April 29, 2011

Review: Instant Zipper

Description: A replacement zipper
Main Pitch: "Instantly repair any broken zipper ... just clip it and zip it"
Main Offer: $9.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one, 100-piece sewing kit (just pay processing)
Starring: Anthony Sullivan
Marketer: TV Goods
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Website: www.InstantZipper.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I was wrong about Telebrands' Perfect Fit Button, and it seems I may also have been wrong about Telebrands' One Second Needle, another Sullivan creation. I disliked both items because of perceived value problems. I also thought the probem/solution was weak. And despite being wrong before, I have the same thoughts and same comments about this item.

The perceived value is especially poor ... $5 for a zipper? It's not like you can re-use it. If they gave away 10 of these, it would still be a close call. As for the problem, I can't remember the last time anyone I know busted a zipper and needed to replace it. If it's a perceived problem, it's an infrequent one at best. Maybe I'll be wrong a third time (a better offer would certainly help make that a possibility), but I just can't see this one working.

Review: Fresh Sticks

Description: An air freshener
Main Pitch: "Neutralize odors for up to two years"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one set (golden vanilla or cool linen breeze)
Bonus: 2nd set and Hang-It (just pay separate processing)
Starring: HSN's Joy Mangano
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.FreshSticks.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I respect Joy's work and the fact that she successfully transitioned Huggable Hangers from HSN to DRTV. But I don't think this product has a shot. For one thing, it doesn't solve a perceived problem. Otherwise, companies such as S.C. Johnson and Procter & Gamble wouldn't have the robust air freshener businesses they do. Speaking of which, this is a crowded category dominated by billion-dollar brands such as Glade and Febreeze. DRTV does not compete well in this kind of arena.

Weekly Round-Up

Here are 10 quick reviews to round out the week:

  1. Flex Seal. Pitch: "The easy way to coat, seal and stop leaks fast." Starring: Phil Swift. Comments: Love the creativity of the magic demo, but I wonder how often this type of product would be needed. [UPDATE: It turns out this item is "old gold." A similar product called Leak Ender 2000 was No. 37 on the IMS "Top 50 Spots of 2003."] [a]
  2. 30 Minute Foot Repair. Pitch: "Softer, smoother, younger looking feet in just 30 minutes." Marketer: Tempo 3000. Producer: Blue Moon Studios. Comments: I like the concept and the category, but I worry about the perceived value of the product. [a]
  3. Heat & Repeat. Pitch: "The world's only reheatable travel mug." Comments: I really like this product and the commercial's opening is different and fun. My only concern is behavioral: Do most people have this problem? The answer to that question is what will determine this product's fate. [a]
  4. Hikari Beauty Towel. Pitch: "The key to healthy skin." Comments: Amatuer hour. The product might have potential, but not with this creative. [a]
  5. Miracle Socks. Pitch: "Soothe, massage and energize your feet and legs." Marketer: Ontel. Comments: This is an old catalog item that could find some success on DRTV ... but the claims seem a bit risky to me. [a]
  6. Raptor Strap. Pitch: "Locks on tight with dinosaur might." Starring: David Jones. Marketer: The Bridge Direct. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Comments: Mr. Jones does a great job, but replacing bungee cords has been tried before (see Tie Pods) without success. I think the reason is people don't often need a solution to the problem a bungee cord solves and, when they do, a bungee cord is a "good enough solution." [a]
  7. Shutter Covers. Pitch: "The fast and easy way to transform ordinary storm shutters into extraordinary outdoor decorations." Marketer: Allstar. Producer: Opfer Communications. Comments: This is a great way for people to one-up that annoying neighbor who keeps expanding his holiday decorations. Or maybe this would make you that annoying neighbor! In any case, the site is already down, so I guess this is more of a niche/catalog item. [a]
  8. Snap 2 It. Pitch: "The easy and affordable way to organize your garage." Starring: Grant Goodeve. Comments: As my readers know, I'm not big on organizational items. Certain recent hits (e.g. Swivel Store) have started to change my mind about this, but I dislike garage organization items above all. The fate of recent projects (e.g. Simoniz Gator Grips) supports my bias. [a]
  9. Soothe Sox. Pitch: "The amazing new spa socks infused with softening gel." Marketer: Allstar. Producer: Concepts TV. Comments: This would have been a good candidate for another "dueling" products feature, but the site is already down, so I guess 30 Minute Foot Repair (No. 2 above) wins. [a]
  10. Weld Wizard. Pitch: "Instantly creates super strong bonds similar to welding or soldering." Marketer: National Express. Comments: Unlike Mighty Mendit, which bonds fabric, a liquid that bonds metal is inherently lacking in credibility. I thought Mighty Putty had a credibility problem, too, and I was wrong. But in this case, I don't think the believability problem is surmountable. [a

April 28, 2011

Review: Stove Shield

Description: A burner liner
Main Pitch: "The fast, easy way to protect, prevent and preserve your stovetop"
Main Offer: $10.99 for a set of two
Bonus: 2nd set, over liner (just pay separate processing)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.StoveShield.com
Prediction: Likely to succeed

I like this one a lot. It solves a real everyday problem, and it has an "old gold" success as its bonus. The commercial is also solid, "old school" DRTV -- of which I am a big fan.

