November 25, 2009

Review: Precision Brow Planing System

Description: A kit for shaping eyebrows
Main Pitch: "Now you can have the natural, perfectly arched brow you've always wanted"
Main Offer: $39.95 for the complete kit
Bonus: Five professional brushes and an instruction book
Starring: Christi Harris
Marketer: The Christi Harris Companies
Website: www.ChristiHarrisBrows.com
S7 Score: 5 out of 7 (?)

This is an excellent product idea supported by a beautiful commercial. There are only a few things that will prevent it from doing well on short-form DRTV.

The first is the kit's price. In most channels, the beauty category has a higher than average price barrier. But on DRTV, there is little evidence to suggest the typical price barrier of $20 can be exceeded. This is especially true in this economy. The line separating luxuries and necessities has never been brighter, and this kit is clearly a luxury.

The other major weakness I see is the complexity of the kit. All told, this is a nine-piece kit that planes, blends, diffuses, thickens, conceals and so on. In addition to the planing tool, there are three makeup colors and five brushes. A book titled "The Plane Truth About Brows" is included free -- not because it's a nice bonus per se, but because the detailed instructions inside are necessary to use the kit. This sort of complexity can hurt sales because DRTV buyers favor solutions that make life easier. This kit will be intimidating to many, especially since eyebrow sculpting is a high-stakes activity where taking shortcuts can lead to embarrassing results.

The kit's complexity also hurts the clarity of the commercial because a lot of information must be squeezed into two minutes of selling time. The time crunch creates other problems as well, such as critical before-and-after scenes disappearing before the viewer can fully process them. It also forces the VO announcer to engage in "speed talking," especially near the end of the spot. As the great Ron Popeil once told me: "What is the perception of someone who is trying to sell you at a machine-gun pace? They are trying too hard, so it’s too good to be true."

November 20, 2009

Review: EZ Motion

video

Description: Form-fitting therapeutic gloves with a built-in pouch for a heat pack
Main Pitch: The fabric "provides hand and wrist support" and "increases blood flow" while the heat pack "increases circulation"
Main Offer: $10 for one pair with two reusable heat therapy packs
Bonus: Thera Massage Pen (just pay S&H)
Marketer: Zoom TV Products
Producer: Dynamic TV Marketing
Website: www.GetEZMotion.com
S7 Score: 4 out of 7 (?)

This is an interesting twist on the arthritis gloves that are available at drug stores. (Walgreens sells a pair for $29.99.) That these already exist in some form answers the question of whether they are needed. If the major drug chains are selling them, they're needed. So the important question, at least from a product perspective, is whether these gloves are different enough to compete with what's already out there. I think they are.

This is one case where a "better than" product could work because the improvement is significant and the previous item is rather boring and lacking in credibility. For people who wonder how mere fabric can warm the hands enough to address pain (as I did), this product offers heat packs to address the objection. Smart.

However, I do have a concern about this product, and that is its target. Because of how it looks (not fashionable) and what it does best (address hard-core hand pain), this is clearly a product for seniors. (My apologies to any aging fashionistas who may be reading this.) While a significant portion of DRTV buyers are seniors, it is difficult to sustain a DRTV campaign with seniors alone. This also doesn't target ALL seniors -- just seniors with major hand pain. Any time a target market is a percentage of a percentage, sustaining a rollout will be difficult.

As for the category, it is crowded with solutions for this problem. Marketers tend to view their competition narrowly (e.g. therapeutic gloves), but this product will compete with every pill, cream and heat pad in the broad category of pain relief. This category also happens to be populated with brands that have decades of loyalty behind them. The only mitigating factor here is that no pain relief solution is 100% effective, so pain sufferers -- like dieters -- are always willing to try something new in their never-ending quest for relief.

Moving on to the commercial, I think it sells the product well and is engaging enough to hold the viewer's attention throughout. That's because it makes good use of classic DRTV techniques and does a good job creating demos where none would seem to exist.

The offer isn't as strong. The price-to-value is solid (recall the Walgreens item is thrice the price and doesn't have the heat packs), but people have come to expect TWO for $10 on DRTV, not one. That could hurt response. Also, the bonus comes across as gimmicky because of its name and the limited time there is to explain it. A different bonus, or no bonus if a BOGO is used, would no doubt improve response.

Finally, there is the matter of clarity. This product tries to be a solution for four different problems: coldness/stiffness, "repetitive stress injury," "arthritis" and "carpal tunnel syndrome." Actually, some of that is redundant -- marketing fluff written to make the product sound more useful. But they should have gone the other way. As Telebrands has recently demonstrated with its Windshield Wonder and HeelTastic successes, narrower is better.

Moreover, arthritis sufferers and people with carpal tunnel syndrome should not be lumped together. These groups are different in so many ways that it un-focuses the pitch and creates non-sequitur moments, since the product has certain key features (e.g. heat) that don't apply to both disorders. Better to pick one problem and zero in. Taking a look at how many words it took me to "briefly" describe the main pitch, I submit that it would make the commercial a lot easier to understand.

