January 28, 2009

Review: CalPal

Description: Digital calorie tracker
Main Pitch: "Automatically calculates how much you should eat to lose weight" and "tracks the food you eat"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one unit with full-size and wallet-size calorie guides
Bonus: Second unit with calorie guides free (just pay separate S&H)
Starring: Jason Williams
Marketer: Colorado Fitness Concepts
Producer: Unknown
Website: www.CalPal.com

Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Good

The biggest problem I see with this product is it's far from unique. There are dozens of different calorie counters on the market, and they come in all shapes, sizes and price points. The commercial claims other solutions are bulky, but I easily found a bunch of small ones, including this cool, bullet-shaped counter that's cheaper and has more features.

Another problem is the market this is targeting: calorie counters. That may not be a big enough market to sustain a DRTV campaign. Sure, the diet market is huge, but there are easily as many carb counters as calorie counters these days. Dieters also like to keep track of their fat intake, but this item won't help them with that. This matters because the competition's products track all of these things.

As for the commercial, it's upbeat and motivating. So many DRTV commercials feel slow and boring these days, that I have to give the producer credit for this. The commercial also makes all the right claims (although many seem way overblown, given what this is) and features all the right images.

My only criticism is that it doesn't open with a clear problem-solution. This would have been easy enough to do, since the right scenes are shown later. Moreover, I believe it's necessary to immediately answer a strong objection that will pop into the viewer's mind: Why would I buy this product when I can just use one of those online counters for free?

Review: Slap Chop

Description: A manual chopper that cuts when you "slap" the plunger at the top
Main Pitch: "Dice, chop and mince in seconds," plus it "pops open like a butterfly" for easy cleaning
Main Offer: $19.95 for chopper with plastic cover
Bonus: Graty cheese grater (just pay separate S&H)
Starring: Vince Offer (of ShamWow! fame)
Marketer: Square One Entertainment
Producer: Unknown
Website: www.SlapChop.com

Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Excellent!

Everyone in the DRTV industry should pay careful attention to what Vince Offer is doing. Whether it's his quirky delivery or his retro style (or both), the press is obsessed with him -- and so is the public. How else to explain the dozens of YouTube parodies (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery) or the fact that his ShamWow! product recently beat out every other DRTV hit in history in a massive CNBC opinion poll?

As for this product and this commercial, I have lots of praise and just a few criticisms. First, the product. It's different, but it's not unique. It first came to DRTV in the form of Smart Inventions' Quick Chop. Oxo also sells a version. (The commercial lets on to this fact when Vince produces the original item, and then tosses it over his shoulder into the trash.) Will Vince's design and the fact that his unit cracks open for easy cleaning be different enough? We'll see.

Another product weakness is the size of the chopper. Oxo rightly calls it a "mini chopper." This product can only do small jobs, so it isn't a replacement for, say, a Vidalia Chop Wizard. There may be room in the market for both, but some percentage of people are going to view this product as inferior and unnecessary.

As for the commercial, I can't say enough about the brilliance of the format and style. Sure, it's what many would consider "lower quality." But another way of saying that is "real." Vince's commercials make you feel like you're at a home show watching his presentation live. Everything happens right before your eyes with no cutaways, animations or camera tricks. The credibility factor is huge, which is why I suspect he will continue to succeed. Plus, he already has a huge cult following.

Few people know this, but the DRTV industry began with pitchmen doing live pitches they had perfected on the circuit. (See Al Eicoff's "Or Your Money Back" for an excellent history.) Indeed, the 10 techniques I so often write about are rooted in selling methods perfected back then, and by former pitchmen-turned-spokesmen such as Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan. Vince is a throwback to this earlier time, and living proof that the fundamentals of DR remain unchanged.

Review: Quick Shine

Description: Floor care kit for hard surface floors (wood, tile, vinyl, etc.)
Main Pitch: "It's like a new floor in a bottle" and the shine "lasts for months"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one 27-oz bottle of Floor Finish and a hardwood floor mop with two pads
Bonus: N/A
Marketer: Holloway House
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Website: www.QuickShine.net

Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Good/Excellent

The Sullivan team does beautiful production work, but even their best efforts can't overcome the fatal flaw with this product: It's not unique. Similar floor care kits are everywhere. Some even combine the mop and liquid (see item #4).

In any case, this is one of those times when a 6 out of 7 score is deceiving because this commercial is highly unlikely to pay out. That said, Holloway House may have some other business model in mind. This is certainly a solid brand-support commercial.

