June 29, 2007

New Items: Pro-Stick, Micro-Grill, Litter Locker and more

Here's my periodic report on the latest DRTV commercials to hit the airwaves ...

1. FRESHINI PRO-STICK (2 pay, $14.95) is a cordless kitchen power tool with multiple attachments. The offer includes a stick blender attachment and an electric knife attachment. The bonus is a whisk attachment. No URL
Comments: Long shot. What makes this product unique is also its greatest liability: Its many functions. There's just too much here to cram into a two-minute spot. Additionally, there are a many superior products on the market that perform these same functions. And the price is high for DRTV.

2. MICRO-GRILL (2 pay, $19.95) is a small, Foreman-style grill that goes in the microwave. The heat-conducting plates are supposed to give you grilled food at microwave speed. The offer includes a cooking guide and recipe cards. The bonus is an additional set of recipe cards and special spacers that let you cook pastries in the microwave. www.MicroGrill.com
Comments: Unlikely to succeed. The pitch is unconvincing. Millions of DRTV buyers own and love the Foreman grill. I don't think they're sitting around wishing they had a faster version of it. As Prof. Christensen would say, the Foreman grill is a "good enough solution." Moreover, the problem this product solves (rubbery microwave meat) isn't hit hard enough in the spot, further weakening the pitch. And the price is high for DRTV.

3. AIRBLOX ($14.95 trial/$99.99) are inflatable building blocks for kids. They're over-sized and multi-colored, and can be used to build castles, rocket ships, houses, etc. The offer includes 12 blocks with connecting clips and clip bag, an "imagination guide" and the air pump. www.Airblox.com
Comments: Unlikely to succeed. Too narrow and too expensive for DRTV. Cool item for another marketing channel, though.

4. LITTER LOCKER ($19.99) is a cat litter disposal system. It looks like a diaper disposal and has a built-in supply of liners with a cutter. The offer includes a scoop and an eight-week supply of liners. The bonus is a laser pointer/cat toy (just pay S&H). This is a Telebrands item and a Blue Moon commercial. www.BuyLitterLocker.com
Comments: Close, but ... It only appeals to cat owners, which reduces the odds of having a big hit. Plus, cat owners most likely have come up with or purchased a solution to the "smelly litter box" problem.

5. LATIN CARDIO ($19.95) is a workout routine that combines Latin dance moves with a cardio workout routine. The offer includes a DVD and a soundtrack. The bonus is a nutritional eBook. www.LatinCardio.tv
Comments: Unlikely to succeed ... in short-form. It was only a matter of time before someone tried this variation of the hugely successful Hip Hop Abs program. But short-form is the wrong form. As a show, this could be a smoker since Latin dance moves are more popular than Hip Hop dance moves.

6. JOTARA RELIEVE IT ($29.95) is a pain-relief product. The offer is buy one, get one free. The bonus is free shipping. www.Jotara.com
Comments: There is little to distinguish this pain reliever from the dozens of other products on the market. [Editor's Note: This entry has been edited for accuracy.]

7. KINOKI ($19.99) are foot pads that are supposed to draw harmful toxins out of your body as you sleep. The offer includes 14 pads, a two-week supply. The bonuses are a lifetime supply of pads (monthly auto-ship, just pay $9.99 S&H) and a tube of Pampered Solutions Foot Scrub. www.BuyKinoki.com
Comments: They use Japanese reflexology as an explanation in their pitch, something that lacks credibility with the American mass market.

8. CORE RHYTHMS (30-Day Free Trial) is a workout routine that combines Ballroom Latin dance moves with a cardio workout routine. Features testimonials from Len Goodman of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" and Mary Murphy of FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance." The offer includes four DVDs. www.CoreRhythms.com
Comments: Unlikely to succeed ... in short-form. This one has an even better shot of succeeding than Latin Cardio. Using well-known celebrities from two popular dance shows as testimonials is a brilliant idea. But again, short-form is the wrong form. As a show, this would be a big hit and could possibly even blow Hip Hop Abs off the charts.

Source: "New Spots for Week Ending 6/22/07," IMS

June 15, 2007

Introducing My New Blog

Today I'm introducing my first blog: The SciMark Report. The general topic will be direct-response marketing, but I will mainly focus on my specific areas of expertise: direct-response television (DRTV), print and Web.

