October 01, 2009

The SciMark Seven

I first published The Divine Seven (D7) criteria for DRTV products in July of 2007. Less than a month later, I also published my list of Tried & True (T&T) techniques for DRTV commercials. Together, these tools have proven remarkably accurate at predicting the success or failure of a DRTV campaign. (See, for example, this study I conducted in April 2008. Or search "90 Days Later" or "Keeping Score" to read my updates since then.)

However, the time has come to combine these tools into a single, comprehensive tool for campaign evaluation. Today, I am announcing The SciMark Seven. (As you can tell, I'm a big fan of alliteration and the number seven.)

Here's the new list of campaign qualities:

PRODUCT
1.
NEEDED
2. TARGETED
3. DIFFERENT

CATEGORY

4. UNCROWDED

COMMERCIAL

5. ENGAGING
6. MOTIVATING
7. CLEAR

The first thing you will notice is that I put both product and commercial qualities in the same list. When I review a DRTV campaign, I learn about the product from watching the commercial, much like the consumer does. That means what I "know" about the product is largely based on what the marketer has chosen to tell me. If the marketer does a poor job, my knowledge will be incomplete. If the marketer does a great job, I will have a better understanding and impression of the product. So I will no longer attempt to separate products and commercials: I will evaluate the two together.

For example, at least three campaigns come to mind that were successful after another industry player had attempted them and failed. The product was exactly the same; it was the marketing that made the difference. One of them is the Hercules Hook. It appears the name ("Hercules") and the magic demo (hanging a heavy mirror) turned a loser into a winner.

You will also notice that I reduced the D7 product criteria to three, renamed product qualities. This is to put less on emphasis on highly subjective criteria, such as "credibility," which can skew my analysis. For example, I missed Mighty Putty because I thought the trailer-pull demo wasn't credible. This is also to avoid certain words that people have trouble understanding, such as "unique." Does "unique" mean a totally original idea? Or does it simply mean a notable improvement on an existing idea? Inventors get mad when I suggest their product isn't unique because it has been tried before. They look at the old product I'm referencing and immediately tell me five ways their product is better. It's hard for them to see that differences must be significant for consumers to notice them. For example, Purse Partner predictably failed on DRTV because the Hollywood Purse Hook had failed, even though there were notable differences between the two items.

My new way of explaining  "unique" is to use the word DIFFERENT. And a new key word I am using with all product qualities is "enough." The question in this case: Is the product different enough to get people's attention or change the fate of a previous, similar product? The same goes for NEEDED, a new way of saying, "Does it solve a problem?" The question here: Is the product needed enough to generate the impulse to buy? As for TARGETED, it's my way of combining and refining the "mass market" and "age appropriate" criteria. The question: Is the product designed for a big enough buying group? And a key addition: One that is also known to be DR responsive?

As for the commercial qualities, long-time readers of this blog will know that I have tried several systems, ending up with an "Excellent" to "Poor" rating scale. But I have never been satisfied with such a loose and uninformative system. A Scientific Marketing approach requires a bit more rigor, still keeping in mind that we are evaluating an "art" when it comes to creative. So I've come up with the three qualities above, which encompass many of the Tried & True DRTV Techniques.

The adjective ENGAGING speaks to several of the key elements of a DRTV commercial, mainly its opening, pacing and demos. The question: Does the commercial grab your attention and hold it throughout? The adjective MOTIVATING is specific to the key elements of the offer -- the value comparison, the price, the bonus and the guarantee. The question: Will the presentation of the offer motivate people off the couch? And then there is clarity, a big factor in the success of a DRTV commercial that is often overlooked. If a commercial isn't CLEAR, people will have unanswered questions or objections. A truism of this industry is: "Confusion is a sales killer."

Finally, there is a new area I am including in my evaluations: the category. On many occasions, I have seen promising products backed by excellent commercials struggle because they were competing in an overcrowded category. The blessings of an UNCROWDED category, one relatively free of competition, cannot be underestimated. It is especially difficult to succeed when the category is already dominated by big brands with big ad budgets and a few decades of consumer loyalty behind them. For example, most new cosmetic products fail due to this daunting challenge.

So there you have it: The SciMark Seven. Look for the S7 Score on all my new reviews. As always, I will be keeping track of its ability to predict DRTV success.

For those who are interested, I've posted a PDF of the SciMark Seven on the SciMark Website.

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