
  11. Big Boss Insta Mop. Marketer: Emson. Pitch: "Cleans up the hidden dirt and dust that ordinary mops leave behind." Comments: Not sure if this is a sanctioned variation of Hurricane Spin Mop for Canada, a 'follower' item, or what. [ss]
  13. Steady Pro Ruler. Marketer: Lenfest. Producer: Opfer. Pitch: "Ruler with a handle measures, levels and provides [a] straight edge." Comments: This is pretty neat, and it looks useful (lots of solid demos), but tools are a tough category these days. [ss]
  15. Wipe New Headlight Restore. Pitch: "Crystal clear headlights in just seconds." Comments: This is Wipe New's answer to Fast Brite. Too soon to bring back a 2011-2012 hit, but it makes sense as a brand/line extension. [ss]

September 08, 2014

Where do they get those hits?

Charts of hits such as my mid-year True Top Spenders raise inevitable questions. Most are of the sour grapes variety, but one particular question is always worth pondering: Where do the top marketers get their hits?

One might assume the answer to that question is a closely guarded secret, and that every top DRTV company has at least one covert source of inside sales information. But what if the truth is that outside sources are more likely to be responsible for a top marketer’s hits these days?

For instance, if I eliminated 'follower items' (my new euphemism) from the chart , the number of hits for the True Top Marketers of recent years would look like this:

  1. IdeaVillage: 6 (down from 9)
  3. Telebrands: 5 (down from 8)
  5. Allstar: 3 (no reduction)

IdeaVillage stills gets the top spot, and Telebrands is still just one campaign behind, but Allstar's placement no longer looks so distant. IdeaVillage loses three because of Copper Fit (Tommie Copper was first), HD Vision Visor (Easy View was first) and Yoshi Grill & Bake Mat (Miracle Grill Mat was first). Telebrands also loses three because of Amish Secret (Dutch Glow was first), Grassology (Cutting Edge was first) and Trusty Cane (HurryCane was first). Allstar doesn't play this particular game, so they don't lose any.

To make this even more interesting, let's also eliminate campaigns that have appeared on previous charts so that we are only evaluating 2014 rollouts. Now the list looks like this:

  1. IdeaVillage: 4 (down by 2)
  3. Telebrands: 4 (down by one)
  5. Allstar: 3 (still no reduction)

IdeaVillage loses MicroTouch Max and HD Vision Wraparounds, and Telebrands loses Pocket Hose Ultra. That last one isn't perfectly fair since a 'pro' product is technically 'new,' but it serves my purposes here. In any case, now IdeaVillage and Telebrands tie for first, and Allstar is a strong second.

Now a final question: How many of the remaining 11 hits are from 'inside'? In other words, if we eliminate every (new) campaign from my True Top Spenders that wasn't discovered by the listed marketer, how good do the top dogs look?

I ask because it is common to assume the companies that top a chart have exhibited a talent for identifying hits. But as I will now demonstrate, that isn't necessarily true. Indeed, the greatest talent for picking winners may reside outside of the big companies these days -- a fascinating trend.

Here's the list again, this time minus the ones I know came from outside:

  1. IdeaVillage: 2 (down by another 2)
  3. Telebrands: ?
  5. Allstar: 1 (down by 2)

I don't know enough about Telebrands' four campaigns to make this a complete list, but I do know enough about the other seven campaigns to make my point. IdeaVillage loses MicroTouch One, which came from 221 Direct, and Stufz, which came from Zoom TV. Allstar loses Perfect Bacon Bowl, which came from Edison Nation, and Secret Extensions.

I can go on. Emson's campaigns are a mystery to me, but I know Hampton has one old campaign on the list (Chillow) and one from Lenfest (My Spy Birdhouse), which would net them out at one. Even the guys with two on the chart aren't safe: Both Phil Swift and Norman Direct lose one if old items are excluded (Flex Seal and Mr. Lid, respectively). And Mr. Swift would have nothing left if I were as strict with Flex Shot as I was with Pocket Hose Ultra: That brand is well beyond 'pro.'

In the end, it seems the brilliance needed to pick winners is pretty evenly distributed in our industry with no significant difference between a large, veteran firm and a small, emerging one. So in the end, IdeaVillage ties with Infomercials Inc., each with two good picks apiece ... and everyone else is a close second with one.

