March 31, 2010

Everyone Wants To Break The Rules

Allstar broke the rules in 2008. The company introduced a product that had no business being on DRTV. It violated what is arguably the No. 1 rule for DRTV products: It has to solve a problem.

This particular product didn't solve a problem -- at least not a real problem. In fact, the product was quite silly. Sure, it had sold well in other channels, but a blanket with sleeves? On DRTV? Give me a break.

By now, everyone knows the result of that "blunder." Snuggie was the No. 1 short-form product of 2009. And sure as day follows night, just about every company in the DRTV industry tried to have the next hit in this new "snuggly garments with a twist" category. For example:

  • TELEBrands tested Therma Scarf, a snuggly scarf
  • Lipenwald tested Cozy Caftan, a snuggly caftan
  • The Vermont Teddy Bear Company tested Hoodie-Footie Snuggie Suit, snuggly pajamas with feet and a hood
  • A novice introduced the Wearable Towel, a summer snuggly cleverly tagged "the towel with arm openings"
  • And of course National Express tested the infamous Kuttles for 2, a Snuggie for lovers with a third sleeve

The list goes on. Of course, Allstar itself wasn't immune. After launching every line extension that could be imagined -- a Snuggie for kids, a Snuggie for dogs, a Snuggie for cougars who like leopard prints -- the company went after its own string of Snuggie-inspired flops (e.g. Chill Away, a Snuggie jacket without a zipper).

So what can we learn from this? To paraphrase Al Ries: If you always try to break the rules, you will live a life of chaos. Or more to the point: You will lose a lot of money.

As it turns out, there is no "snuggly garments with a twist" category. Snuggie was an outlier. And just because Allstar broke the rules and got away with it doesn't mean the rules are no longer in effect. In fact, just because a lot of hits have broken the rules doesn't mean the rules aren't valid. Consider:

  • ShamWow! wasn't unique when it came out (old item and Billy's Zorbeez was ahead of it). But being different from what's already on the market is still critically important to DRTV success.
  • Prayer Cross is $40. But if you want to generate enough response to sustain a DRTV campaign, a price point of $20 or less is still your best bet.
  • Bumpits are for young women. But if you want to appeal to the biggest group of DRTV buyers by far, you will make sure your item is for older women.

Examples like the above are why I always talk about odds when people ask about the rules. Can the rules be broken? Absolutely. But do you want your hit rate to be better than 1 in 50? Then stick to the rules.

Further complicating things: Sometimes new categories do emerge that can routinely break certain rules. When I saw three hits in a row in the men's fitness category (Perfect Pushup, Iron Gym and Tower 200), I knew a new category had emerged that could consistently break the "priced right" and "age appropriate" rules from the Divine Seven. These are expensive products for young men -- not your typical recipe for success.

But more often than not, an outlier is simply an outlier. There is no new category. Yet for some reason, every DRTV marketer in the industry will go crazy trying to prove that point, again and again. It's wholly predictable.

Watch it happen again this year when some lucky company finds that next rule-breaker that hits it big. One hit will spawn 50 bombs as everyone chases the dream.

March 30, 2010

In The News

Two interesting articles hit my inbox today that I thought were worth sharing.

The first is a CNN piece on Sully and the new season of Pitchmen headlined: "Sales tips from the new Billy Mays." It includes some interesting pitch history from the other side of the pond and some nice comments about our late, great friend Billy.

The second is a press release from Allstar touting a recent victory in a trademark and copyright infringement case. The company won a preliminary injuction against several Web sites for unauthorized use of its IP, proving it can and will be done. The key quote comes from Allstar President Scott Boilen: "We fully intend to vigorously protect our properties online and elsewhere and are pleased the Court has taken swift action in support of our efforts." Counterfeiters beware!

March 26, 2010

The Best Marketers and Producers of 2009

Here are two interesting questions I asked after checking my track record against the 2009 IMS Top 50:

  • Based on this chart, who were the best marketers of 2009?
  • Based on this chart, who were the best producers of 2009?

And the winners are ...