Weekly Round-Up

1. THERMA SCARF
Description:
Fleece scarf with pockets for microwavable hot packs
Main Pitch: "Keeps you cozy and warm for hours wherever you go"
Main Offer: Two payments of $10 for one in "camel"
Bonus: Second one in black free (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Concepts TV
Website: www.ThermaScarf.com
S7 Score: 6 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed (?)
Comments: I put this one is the same category as Snuggie, meaning it's a clever comfort item that would defy the odds if it caught on. You never know.

2. VIDALIA CHOP HOUSE
Description:
A guillotine-style chopper for fruits and vegetables
Main Pitch: "Chop 10 times more food 10 times faster with only one simple move"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: N/A
Starring: Chef Ralph Pagano
Marketer: National Express
Website: www.BuyChopHouse.com
S7 Score: 4 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Different, Uncrowded, Motivating (?)
Comments: Despite their lack of success in getting another chopper in this line to work, the Vidalia brand managers clearly do not fear the curse of the line extension. The main pitch reminds me an SAT math problem. Is the correct answer 100?

3. SHOEBEE
Description:
A step-in container that covers shoes in clear plastic booties
Main Pitch: "The fun and easy way to stop dirt from getting into your house ever again"
Main Offer: $29.95 for one
Bonus: 50 free booties OR upgrade to the wood finish ($49.95) and the booties are free for life (just pay separate S&H)
Producer: Meltzer Media
Website: www.TheShoebee.com
S7 Score: 4 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Targeted, Motivating (?)
Comments: Unless you're Adrian Monk, this product is going to seem unnecessary. It's also $10 too expensive for DRTV -- maybe $20 in this environment.

4. SMART JUMPER CABLES
Description:
Jumper cables that can't be attached incorrectly
Main Pitch: "Makes jumping a dead battery simple, safe and smart"
Main Offer: 2 payments of 19.95 for one set
Bonus: Storage case, 40-piece Smart Toolkit (just pay additional S&H)
Marketer: Michelin
Website: www.BuySmartCables.com
S7 Score: 3 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Targeted, Uncrowded, Motivating (?)
Comments: Apparently red/black color coordination is too complicated for some people. Unfortunately for Michelin, these people probably can't remember a phone number or find a Web site on their own either. A classic solution in search of a problem.

Prepared by Lynda J. Moore.

November 13, 2009

Weekly Round-Up

1. DOGPEDIC
Description:
A memory foam bed for dogs
Main Pitch: "The orthopedic bed designed to provide comfort, relief and happiness for your dog"
Main Offer: $39.99 for one (medium size) with suede cover
Bonus: Waterproof liner and lifetime warranty
Marketer: Tristar
Website: www.BuyDogpedic.com
S7 Score: 6 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed (?)
Comments: This a tough environment for marketing luxuries -- unless you are asking people to spoil their pets! The memory foam pitch worked well for people, so I see no reason why it won't work well for dogs. And with this exception of the "wah-wah" sound effect (a personal "pet" peeve), the commercial is very well done.

2. FRESH SPOT
Description:
Stick-up ionic odor eliminator
Main Pitch: "The on-the-spot odor eliminator that lasts for life"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: Second one free (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.GetFreshSpot.com
S7 Score: 5 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Uncrowded (?)
Comments: There's a lot to like about this product. The problem is the category: It's over-crowded to say the least. If you have an odor problem, every major brand has a solution for you, from plug-ins to candles. Plus, I think Consumer Reports did a lot of damage to the ionic pitch with its much-publicized attacks on the Ionic Breeze. If an ionic tower doesn't work, why would anyone believe a tiny stick-up would?

3. SUCK UP
Description:
A super-absorbent powder that gets rid of stains
Main Pitch: "Work it in, then sweep it away and the stain is gone"
Main Offer: $19.95 for a 1-lb container
Bonus: A second 1-lb container free (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: Lipenwald
Producer: (Let me know)
Website: www.BuySuckUp.com
S7 Score: 3 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Targeted, Different, Engaging, Clear (?)
Comments: From what I can tell, this product isn't much different from what's already on the market. For example, Home Depot sells a 10-lb bag of similar stuff for $12.98. I also have doubts about using DRTV to reach this demographic. In general, men respond to short-form tools and fitness products. There is little or no track record for this type of thing. As for the commercial, it's light on compelling visuals and doesn't do a good job (via explanation or demos) of supporting the claim that this product can remove stains.

4. NOTEBOOK BUFFER
Description:
A pad that keeps a laptop from heating up your lap
Main Pitch: "The award winning accessory that takes the heat off"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Keyboard cleaner, On-The-Go laptop kit (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: (Let me know)
Producer: (Let me know)
Website: www.NotebookBuffer.com
S7 Score: 3 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Targeted, Engaging, Motivating (?)
Comments: Where to begin? The product doesn't solve a real problem (hot lap? really?), it targets a questionable market for DRTV (heavy laptop users) and the creative plays like a parody of the genre. This one almost became a "Dangers of DIY DR" posting.