Review: Cut-N-Cup

Description: A measuring cup that chops
Main Pitch: "The kitchen handy helper"
Main Offer: $10 with cover and two blades
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Starring: Chef Tony
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Opfer Communications
Website: www.CutNCup.com
Prediction: On the Fence

This is one of those cases where I didn't like the product until I saw the commercial. Chef Tony does such a good job pitching the item, I moved from "unlikely to succeed" to "on the fence" purely on the strength of his demos alone. That's still not a ringing endorsement, but the product has some challenges. The thing about Chop Wizard, Slap Chop and other hits in this category is that using them is easy. All you have to do is press down or "slap," and you're done. This seems like it would be work ... although again Tony does a great job making it look like it isn't. The measuring feature is also a unique twist, so I wouldn't be surprised if this one goes somewhere.

April 25, 2011

Review: Chum Chamber

Description: A chum container for fish
Main Pitch: "The 'no wait' bait ... attracts fish like a magnet"
Main Offer: $10 for one plus 12 ChumWow tablets
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Starring: Cactus Jack
Marketer: TV Goods
Website: www.ChumChamber.com
Prediction: Likely to succeed

I'm not a fisherman, and I think fishing is a DRTV category with lower-than-average odds of success these days ... But I would buy this product and I can see it doing well on DRTV. Why? Because when a fishing product does work on DRTV these days, the products tend to be positioned toward 'dabblers and dilettantes' like me.

Two cases in point: The Rocket Fishing Rod and Telebrands' Coleman Fish Pen. No serious angler would buy those products, only people who are inexperienced or who like to try fishing on occassion -- and that's where I think the market is these days. Incidentally, this provides an interesting contrast to another sporting goods niche: golf products. There, it seems technical products geared toward avid golfers are the ones that do well.

Review: Hot Booties

Description: Microwaveable hot slippers
Main Pitch: "A revolution in pure comfort and foot therapy"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one with bag
Bonus: 2nd one with bag (just pay P&H)
Starring: Tim Goewey and Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: Plymouth Direct
Producer: Zoom TV Productions
Website: www.OrderHotBooties.com
Prediction: Likely to succeed

Kudos to Plymouth Direct and Zoom for taking a risk, going outside of the box and coming up with what I think is a compelling and highly credible "new" format for a short-form DRTV spot. The product alone had a 50/50 shot at best, but the creative makes the odds of success much higher. It's one of the rare cases where I've seen this happen.

DiDi Seven: Old Gold?

Current Producer: The Schwartz Group
Original Hit Year: 1987
Original Marketer: Interwood
Website: www.BuyDiDiSeven.com
Prediction: On The Fence

Is a throwback brand, a great spot by the red-hot Schwartz Group and a guest appearance by Vince Offer enough to overcome the challenges with stain removers today? I'm not sure, but this is the best attempt yet!

April 22, 2011

'Going Green' Revisited

Thanks to Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics, I now have a follow-up to a 2008 posting titled, "Should DRTV marketers 'go green'?"

The New York Times reports:

When Clorox introduced Green Works, its environment-friendly cleaning line, in 2008, it secured an endorsement from the Sierra Club, a nationwide introduction at Wal-Mart, and it vowed that the products would “move natural cleaning into the mainstream.”

Sales that year topped $100 million, and several other major consumer products companies came out with their own “green” cleaning supplies.

But America’s eco-consciousness, it turns out, is fickle. As recession gripped the country, the consumer’s love affair with green products, from recycled toilet paper to organic foods to hybrid cars, faded like a bad infatuation. While farmers’ markets and Prius sales are humming along now, household product makers like Clorox just can’t seem to persuade mainstream customers to buy green again.

Sales of Green Works have fallen to about $60 million a year, and those of other similar products from major brands like Arm & Hammer, Windex, Palmolive, Hefty and Scrubbing Bubbles are sputtering. “Every consumer says, ‘I want to help the environment, I’m looking for eco-friendly products,’ ” said David Donnan, a partner in the consumer products practice at the consulting firm A. T. Kearney. “But if it’s one or two pennies higher in price, they’re not going to buy it. There is a discrepancy between what people say and what they do.”

