April 07, 2008

Results of My 2007 Hits Study

In January 2007, I decided to track and rate the first 100 DRTV products launched that year. I had two goals. One goal was to validate my "Divine Seven" criteria. A second goal was to calculate the actual success rate for DRTV short-form launches. I had heard from industry gurus that one in 10 items succeed. Or is it one in 20? It depends on whom you ask. So I wanted to know the real number.

Well, at long last the results of my research are in. I apologize for the delay, but deciding what qualified as a "hit" proved harder than I thought. Some items appeared on one chart and not the other. Some items appeared and then disappeared ... and then re-appeared. So for this experiment, I decided I would wait for the annual lists to come out before making the call. I also decided that I would distinguish between items that appeared on both charts (the true successes), and items that appeared on only one chart (probably hits but you never know). As I mentioned in a previous post, the hardest part about this is that there are ways to force an item onto the charts.

Many of the items I didn't monitor made it onto the annual charts. Again, I only monitored the first 100 items launched in 2007. So if an item was launched before January (e.g. Infinity Razor), or after the first 100 items of the year (e.g. Mighty Putty), it isn't included here. For those first 100, here are the results:

Made It Onto Both Charts*

  1. Perfect Pushup (#6 on IMS, #10 on JW)
  2. Listen Up (#15 on JW, #36 on IMS)

Made It Onto One Chart

  1. Samurai Shark (#24)
  2. Go Duster (#33)
  3. Huggable Hangers (#55)
  4. Bender Ball (#57)
  5. Ped Egg (#59)
  6. Sonic Scrubber (#64)
  7. Craft-Lite Cutter (#74)
  8. One Touch Jar Opener (#80)
  9. Aqua Dots (#83)
  10. Forearm Forklifts (#91)

* Meaning the item appeared on both the IMS "Top 50 Short-Form Spots" for 2007 and the Jordan Whitney "Top (100) Short-Form Spots for 2007."

The "one chart" for all 10 items is the Jordan Whitney. No item appeared on just the IMS.

So, depending on how you calculate it, the industry hit rate for a sampling of 2007 is either one in 50 (if both charts are required) or one in eight (if one chart is required). My thinking is that a "triple" or "homerun" item will appear on both charts, and anything less will only make the one chart.

What about the "Divine Seven"? How good is a scientific approach at picking winners before they air? The answer is: quite good. Most people go on gut, hence the one in eight statistic. But my system predicted one in three hits correctly. That is, I said it was going to be a hit when I first saw it, and it was. The items I correctly predicted are:

  1. Listen Up - D7 Score: 6 out of 7
  2. Samurai Shark - D7 Score: 6 out of 7
  3. One Touch Jar Opener - D7 Score: 7 out of 7
  4. Huggable Hangers - D7 Score: 6 out of 7
  5. Twin Draft Guard - D7 Score: 6 out of 7

So five out of the 16 items I predicted would be hits made it. I consider any item that gets a five out of seven or better a potential hit, so long as those five qualities are the middle five (mass market, problem solver, priced right, easily explained, age appropriate). That's because these are the most objective. The other two (unique, credible) are too subjective. I can look at a product and think it isn't unique enough, or highly doubt it will work as promised, but I can't speak for the DRTV audience. Moreover, a good producer can create a commercial that overcomes these weaknesses, whereas no creative in the world can fix a product that is too niche, too complicated for short form, etc.

About Twin Draft Guard: The item is seasonal, so it didn't make the annual lists. But it was on both charts for the entire winter, so I can't say it wasn't a hit. In fact, I think this item will continue to do well year after year (read more). I should also add Ped Egg to my list because I gave it a five out of seven when I saw the product for the first time (when the commercial did not demonstrate the "dead skin catcher" feature), and a seven out of seven when I saw it the second time. But to keep things honest, I'll go off my first impression when I thought it was a knockoff of One Step (which I accurately predicted wouldn't work on DRTV).

In a further spirit of fairness, I should also talk about the items I thought wouldn't work, but did. There's really only one that caught me by surprise: Perfect Pushup. It broke the mold in three key areas. One, it didn't solve a real problem. I'm not even sure what that problem would be (imperfect pecs?), but suffice to say no one needs rotating push-up handles. Two, it was twice as expensive as a DRTV product should be (2 pay of $20). That didn't seem to affect the response to the item, but it did allow a competitor (Push-Up Pro) to come in and take market share with a half-price deal. Three, it didn't appeal to women or older people, the two largest segments of DRTV buyers.

My advice: If you have the cash to go after that one in 100 grand-slam item, you should throw all criteria out the window and just go for it. Otherwise, stick to what's proven to work.

A few other items did OK despite what are normally fatal flaws. I have to exclude Go Duster and Forearm Forklifts from that list because I have information that the ecomomics of both campaigns were different than a typical DRTV product. I don't account for commercials run for retail because they aren't hits in the pure sense. I suspect the Sonic Scrubber also falls into this category, but I have no information. In any case, it got five out of seven but failed in the critical "easy to understand" category. The Craft-Lite Cutter is a niche item -- all craft items ultimately are -- but the photo use carried the day.

As for Aqua Dots, I can't say I was surprised by this one. It got a four out of seven, but only because it failed the same categories every kids' item fails: 1) it's for kids only; 2) it's fun instead of problem-solving; and 3) it doesn't appeal to older people except perhaps as a gift for the grandkids. Routinely, a kids' item does well even though the bar is much higher and the working media will be limited to the four children's networks. Aqua Dots did well enough on those networks to make it onto the bottom of the JW chart. (I was surprised, however, to learn this product had been recalled due to contamination with a substance that turns into a date-rape drug.)

That leaves Bender Ball, the worst performer and an item that should have failed without a doubt. I have no explanation for why it made the JW chart. There are numerous possibilities other than it defying the criteria, and I stand by my assessment. The Bender Ball is a small, inflatable ball. I see no reason people would believe it has special properties. Maybe someone can post a comment and explain this one to me.

So what have I learned? With the exception of those unpredictable grand slams and the occassional item that sneaks onto the charts despite its many flaws, most hit items have the core D7 qualities. Still, it's important to keep in mind that there are no magic formulas, no guarantees of success. As business guru and best-selling author Prof. Phil Rosenzweig says, we can only increase the odds of success. Anyone who promises a blueprint for success is promising a delusion.

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