  1. Allstar. With four of the Top 50 (Snuggie, Topsy Turvy, Strap Perfect, Bumpits) and the No. 1 short-form of 2009 (Snuggie), it's no wonder Allstar was named DRMA Marketer of the Year
  2. IdeaVillage. A reliable hits machine, this team can also lay claim to four of the Top 50 short-form hits of 2009 (Smooth Away, Prayer Cross, HD Vision WrapArounds, Loud 'N Clear).
  3. TELEBrands. Speaking of reliable, no company has cranked out more hits, year after year, than this one. Nearly three decades in the business and still going strong with two out of the Top 50 in 2009.

Honorable Mentions

  • Ontel. Thanks to strong second years for both Iron Gym and Slim Clip, this firm appears twice on the Top 50 chart.
  • Vince Offer. He's only done two projects to date, but both (Slap Chop, ShamWow!) are in the Top 50.
  • The Retail Kings. If this category were "best distributors," the list above would look a little different. IdeaVillage would be No. 1 (measured in number of hit campaigns on the charts) because of its involvement with Strap Perfect and Point 'N Paint. Ontel would be No. 3 because of its involvement with Slap Chop.


  1. Blue Moon Studios. Count 'em up and this powerhouse has no less than five hits on the IMS Top 50 for 2009 (Snuggie, Vibrating Touch, Topsy Turvy, Prayer Cross and Loud 'N Clear). Impressive.
  2. Concepts TV. These talented ladies have two hits on the 2009 chart (Wonder Hanger, EZ Combs). And speaking of longevity, few production companies have made more appearances on the annual charts.
  3. Hutton-Miller. The team I credit with putting the "magic" back in "magic demos" also has two hits on the 2009 chart (Strap Perfect, Slim Clip). Kudos.

Honorable Mentions

  • Morgan James. Last year, we welcomed this well-known name in production back to the charts with HD Vision WrapArounds. Two successful line extensions followed (HD Vision Readers, HD Vision Ultras), marking the first time in my experience one brand produced three separate short-form hits.
  • The Pitchmen. Despite the loss of the greatest of these, the 2009 charts still included charismatic pitchmen: Vince Offer (Slap Chop, ShamWow!) and Anthony Sullivan (Point 'N Paint).

March 25, 2010

Keeping Score: 2009 Update

I finally got around to reviewing the top spots of 2009, according to IMS. So I decided it was also a good time to update you on my track record.

Here are the top spots, in reverse order, with my original scores and comments. I skipped the types I don't normally review (ingestibles, collectables, long-form support), and anything that was a repeat from last year.

Pitch: "The blanket that has sleeves!"
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Blue Moon
Date Reviewed: N/A
My Score: N/A
Outcome: No. 5 on the IMS Top 50

Here's what I wrote when it was clear Snuggie was a bona-fide hit: "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?!"

Pitch: "Removes hair instantly and pain free"
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Totally Direct TV
Date Reviewed: October 22, 2008 (full review)
My Score: 6 out of 7, OK commercial
Outcome: No. 7 on the IMS Top 50

"IdeaVillage has done it again, introducing the next hit in this category," I wrote. "Another definite winner." As for the OK commercial rating, I felt the overall quality of the commercial could have been better. One reason why I often espouse the DRTV 80/20 rule.

Pitch: "Making America skinny, one slap at a time!"
Marketer: Vince Offer
Producer: Square One Entertainment
Date Reviewed: January 28, 2009 (full review)
My Score: 6 out of 7, Excellent! commercial
Outcome: No. 10 on the IMS Top 50

"Everyone in the DRTV industry should pay careful attention to what Vince Offer is doing," I wrote. I'd been a fan of Vince's throwback pitch style from the beginning. So far, he's two for two. Of course, it helps that his items have been hits from the past. Shammy cloths such as ShamWow! have been sold successfully for decades, and this product may be the oldest hit item ever, going back to when Ron Popeil was a new kid in the business (see Gladwell's excellent article for more on this).