5. BLING STRING
Description:
Sparkly hair extensions
Main Pitch: "Takes your hair from drab to fab"
Main Offer: $9.95 for 150 feet each of silver, brown and gold
Bonus: Style guide plus an additional 150 feet each of red, purple and green
Marketer: Mosaic International
Producer: (Let me know)
Website: www.BlingString.com
S7 Score: 1 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Targeted, Uncrowded, Engaging, Motivating, Clear (?)
Comments: There are so many missing qualities here, I'm better off talking about the one quality this does have: It's different. I can see some women warming to the idea of putting a hidden sparkle in their hair. Too bad these women don't buy off DRTV. The commercial doesn't help, either. It's too fast-paced and confusing (cut it, loop it, knot it -- huh?), and the persistent use of animation undermines the product's credibility. Sorry, but this one gets the distinction of having the lowest S7 score so far.

Prepared by Lynda J. Moore.

November 04, 2009

Weekly Round-Up

1. GRILLTASTIC
Description:
A stovetop grill
Main Pitch: "Get outdoor cooked taste with indoor ease"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: Digital fork meat thermometer and recipe guide (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: (Let me know)
Website: www.Grilltastic.com
NEW! S7 Score: 5 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Engaging, Clear (?)
Comments: I have to give Telebrands credit for coming up with a brand suffix that is sure to clear a trademark and domain search every time. Plus, it works well in almost any DR category. Hairtastic! Abtastic! Choptastic! As for the item, I've liked it since a friend of mine brought it to my attention a year or so ago. I learned then that it has been a solid seller on the pitch market for years and that it made the charts as Chef Tony's Mighty Pro Grill in 2001. Yes, this is a potential winner, but the commercial doesn't do it justice. Since I understand the product and have seen it demonstrated live, I know this spot could have been more compelling and the product could have been explained a lot better. As it is, the food just sits there on an odd-looking hubcap cooker, and you don't get a real sense of all the benefits of using it.

2. COZY CAFTAN
Description:
A fleece caftan
Main Pitch: A "hot fashion look" that's "warm enough to keep you cozy on even the coldest nights"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one with matching belt
Bonus: Second one with belt FREE (just pay additional P&H)
Marketer: Lipenwald
Producer: Globe Video Services
Website: www.CozyCaftan.com
NEW! S7 Score: 5 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Uncrowded (?)
Comments: The big challenge to any product in this category is, of course, Snuggie. It's odd to talk about this "problem" already being solved, but there it is. And Snuggie is so well distributed and line-extended, it will be hard for anyone else to gain a foothold. I do think the idea of a warm caftan for winter has merit (although the commercial's fashion angle is questionable). It's just the timing that's tough.

3. DRYER MAID DRYER BALL
Description:
A dryer ball that attracts hair and lint
Main Pitch: "Gets rid of pet hair and lint from clothes, sheets and towels while they tumble in your dryer"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: Self-cleaning lint brush plus two dryer brushes (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: SAS Group
Producer: (Let me know)
Website: www.DryerMaid.com
NEW! S7 Score: 4 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Different, Uncrowded (?)
Comments: Somebody raided the Ontel warehouse! OK, so the main item here promotes a different primary benefit than Ontel's Dryer Balls, but the other benefits and even part of the name are the same. Plus, the two bonus items are copies of Ontel's Lint Wizard and Dryer Max Lint Removal Kit. Recycling items into a new offer is no way to get a hit on the air, although I do like the commercial. Maybe a narrower focus on just pet hair could push this one over the top, but it needs a better name.

4. TRIPLE CHOPPER
Description:
A manual food processor
Main Pitch: "Chops, slices, dices, spins and mixes just about everything"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one with free whipping blade
Bonus: Mushroom Express for slicing mushrooms (just pay separate S& H)
Starring: Anthony Sullivan
Marketer:
Ontel
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Website: www.TripleChopper.com
NEW! S7 Score: 3 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Different, Uncrowded, Clear (?)
Comments: This is a revamp of the Kitchen King Pro Ontel tested in April 2008 and it's the same concept as the Vidalia Chop It Billy (the late, great) tested in March 2008. I've written extensively about why those items failed, and while this new approach is better and more clever, I don't see it overcoming the challenges with the product.

5. KANGAROO KEEPER
Description:
A purse-organizing insert
Main Pitch: "Holds over 70 items and keeps them neat and secure"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one large and one small in tan
Bonus: Second large and second small in black, plus a Perfect Purse Hook
Marketer: Global TV Concepts
Producer: (Let me know)
Website: www.KangarooKeeper.com
NEW! S7 Score: 3 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Targeted, Different, Uncrowded, Engaging
Comments: My first thought when watching this: Again? For some reason, marketers are enamored of this product idea. Besides, if I see one more commercial that opens with a cell phone ringing in a messy purse ... ! Anyway, the history of the category is clear. IdeaVillage's Purse Brite had a decent run. Allstar's Buxton Bag was a hit, but it had genuine leather and a brand name going for it. This item tries to be a combination of the two, but it won't work. So many marketers have tried and failed with similar items. I reviewed another one just last week. Give it up, people!

Prepared by Lynda J. Moore.