May 28, 2009

Review: Space Bag To Go

Description: Space Bags specially designed for travel, air comes out by rolling or pushing down
Main Pitch: "They compress your items so you can create twice as much space and eliminate stress and baggage fees."
Main Offer: $19.95 for 4 medium, 4 large and 2 push-down bags
Bonus: Hanging Bag (just pay S&H)
Marketer: ITW Space Bag
Producer: Envision Response
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
Commercial Rating: OK

The Space Bag is a proven winner that has crossed over into DRTV Nirvana: a brand with a permanent place on store shelves. Very few products in DRTV history have achieved this (OxiClean, the Foreman Grill). But with that success comes the tendency to behave like a brand marketer instead of a DRTV marketer. Speaking from experience, this can lead to a lot of disappointment and conflict within an organization. Here's why:

DRTV marketers only care about ROI and immediate results. As a result, they love the hard sell and favor single SKUs retailers can stack high and blow out the doors.

Brand marketers don't share these concerns. They only care about image and expanding their space on store shelves. As a result, they love softer advertising and brand extensions. Go grocery shopping and you will see what brand marketers have wrought. In every aisle, in every category, there are so many choices you get a headache just trying to decide what to put in your cart.

What happens when these two types of marketing collide? You get soft DRTV ads that try to support a wide array of SKUs -- or exactly what we are starting to see here.

On the one hand, I like the product a lot. It solves a problem in life (the stress and strain of cramming clothes into suitcases)  and it solves a problem with the original product. No more vacuums, just roll or press. (On a side note, the secondary problem of "baggage fees" isn't really solved by this product. Yes, airlines charge for additional bags these days. But they also charge for overweight bags. So unless these Space Bags come with helium in them, you're still going to get charged if you cram two suitcases of clothes into one suitcase. Trust me, I know.)

On the other hand, the Space Bag concept isn't as new or exciting as it once was, two things critical for impulse purchasing, and travel isn't as "every day" as storing cloths, blankets, etc.

From a DRTV perspective, the commercial also has several flaws that were no doubt created by the brand/DRTV tension I mentioned earlier. Specifically, it soft pedals two promising "magic demos" (the canoe demo and the mud/car demo) instead of making them a centerpiece of the commercial, and it has a bewildering offer sure to leave prospects with a head full of sales-killing questions. (Do the eight main bags roll or push down? Are both sizes meant for suitcases? What is a hanging bag, and how does it work? Etc.)

Bottom line: The Space Bag people have made meaningful improvements to their product, but they've tried to accomplish too much in their spot and, as a result, shouldn't expect good DRTV results. Then again, any ROI is good when you're supporting an established brand that's everywhere at retail, and those DRTV media rates don't hurt, either.

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