January 27, 2009

Review: One Touch Slicer

Description: Cordless automatic food slicer with detachable tray that catches as it cuts
Main Pitch: "The fast, easy, safe way to slice"
Main Offer: $19.95 with slicing and shredding blades
Bonus: Thick blade and julienne blade
Marketer: ARM
Producer: Unknown
Website: www.OneTouchSlicer.com

Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Good

This is the fourth or fifth product (I've lost track) in a line of products that started with the One Touch Can Opener, a DRTV hit. Subsequent products have struggled on DRTV. This is what I call the "curse of the line extension." For some reason, no matter how good the product, it's difficult to make a line extension work on DRTV (or anywhere else, some might argue).

There are a few notable exceptions. The "Touch" line of hair removal products put out by IdeaVillage and the "Mighty" line of household repair products put out by Media Enterprises seem to have defied the curse. But even in those cases, two hits is the maximum I've seen. For this reason, it's unlikely this Nth-to-market product will succeed.

In addition, although this item does meet five of the D7 criteria, it fails in two critical categories for this type of item. The first is uniqueness. That's because there's been a glut of slicer/dicers lately. National Express's "Vidalia" line is a case in point (speaking of endless line extensions). The second is credibility. A cordless power slicer for $20? Too good to be true. When it comes to items with blades, people are especially skeptical.

As for the commercial, it utilizes most of the 10 techniques. My only criticism is of the demos. The slicer cuts at a snail's pace, which adds to the quality perception problem.

New Year, New Format

I'm WAY behind on updating the blog. It seems everyone took my advice (or had the same thought) and has gone crazy launching new items. The good news/bad news is I have so much paying work to do, I haven't had any spare time to prepare my "New This Week" reports.

To solve this problem, I've decided to change the format of the blog a bit. Starting today, I will review new items one by one, as I have the time, and give each item its own entry. I think this makes more sense anyway, especially for those of us who use the blog to conduct research. More to the point, breaking the reviews up into more managable chunks should allow me to post more often and keep the content fresh.

As an avid reader of blogs, I always hate it when weeks go by with no new postings!

January 05, 2009

Seven Bona-Fide Hits

Here are seven BONA-FIDE HITS to round out the year, followed by my original scores, ratings and comments for each one. (More on my methodology for determining hits here.)

In a few months, when the annual charts come out, I'll post a complete recap of 2008 and evaluate my system for predicting hits for the second time. (My first evaluation is here.)

  1. Iron Gym
  2. Loud 'N Clear
  3. Mighty Mendit
  4. Pedi Paws
  5. Pro Caulk
  6. Smooth Away
  7. Snuggie

1. Iron Gym - I gave this multi-functional exercise bar a 6 out of 7 product score. "Like BodyRev's products, this item is priced high for TV," I wrote. "But price doesn't seem to matter as much to this new DRTV demographic, as evidenced by the staggering success of Perfect Pushup." I also gave the commercial a Good/Excellent rating.  "LoudMouth TV's Annika Kielland is one of the best in the business when it comes to this format," I wrote. (Read the complete review)

2. Loud 'N Clear – I gave this in-ear personal sound amplifier a 6 out of 7 product score. Sully guest-wrote the post that week, but he generally liked the product and the creative. (Read Sully's comments)

3. Mighty Mendit – I gave this liquid bonding agent a 6 out of 7 product score. "After missing the boat on Mighty Putty, I’ve learned my lesson! I’m predicting this item will be a hit," I wrote. I also gave the commercial my highest rating: Excellent! "Billy Mays and John Miller have outdone themselves again," I raved. (Read the complete review)

4. Pedi Paws – I gave this tool for filing a pet's nails a 6 out of 7. “[E]ven though it's second to market behind Peticure, I think it will do well. It might even eclipse the competition," I wrote. "The reason? It's marketed by a master of DRTV, and it corrects a major flaw with its predecessor: the price." (As I write, Pedi Paws is No. 23 on the Jordan Whitney and Peticure does not appear on the chart at all.) I also gave the commercial a Good/Excellent rating. “When it comes to the pet category, no one does it better than Blue Moon," I wrote. (Read the complete review)

5. Pro Caulk - I gave this silicone tool for applying caulk a 5 out of 7. "Based on the number of times I've seen this commercial lately, I have to guess it's successful," I wrote. "But I can't imagine that success will last for long. That's because the market is limited." So far, I'm  wrong. Pro Caulk is everywhere. As for the commercial, I gave it a Good rating. "[I]t's simple, focusing on the most important thing when you're marketing this kind of item: frequent, close-up demonstrations," I wrote. (Read the complete review)

6. Smooth Away - I gave this pad for buffing away body and facial hair a 6 out of 7. "IdeaVillage has done it again, introducing the next hit in this category," I wrote. "Another definite winner." However, I only gave the commercial an OK rating. Although I didn't explain myself at the time, I felt the overall quality of the commercial could have been better. (Read the complete review)

7. Snuggie - This item did not pop up on my radar until it was in full rollout. Good thing, too. Had I reviewed it, I probably would have shared the skepticism of many. A blanket with sleeves? Who knew?!