My main purpose in creating this blog was to share and get feedback on new projects I was working on, but it quickly became a way to move my "New Items" report online as well. For those of you who aren't familiar with this service, it's a report on the latest DRTV spots to appear on the IMS tape and Jordan Whitney DVD, both of which I receive weekly. The report includes the new product's name, its TV price, a description of the product and the offer, the Web address, and any other information I can glean. There is also an "editorial" area where I share my opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of an item. Moving this report online will allow anyone to search my archives to learn when a spot first aired and to discover if something similar to their new product idea has ever aired before.

My long-term goal for this blog is to have a place where I can post my general thoughts on marketing. I also intend to post updates from time to time on my various research projects -- essentially what I've been learning as a practicing direct-response marketer.

My first research project began five years ago when I started buying and reading every book I could find on the topic of direct marketing (and collected quite an impressive library in the process). I went as far back as the 1920s, starting with what I call the ‘Old Masters.’ Men like Claude Hopkins (“Scientific Advertising”) and John E. Kennedy (“Reason Why Advertising”). Then I moved on to the masters who practiced in the middle of the 20th century, including John Caples (“How To Make Your Advertising Make Money”) and Alvin Eicoff (“Or Your Money Back”). I finished up by reading books by some more recent masters, such as Joseph Sugarman (“Advertising Secrets of the Written Word”) and Ron Popeil (“The Salesman of the Century”).

During my research, I also had exposure to several masters who are still in practice today. For example, I had multiple conversations with AJ Khubani, an industry veteran and the president of Telebrands, and heard him give several presentations on what it takes to make a DRTV commercial successful.

I also benefited greatly from my relationship with Dick Wechsler, owner of the industry’s leading DRTV agency, Lockard & Wechsler Direct. Dick’s decades of experience running successful print and DRTV campaigns was a treasure trove of scientifically proven DRTV techniques.

After reading every book and article I could get my hands on, and listening intently to these industry veterans, I ended up with pages and pages of notes. I later distilled these notes into several "cheat sheets" and checklists, some of which I will be sharing on this blog.

I hope you enjoy visiting here often, and I invite you to post a comment whenever you have something to share.

June 11, 2007

Weekly Round-Up

From the Pre-Blog Archives

  1. GRILL DADDY ($19.95) is a BBQ grill cleaning tool. It has stainless steel bristles and release a stream of water that creates a steam-cleaning effect on hot grills. The bonus is a color-changing meat thermometer. This is a Steve Harkey commercial. Comments: Adding a water gun to a generic grill cleaning brush isn't going to move people off the couch.
  3. READY BED (2 pay, $19.95) is a combined air mattress and sleeping bag for kids. There are four different themes: Dora the Explorer, Disney Princess, Spider Man and Thomas & Friends. The offer includes a "messenger bag" style carrying case and a battery-powered pump. The bonus is a travel neck pillow for kids. Comments: I like it. The price is high for DRTV and the market/media is limited, but the product is a wow idea and a great solution for sleepovers.
  5. MAGIC CARRY ($19.99) is a harness system for moving heavy objects. It consists of shoulder straps and clips that let you use evenly distribute the weight and leaves your hands free. Uses include: Lifting air conditioners, monitors, mattresses, etc. The offer includes a support pad for extra heavy things. The bonus is a set of four "Easy Sliders" (aka Moving Men). This is a Billy Mays commercial.

    Comments: Unlikely to succeed. This is reminiscent of the Forearm Forklifts, and suffers from some of the same shortcomings. But while the Forearm Forklifts weren't a great value, this at least looks like it's worth $20. The problem is one of credibility. I don't think people (especially the older, more fragile DRTV buyer) will believe that a system of straps will allow them to lift two or three times what they can lift normally.
  7. CLEAR-2-O ($12.95 S&H) is a water-purifying pitcher that is supposed to filter out five times more contaminants than similar products. Instead of running water into the top, you attach a hose to your spigot. The offer is try it free, just pay S&H. They also pitch their home delivery program for the filters.

    Comments: Unlikely to succeed. This is a classic "better than" product. As a result, it faces the same challenge all products of this sort face -- the leading product is good enough. In the commercial, they use cloudy water to demonstrate the superiority of their filtration. But in real life, the tap water probably isn't cloudy and the leader's product (i.e. Brita) is producing crystal clear results. That means the consumer would need an education and a microscope to appreciate the benefits of this item, which means it's not an impulse buy.

