July 06, 2010

Review: Flashlight Man

Description: A multi-function worklight
Main Pitch: "A powerful triple LED tripod light ... head swivels and rotates a full 360 degrees"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.FlashlightMan.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Like the movie business, our industry sometimes gets stuck on a theme. But unlike with disaster pictures or (to be more current) spy movies, cost is not a barrier to entry -- and that means everyone gets to take their shot. Normally, someone establishes dominance early and the "only room for one" rule keeps the smarter players out of the market. However, sometimes no one establishes dominance, and we see a trend like the one we are seeing here.

It has happened before. In the summer of 2006, everyone tried their hand at a stick-up lighting solution. Telebrands led with the Stick-Up Bulb, and Ontel followed with Stick 'N Click.  Both enjoyed some success, so many others tried as well. However, none were able to gain ground against those two retail powerhouses (Ontel's product is still widely available).

Now we see a new trend in "task" lighting. It started with Widget Light, then Flexi-Brite and Hug Light. Now there's this tripod light and Allstar's Literoo. The former three are small and flexible lights with a wider range of uses, and the latter two are more durable and workshop focused. But I put them all in the same general category because, if you watch the commercials, many of the demos are the same.

So who will establish dominance? There are two answers that come to mind.

The non-cynical answer: Whoever has the commercial that catches on with consumers. This "first in the mind" theory reflects a strong belief in the power of creative. If Telebrands must compete on this playing field, they are at a disadvantage here. Their creative is weak in comparison with Flexi-Brite, Literoo and Hug Light. They are attempting a technique that never works in DR (anthropomorphizing the product) and using the 'bare bones' production method for which they have become known. There is no comparison with the fully baked, marketing-savvy creative of Hutton-Miller or Blue Moon Studios.

Then there's the cynical answer: Whoever can persuade retailers their item is going to be the "hot" item in fourth quarter and secure the retail shelf space first. Here Telebrands has more than a fighting chance.

As for my prediction, I am going with answer No. 3 ... no one. I think there is too much confusion in the marketplace right now, and confusion is always a sales killer. My guess is all the activity and the time of year (summer doldrums) will produce tepid results for everyone. No one product will be a runaway winner with consumers, so the smart players will move on and the less-than-smart players will try to force a boulder up a hill. If someone makes it to fourth quarter retail, it will not be in a big way.

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