September 07, 2014

True Top Spenders of 2014 (Mid-Year)

(Click to see the full list)

The peer-review period is over. Here are the True Top Spenders for the first six months of 2014.

A handful of producers didn't claim their work, and their clients weren't forthcoming, so the chart still has a few holes. So be it. For the rest, it's time to give credit where credit is due. It's time to reveal the smart, hard-working folks who produced the most hits so far this year. Without further ado ...

True Top Marketer: IdeaVillage Products Corp!

IdeaVillage takes the No. 1 spot with a whopping NINE campaigns on the list. I welcome them back to the top of this chart: It has been a while: The last time they hit No.1 was 2010. This is also a big leap forward from 2013 when IdeaVillage had 'only' four rollouts on the list and didn't even place. Congratulations to the IV team.

Close behind IdeaVillage is last year's True Top Marketer, Telebrands, with an impressive EIGHT campaigns on the chart. Telebrands has consistently ranked at or near the top of this chart since I started putting it out. That in itself is quite an achievement.

Everyone else trails by a significant gap with two or three hits apiece. However, a few deserve honorable mentions. Congratulations to Norman Direct for joining 'The True Spenders Club' with a respectable two rollouts (Easy View & Mr. Lid) and to Infomercials Inc, the only combination marketer/producer on the list, also with two rollouts (Miracle Grill Mat & Speed Out).

Speaking of producers, here's your other big winner ...

True Top Producer: Hutton-Miller!

Hutton-Miller climbs back into first place with five campaigns on the list. This is their second time taking the top spot, the last time being 2011. I suspect their placement has suffered in recent years because of my focus on 120-second campaigns. The H-M powerhouse is perhaps best known for an unbroken string of successes in the toy category, and those campaigns tend to run 60s. In any case, congratulations to Peter, John and the rest of their talented creative team.

As for the runners' up: Concepts TV, last year's True Top Producer, just missed the top spot again with four campaigns. Meanwhile, Blue Moon and Cole Media tied for third, and both Kerrmercials and Morgan James deserve honorable mentions with a laudable two rollouts each.

As for me, no one should be lauding my track record! Sure, I called three correctly (MicroTouch Switch Blade, Grassology & Chop Magic), but that mild achievement quickly fades next to the 10 I got wrong. I did sit the fence on an additional five, which is pretty positive for me, but no excuses -- I guessed incorrectly far too many times.

Of the ones I underestimated, two of them helped me discover a new category. Combined with Gyro Bowl (a 2011 True Top Spender), Snackeez and Wow Cup complete the three I require to establish 'toddlerware' as a valid DR category. I don't mind being wrong when it's educational!

As for which campaign shocked me the most, that would have to be MicroTouch One. Who could have guessed that a single-blade razor my grandpa used could compete with the 5-blade vibrating wonders of today? Some very smart people, it seems. Regarding one of them: Years ago, I did a panel with Fred Vanore of Blue Moon Studios called "Turning Losers Into Winners." Well, this year Fred once again proved he's an expert on this subject by taking a losing concept that had already failed once on TV (Akira) and turning it into a major winner. Kudos to him and the other marketing geniuses behind this surprise hit!

September 05, 2014

Air Writer

Description: A 3D pen
Main Pitch: "Like a 3D printer in the palm of your hand"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Kerrmercials
Prediction: Likely to succeed (but)

It's not uncommon for Telebrands to test two, three or more versions of a commercial for an item they decide has potential. I've noted everything from name changes (e.g. Ankle Genie) to whole new creatives by different producers (e.g. Trusty Cane). I got the prediction for Ped Egg wrong largely because I watched an early creative that did not mention a key feature of the product -- or so I tell myself.

I bring this up because the only reason I think this project is likely to succeed is because the product has so much potential: The commercial will need to be completely redone. I'm not sure what went wrong (quite possibly product performance was an issue), but the demos and ideas shown are either lame (the cube), repetitive (the cube and the flower) or way beyond the capability of the average person (copying a photo). That's a shame because this product is awesome and easily has as much potential as Bendaroos or other 'kid craft' items that have been successful.

Speaking of which ... Where are all the kids?

[Note: At press time, the link to this site was working -- and then it stopped working. I'm not sure if that's a technical glitch or if this one crossed over into 'fast fail' territory as I was writing about it! If the site's down when you click, you can read about similar pens and watch a demo of one in this Daily Mail article.]