June 04, 2007

Weekly Round-Up

From the Pre-Blog Archives

  1. LE SPA ($19.95) is a spinning shower brush integrated with a European-style shower head. It has an adjustable sprayer, an extendable handle, an internal reservoir for body wash and several different attachments. The offer includes a soft spiral brush, a spinning loofa, a massage head, and a full-body brush. The bonuses are a head with deep tissue massage fingers, a spinning pumice stone and a "power brush" for cleaning bathroom tiles. It's a 10-piece kit in all. They are also selling organic body washes on the back end.

    Comments: A better version of Spin Spa, so it's a guaranteed hit, right? Wrong. The big problem with this item is the type of shower head required. Handheld shower heads are common in Europe, but much less common in the United States. That means the market for this product is limited. When installation is required, you've got problems. Spin Spa is battery powered, so it doesn't present that barrier to purchase. The other issue is all the things this item does. It's a lot to cram into two minutes and still have a clear communication. We were pushing it at five!
  3. ROTO DUSTER ($19.99) is a knockoff of Go Duster, the spinning power duster. The bonuses are an extra-long head and a micro-dusting head. Comments: Word is that Go Duster is a hit, so this should follow the normal course of a good knockoff (which it is) and capture a portion of the market.
  5. SPIN N' SPARKLE ($19.95) is a cordless jewelry cleaning brush that comes with a spray-on cleaning solution. It's designed to restore the luster of rings, necklaces and bracelets. The offer includes a hands-free jewelry holder, a gem polishing cloth and a precious gems care guide. The bonuses are a designer carrying bag and a second brush head. Comments: Winner! This item is mass market, and it solves a problem for women. What's not to like?
  7. NAILS AR NEW ($19.95) is a nail polish repair formula. It goes on like nail polish and fixes chipped, peeled or otherwise damaged nails. The offer includes a bottle of cuticle oil serum. The bonus is a second bottle of the repair formula, just pay shipping. Comments: Another winner! It solves a real problem: Women pay big bucks to have their nails done, only to ruin them a day later.
  9. XEN-TAN (Free Trial) is a sunless tanning cream in a tube. Features testimonials from models. The offer is a free trial, just pay S&H. The bonus is a free bottle of tan-extending lotion. Comments: Prediction? Bomb. Yes, it's free. But this item is so common, I don't think people will even find it worth the trouble of picking up the phone and placing an order. Also, the product holds little appeal for older people, the majority of DRTV buyers.
  11. CORE SCULPTOR (2 pay, $29.95) is an ab roller device. It resists you on the way out, and assists you on the way in. The offer includes a "Slim From Within" eating plan. The bonuses are four workout videos. This is a Sylmark product. Comments: I don't see this on the long-form lists, but I'll assume it's in support of an infomercial at that price point.
  13. PLATINUM HAND MAGIC ($29.95) is an anti-aging hand cream. The spot claims the cream will restore the youthful appearance of hands in just a few days. The bonus is an upgrade from a 30-day to a 60-day supply. Then they double the offer. This is a Chamonix product. Comments: Interesting idea. Narrow focus. I have no idea how big the problem perception is for this, but they are certainly talking to the right audience. It's a bit pricey for DRTV, too, but the value is there. Might just work.
  15. CLEAR REVOLUTION (Free Trial) is an acne system. Its point of difference is that it claims "treats all five causes of acne," which they say are excessive oil production, improper cell exfoliation, bacteria growth, irritation and inflammation. The system includes four products: a pore-purifying cleaning foam, exfoliating acne treatment gel, oil-free skin renewal complex and anti-acne spot concentrate. The offer is a free trial, just pay S&H.

    Comments: Unlikely to succeed. Proactiv is the 800-lb gorilla in this category. You need a stellar product and smart marketing to compete against it. This product may be stellar, but the marketing isn't smart. For one, they are trying to sell a more complex product in short-form when a long-form is clearly needed to get people to care about the "five causes of acne."
  17. TOPSY TURVY ($14.99) is a hanging tomato planter that grows tomatoes upside-down. The pitch is that because the planter is upside down, "water and nutrients pour directly from the root to the fruit." Can also grow cucumbers, peppers, etc. The offer includes a recipe guide. The bonus is a device that holds a tomato while you slice it.

    Comments: Cool item, but it's unlikely to succeed. Besides being seasonal, it's a niche item. People who love to grow their own tomatoes, like the older Italians from the tri-state area, may be interested -- if they don't have their own preferred techniques. Everyone else will yawn and change the channel.