Pitch: "Keeps clothes organized and wrinkle free"
Marketer: Hampton Direct
Producer: Concepts TV
Date Reviewed: October 22, 2008 (full review)
My Score: 6 out of 7, Good commercial
Outcome: No. 15 on the IMS Top 50

I saw no reason to doubt this "old is gold" item, a reintroduction of a TELEBrands mega-hit from 1989 called Magic Hangers, would do well. However, I did add that "the closet space-saving category is much more crowded with solutions, so the item won't do nearly as well." Easy call seeing as how Magic Hangers did 40 million units during that golden age, which today would make Snuggie look like a piker!

Pitch: "World's easiest way to grow tomatoes"
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Blue Moon
Date Reviewed: N/A
My Score: N/A
Outcome: No. 24 on the IMS Top 50

This product pre-dates the blog since it originally came out in the spring of 2007. At that time, I was emailing my comments to a private list of friends and co-workers. I do admit to being skeptical of the item at the time. Plus, 90 days after it launched it did not appear on the charts, which caused me to add it to one of the blog's early lists of "items that didn't make it." Kudos to Allstar for sticking with it and eventually making this one into a solid hit.

Pitch: "Keep ALL fruits and vegetables fresh longer"
Marketer: TV Products USA
Producer: Tara Productions
Date Reviewed: August 21, 2009 (full review)
My Score: 5 out of 7
Outcome: No. 30 on the IMS Top 50

Although I gave the product a good rating, I wrote it was "[n]ot credible and 50th to market with a me-too solution." Apparently, consumers disagreed with me.

Pitch: "The ultimate bra strap solution!"
Marketer: Allstar/Media Enterprises
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Date Reviewed: November 10, 2008 (full review)
My Score: 6 out of 7, Good commercial
Outcome: No. 32 on the IMS Top 50

"This is a simple yet clever product backed by a solid commercial that covers most of the DRTV fundamentals," I wrote. I also liked how the marketing team used a triple offer to overcome the low perceived value of the product.

Pitch: "Center stone reveals The Lord's Prayer"
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Blue Moon
Date Reviewed: November 24, 2008 (full review)
My Score: 5 out of 7, Excellent! commercial
Outcome: No. 35 on the IMS Top 50

Despite its cost and the fact that it didn't solve a problem, I expected great things from this "jewelry item with a DR twist." My reasoning: "Because it's a quality piece of jewelry, it can command a higher price point than the usual DRTV gadget. Because it's unique and amazing, it will stand out in its category and create an impulse to buy."

Pitch: "Space saving shoe organizer"
Marketer: TELEBrands
Producer: Unknown
Date Reviewed: September 17, 2008 (full review)
My Score: 6 out of 7, Good commercial
Outcome: No. 36 on the IMS Top 50

I thought of a few reasons why TELEBrands, the company that "practically pioneered the category" of shoe organization, might have trouble re-introducing the Shoes Away concept. But ultimately I decided they would be overcome by the "great value," which I predicted was "more than enough to make this a hit."

Pitch: The "double-sided money clip ... No more bulky wallets!"
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Date Reviewed: N/A
My Score: N/A
Outcome: No. 38 on the IMS Top 50

This was one of my pet projects and my first collaboration with the talented folks at Hutton-Miller. You can imagine how excited we all were when it was named "The Best Infomercial of All Time."

Pitch: "Hair volumizing leave-in inserts"
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Unknown
Date Reviewed: November 11, 2008 (full review)
My Score: 3 out of 7, OK commercial
Outcome: No. 40 on the IMS Top 50

I already admitted I was wrong about this one. These days, I glance over at the ladies in the room before forming an opinion about hair accessories and/or fashion items. Our mostly male-dominated DRTV industry would be wise to do the same! That said, this item did break the rules by becoming a hit with younger women, a demographic that doesn't typically buy DRTV products. So we now know something about what kind of products both younger men (fitness items such as Perfect Pushup, Iron Gym) and younger women (hair accessories such as this item and No. 13) will buy off TV.

