May 15, 2009

Review: Heel Stick

(Featured on Pitchmen, Episode Five)

Description: Roll-on foot balm
Main Pitch: "Roll away rough, dry skin"
Main Offer: $10 for a 1 oz stick
Bonus: 2nd stick and 10-piece grooming kit (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Sullivan Productions

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

There's a lot to like about this product. It's in a hot category, and it solves a mass-market problem -- as evidenced by the monster success of Telebrands' Ped Egg and Ontel's Miracle Foot Repair before that. It also comes in a unique form (roll on) that will help it stand out from the dozens of other foot balms on the market.

That last part is critical. In the episode of Pitchmen that focuses on this item, the viewer is left with the impression that this item was selected because it "really works" while other products on the market do not. But whether that's true or not, it's irrelevant from a DRTV marketing perspective. People simply do not buy "better than" products off TV. They buy products with a strong point of difference from what's already on the market.

In other words, without the roll-on delivery method, this item wouldn't have a chance. With it, I think it has a decent shot -- provided the market for this kind of solution hasn't already been over-mined.

This is an interesting problem I've encountered often. When a product enters a category and dominates it as thoroughly as Ped Egg, there is a higher-than-average chance that even a distinct and exciting new entrant to the category won't get a fair shot. A foot file and a foot balm are vastly different items, but they both solve the same problem. It just may be that people with this problem have found their ultimate solution (Ped Egg) and aren't interested in trying something new. Then again, maybe people will view these items as complementary and buy them both. (Free marketing slogan: "Grate it, then hydrate it!")

As for the commercial, it has a first-rate problem opening, great testimonials and solid B&As. My only criticisms are minor. One, the spot focuses too much on cracked heels, a narrow problem, and waits a bit too long to talk about other problem areas (elbows, knees, etc.) Two, there's a speed bump in the offer. Once the offer is initiated, I like it to build inexorably until the order screen comes up. This spot presents the offer then cuts away to a testimonial, which I think is disruptive to the "call to action" process.

Joseph Sugarman once described this as The Slippery Slide. He was talking about print ads, but it's a great analogy for how a spot should flow as well.

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