Pitch: "Turns your home's wiring into a pest repellent force field!"
Marketer: Riddex
Producer: Unknown
Date Reviewed: August 10, 2007 (full review)
My Score: 5 out of 7, 6/10 commercial
Outcome: No. 43 on the IMS Top 50

Although I gave this product a decent rating, I had serious doubts about it. The biggest one: credibility. "The obvious question/objection this commercial raises is, 'How can digital pulses possibly be effective against rodents and bugs?'" I wrote. "The commercial does not adequately tackle that issue." May be one reason why it took them two years to make it into the IMS Top 50.

Pitch: "Fabulous hairstyles instantly!"
Marketer: TELEBrands
Producer: Concepts TV
Date Reviewed: October 30, 2008 (full review)
My Score: 6 out of 7, Good commercial
Outcome: No. 45 on the IMS Top 50

"[A]n interesting product that really only has one weakness: It's a fashion item," I wrote. But this time (as opposed to Bumpits), I came down on the side of it working.

Pitch: "Stop snoring on the very first night guaranteed!"
Marketer: Pure Sleep
Producer: Unknown
Date Reviewed: November 13, 2007 (full review)
My Score: 4 out of 7, Good/Excellent commercial
Outcome: No. 47 on the IMS Top 50

"This is a well done commercial for a challenging product -- challenging because the market is crowded with snoring solutions and because snoring isn't a universal problem (although it is a common one)," I wrote. "The price point won't help, either [2 pay of $29.95]. It's just too expensive for DRTV buyers." It seems I underestimated the pain of this problem and people's willingness to spend money to solve it (although this is another one that took two years to make the IMS Top 50). A good learning for me: Certain categories aren't as price sensitive as others, and it is possible to break the $20 price barrier at times. Knowing when is the tricky part!

Pitch: "Trim an entire room in minutes!"
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Adcomm
Date Reviewed: September 8, 2008 (full review)
My Score: 4 out of 7, Good commercial
Outcome: No. 48 on the IMS Top 50

You'd think the success of EdgeMaster, a hit I know a lot about, would have helped me get this one right. But no, I blew it. My problems were with the product. "I have trouble believing it could be used for painting," I wrote. "I get that its triangular tip is probably useful for edging (although an edger is included as a bonus), but I don't get how smearing paint on a wall is better than rolling it on or brushing it on." I still don't get it ... but America apparently does.

Pitch: "Turns ordinary hearing into extraordinary hearing!"
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Blue Moon
Date Reviewed: October 6, 2008 (by Sully)
My Score: 6 out of 7 (from me)
Outcome: No. 49 on the IMS Top 50

Sully wrote the review for this item, focusing more on the things he liked about the commercial. I only took care of the product rating, which wasn't hard to get right seeing as how Listen Up had been a hit the year before.

Pitch: "Shake your way to firm & fabulous arms & shoulders in just 6 minutes a day!"
Marketer: Fitness IQ
Producer: In-house
Date Reviewed: September 1, 2009 (full review)
My Score: 6 out of 7, Good/Excellent commercial
Outcome: No. 50 on the IMS Top 50

There have been a few times when I called a hit and everyone thought I was crazy. ShamWow! is one. This product is another. People thought the item was absurd and a little pervy. But when I saw the women of The View talking about it, I knew it had potential.

So there you have it. My official track record for 2009 is as follows:

  • 3 out of 14 items reviewed (or 21%) ABSOLUTELY WRONG
  • 9 of 14 items reviewed (or 64%) ABSOLUTELY RIGHT
  • 11 of 14 items reviewed (or 79%) RIGHT (5 out of 7 or better)

March 24, 2010

Weekly Round-Up

So little time, so many new items! Here are 10 short reviews to catch you (and me) up on the last few weeks. And I still have about a dozen left to review!

  1. Cantastic ($14.99). An rotating organizer for kitchen cabinets (from SAS Group). "Moves all sizes of can and jars from back to front, so you can see what you have."
    Prediction: On the fence
    This item reminds me of a story of poetic justice. Years ago, one of the shadier characters in the business came to us with an item he said a competitor had recently tested. The competitor was allegedly having production issues, and he wanted us to knock them off and beat them to retail. He also said he had seen the results and the CPOs were phenomenal. Our team was strongly against knocking anyone off, so we declined the "opportunity." But a well-known knockoff artist (who had often been a thorn in our side in the past) did not. He took the project and proceeded to have one of the worst bombs of his career. Unsurprisingly, the shady character was pedaling false information. In any case, the item was very similar to this one. However, it took up a lot of space, and this item seems to save space. After watching the commercial, I like it a lot better than that other item, but the past history of the idea raises doubts for me.

  3. Cami Secret ($19.99). A partial undergarment for covering cleavage (from Ontel). Pitch: "Looks just like a camisole ... adjusts up or down, so you can decide just how much cleavage to show."
    Prediction: On the fence
    This one meets many of my criteria, so normally I would predict success. The problem is it falls under the category of "fashion accessory," which makes it subject to taste and trends -- and therefore highly unpredictable.

  5. Comfort Curve ($19.99). A device for stretching and relaxing the back (from SAS Group). Pitch: "Now relieving back pain is as easy as lying down."
    Prediction: Unlikely to succeed
    A noble attempt to use marketing skill to overcome an inherent product flaw: This item is boring. It doesn't demo or do anything. Sometimes it's possible to overcome this challenge (see Crispy Magic). But seeing as how this product has been tried before with no signs of success, I remain skeptical. That said, this commercial does a good job of overcoming another flaw -- lack of credibility -- with believable testimonials.

  7. EZ Jet ($19.99). A hose attachment with eight different pressure options (from Q Marketing). Pitch: "Combines the power of pressure washer with the convenience of a water hose."
    Prediction: Unlikely to succeed
    It seems I get a chance in every Round-Up to remind people: There's only room for one. In this case, the "one" is National Express's Water Jet.

  9. Uloo Knife ($19.95). An all-purpose knife with a curved blade and the handle on top. Pitch: "Slice, dice, chop and cut anything, anywhere."
    Prediction: Unlikely to succeed
    Maybe it's just me, but using this knife looks more difficult than using a regular knife. Maybe that's because this blade design dates back as far as 2,500 BC, and we've made some progress in knife technology since then. Also, beyond its unique shape, this product has very little going for it. That may be why the pitch sounds like the pitch for every other knife and chopper ever marketed on DRTV.

  11. Cyber Clean (Various). A sticky gel for cleaning and disinfecting technology items. Pitch: "Penetrates the toughest areas, pulling out dirt, dust and killing germs in seconds."
    Prediction: Unlikely to succeed
    If industry interest is any gauge of success, this should be a major hit. Every player I know has taken a hard look at this item. But I've never liked it. Tech items have a poor track record in DR, and this looks more like a boy's gross-out toy than a serious product.

  13. EZ Shopper ($10). A handle for carrying multiple plastic shopping bags at once. Pitch: "Carry up to six bags at a time, making it easy to carry all your groceries in just one trip."
    Prediction: Unlikely to succeed
    This is a simple solution to a common problem, but it's more of a bonus item than a product that can carry an entire campaign.

  15. Pump It Fresh (2 pay of $19.95). Food storage containers with a pump for removing air (starring Joe Fowler). Pitch: "Don't dump it ... pump it."
    Prediction: Bomb
    This category and these benefits are played out. Time to give this pitch a few years off. Plus, the price is too high.

  17. Couch Commander ($19.95). A drink holder and organizer for a couch. Pitch: "Turn any ordinary couch into a home theater." No URL
    Prediction: Bomb
    I appreciate attempts to cut through the clutter, but this one almost qualified for a "Dangers of DIY DR" posting. Also, I couldn't find the Web site if one exists. The spot is on YouTube.

  19. Fridge It ($19.49). An odor eliminator for the refrigerator (from Innofresh Products). Pitch: "Literally absorbs, traps and neutralizes odor."
    Prediction: Bomb
    Amateur hour. As for items that seek to replace baking soda, you can read what I think of that idea in the March issue of Response magazine.


March 23, 2010

Review: Crispy Magic

Description: Mesh non-stick baking sheets
Main Pitch: "The fast, easy, healthy way to get a crispy, fried taste right from your oven!"
Main Offer: $10 for one large and one toaster-oven size
Bonus: Second set FREE plus French Fry Cutter (just pay separate processing and handling)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Prediction: Likely to succeed

This product gets a 6.5 out of 7 on the SciMark Seven. Half points don't really exist in my scoring system, but I had to stop short of a perfect score because, at the end of the day, this is just a mesh baking sheet!

I point that out because I'm always the first to argue this is an 80/20 game where product is 80% of a campaign's success and marketing is only 20%. I've seen too many bad or mediocre commercials do well to believe otherwise. Go back and look at some of the biggest campaigns of 2009. With a few notable exceptions (e.g. Snuggie), you won't be very impressed.

But this one is different. It turns my "DRTV 80/20 rule" on its head because because the product is so simple and unexciting. It doesn't move. It doesn't really demo. It doesn't really do anything. So kudos to Derek and his team at The Schwartz Group. I'm quite familiar with the product and the original pitch on QVC (which was also quite good). But this commercial went to the next level and really nailed it.

March 22, 2010

Find 'The Fold' and Pitch Above It

I seldom write about the Web on this blog, but it's a critical part of what we do -- and every year it increases in importance. When I started in the business, Web sites were an afterthought. Many top players didn't even put URLs in their commercials, and Web sales were only about 5% of direct sales. Today, 50% is not uncommon.

Much like The Divine Seven criteria for products and the Tried & True Techniques for DRTV commercials, there is a list of proven ways to maximize DRTV sales online. It's a long list, but the good news is that the rules are even more steadfast than my SciMark criteria because: a) nearly everything that happens online is automatically measured and logged, and b) proper scientific testing (e.g. A/B splits) is much easier to implement online.

Still, Web behavior is constantly changing, and it's a good idea to challenge assumptions regularly to make sure they still hold true ... which brings me to my point.

Jakob Nielsen, the nation's foremost expert on Web behavior, has an article out today that puts new numbers behind an old rule about Web behavior: People don't read "below the fold." That is, they tend to stop reading where the screen cuts off and scrolling would be required to read further.

Nielsen writes:

In our [latest] study, user viewing time was distributed as follows:

Above the fold: 80.3%
Below the fold: 19.7%

... The implications are clear: the material that's the most important for the users' goals or your business goals should be above the fold. Users do look below the fold, but not nearly as much as they look above the fold. [emphasis his]

So if your Web design is putting a key part of your pitch "below the fold," chances are visitors to your site aren't seeing it.

This is why many smart Web vendors put rotating images (DTM) -- or better yet fully animated Flash movies (Permission Interactive) -- "above the fold." Such techniques allow you to present multiple elements in a single area that represents the "prime real estate" on the page.

Of course, where "the fold" actually occurs is an interesting question. The challenge: Different people prefer different screen resolutions, and that changes how much content appears above the fold. For example, I prefer the lowest resolution (800 x 600) because I find it to be easier on my eyes. For some sites, that can mean both vertical and lateral scrolling is required for me to view the page's entire content.

Other people prefer higher resolutions that make things smaller but require less scrolling. (Nielsen used 1,024 x 768 for his study.) So for which users should you design your sites? 

Since this is the online world, the answer is being measured and logged every second. In fact, your own site will log this information over time and give you an answer specific to your campaign. To start, simply use the most common screen resolution being logged by your other DRTV sites. You could rely on broader trend data, but it's important to remember the heaviest users of the Internet are young, ultra tech-savvy people who are not the core demographic for DRTV.

It is interesting to keep track of the broader trends, though. According to this Web site, which publicly shares its logs from the last 10 years, the trend is moving rapidly toward higher resolutions. When I started in the industry, most people favored my preferred resolution of 800 x 600. Somewhere around 2005, it seems the majority switched to 1,024 x 768. Today, even higher resolutions are now the norm.

So I'm a little old school. At least I can take comfort in the fact most of you are as well. You see, according to the logs for this site, 1,024 x 768 is the most preferred screen resolution for readers of this blog. That's so 2005!

March 09, 2010

Review: StoneDine

Description: Non-stick cookware with a stone coating
Main Pitch: "10 times stronger and will last you 10 times longer" than other non-stick pans
Main Offer: $29.97 trial for the 8-piece set
Bonus: FREE 11-inch pan and 11-piece knife set
Marketer: Brand Developers USA
Prediction: Bomb

I like this product, and I love the pitch. What's not to like? The demos are fantastic, and the product has several strong selling points. These pans are virtually indestructible, and they redefine "non-stick" because food slides right off even if no butter or oil is used. It's amazing to watch in action. There's even an alluring pitch built around gourmet European cooking because these pans are supposed to deliver "the taste of cooking on natural hot stone." All well conceived and flawlessly executed.

Too bad this campaign has no shot of working. The obvious problem is the price: Even the trial is $10 too high for DRTV. When people learn that $29.97 (plus $25 S&H) is just "the first of ten monthly installments," as the Website disclaims, they will proceed directly to Wal-Mart where regular non-stick pans cost less than this trial offer.

March 08, 2010

SciMark Report from March Response

My latest "SciMark Report in print" is now available on (links to PDF).

Reviews include: Aero Crisp, Barkoff and Fridge Genie.

March 03, 2010

Review: The Game Chamber

Description: A case for Nintendo DS games that keeps them from getting lost
Main Pitch: "With its patented locking mechanism, kids have to put the played game away before they can get the next game to play"
Main Offer: $14.95 for 12-game case in purple or blue
Bonus: A 6-game travel case (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Innadaze
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This product has two serious weaknesses, depending on which perspective you take.

From the perspective of a kid's item, it won't work because such items need to appeal to kids as well as parents. That means they have to be cool, and being responsible with your games has zero cool factor. This is a "nanny" type product.

From the perspective of an adult's item, it won't work because the target demographic is wrong for DRTV. Parents with children of an age where lost video games are an issue will be in their 30s and 40s (as shown in the commercial). Most DRTV buyers are 50 or older. So this campaign is fishing in the shallow end of the pond.

I also find the narrow focus on Nintendo DS games to be an obvious problem. This campaign is targeting a segment of a segment: Parents with children of a certain age who also have a Nintendo DS. That's slicing the market too thin for a mass-market medium like DRTV.

In summary, this product fails the D7 because it isn't age appropriate, and it fails the S7 because it isn't correctly targeted. But that just means it isn't right for DRTV. What I like about the item is it solves a common problem, and I think it might have potential in another channel of sale.

March 02, 2010

Dangers of DIY DR III

I couldn't grab the video anywhere, so you'll have to go here to see this one.

Yes, that's right: This DRTV commercial features women in yoga poses feeling themselves up.

You just can't make this stuff up.

March 01, 2010

Review: Oilyzer

Description: A device that tells you when your oil really needs changing
Main Pitch: "People are driving 10- even 15,000 miles without an oil change, saving hundreds of dollars"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Digital tire pressure gauge (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: Launch Pad
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Credibility, the seventh of the D7 criteria, is making a comeback as one of the key factors determining the success or failure of DRTV products. I've seen quite a few items lately that I thought would have been successful -- if only people believed they worked as advertised. This item is one of them.

The issue here: A car is one of the most expensive items people own, and they rely on that car for a number of critically important activities (e.g. getting them to work on time so they don't get fired). As a result, the negatives of having that car's engine damaged (because some $20 TV gadget said it was OK to keep driving with old oil) far outweigh the positives (saving a few bucks with less frequent oil changes).

This is not to mention the legal exposure the marketer of this product faces. Regardless of the facts, all it will take is one customer's engine seizing. Then some enterprising attorney will form a class that seeks to compensate anyone who alleges their car troubles were caused by an indicator that read green when it should have been red. I don't include legal risk in any of my lists of criteria, but if I did this product would definitely fail the category.

Otherwise, this product meets most of the criteria for DRTV success, and the commercial is well written and produced. It's just that pesky credibility problem that's going to sink the campaign. Ask yourself: Would you take the risk?