This supports earlier research showing most consumers are not willing to accept trade-offs in order to be "green."

The full article is here.

SciMark Report from April Response

My latest column is now live on the Response magazine Website. Reviews include: Couch King and Couch Coozy, Clean Step Mat and One Step Mat, and Pet Rider and PetZoom Loungee. [a].

Weekly Round-Up

Here are some new, quick reviews to get you caught up:

  1. Ball Bike. Pitch: "A cardio spinning bike and core ball combined." Comments: A weird, expensive contraption. Not sure what the strategy is here, but it seems unlikely to succeed. [a]
  2. Bedside Valet. Pitch: "Allows you to keep everything you need organized and right by your side." Marketer: IdeaVillage. Comments: I don't think this product is needed enough to create the impulse to buy. Overall, organization is a tough category. Most items fail because of the Oscar Madison problem. Only a few marketers seem to have a knack for picking winners (e.g. Merchant Media). [a]
  3. Cool Off. Pitch: "Beat the heat! Easy! Fast! Cool!" Comments: Bomb! [a]
  4. Heeldini. Pitch: "Magically smooths dry heels." Comments: I think a pumice stone with a long handle has even worse odds than "a shoehorn on a stick!" [a]
  5. Hang Rite. Pitch: "Hang pictures perfectly even with only one nail hole." Starring: Joe Fowler. Marketer: SAS Group. Comments: I've never liked picture-hanging solutions and shoot them down every time I see them. Sure, hanging pictures straight is a challenge, but I don't think the problem is painful enough to motivate people off the couch. This product is neater than most I've seen, and Joe Fowler does a good job pitching it, but I still don't see this one catching on. [a]
  6. Insta Slim. Pitch: "Look up to 5 inches slimmer instantly." Comments: I was wrong about Slim Ts but I won't be wrong about this one. Second to market with a "me-too solution" -- especially when up against IdeaVillage -- is a losing strategy. [a]
  7. Plaque Blast. Pitch: "The perfect solution for controlling your pet's bad breath." Marketer: Telebrands. Producer: Blue Moon Studios. Comments: Plaque Attack seems to have had a successful run, but it seems a little late in the game to come out with a competitive product. [a]
  8. ReadyBox. Pitch: "Get everything you need to take charge into the event of natural or man-made disaster." Comments: As I've mentioned before, I view "preparedness" as the opposite of "impulsiveness" (see my Black Out review). And this is four payments of $19.99? Prediction: Bomb. [a]
  9. Running Twister. Pitch: "Bounce, twist and resist for a lean, toned and sexy body." Comments: Another weird contraption. I think fitness product developers are going a bit too far these days to be different. [a]
  10. Snap Curls. Pitch: "The fun, easy way to curl your hair." Marketer: Telebrands. Producer: Concepts TV. Comments: It seems like 50 hair products are tried each year. Almost all of them fail. Telebrands and Concepts are among the few to have had success in the category, but I don't see this one breaking through. [a]

April 14, 2011

Review: Myachi

Description: A hand sack
Main Pitch: "The freestyle sensation that's movin' the nation"
Main Offer: $19.99 for three
Bonus: Fourth one that glows in the dark, tricks DVD
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.Myachi.com
Prediction: N/A

I grew up with Hacky Sacks, so this one appeals to my inner child. But will it be a success? I don't know enough about kids' DRTV to make a prediction, but I do see quite a few positive signs. One, this is already a hot item at FAO Schwarz with its own section of the store. Two, it has the same sort of "cool factor" Fushigi (see No. 44) apparently had -- and kids will actually be able to do these tricks.

Review: Perfect Pearl

Description: An oyster with a pearl inside
Main Pitch: "Imagine the joy of opening an oyster to magically reveal your very own lovely pearl"
Main Offer: $19.99 for pearl oyster, locket and chain
Starring: Double the offer (just pay S&P)
Marketer: SAS Group
Website: www.MyPerfectPearl.com
Prediction: On the Fence

When I first thought about this idea, I liked it. IdeaVillage's Prayer Cross (see No. 2) demonstrated that jewelry with a twist can work on DRTV. Although that was a religious item and this one isn't (as far as I know), I liked the twist. But when I spoke to a few people, they were underwhelmed. Some even thought it was gross to have to dig into an oyster for a piece of jewelry. That's why I'm on the fence about this one. Otherwise, it meets most of the criteria, including one the Prayer Cross failed: It's priced correctly for TV.

Review: Royal Wedding Coin

Description: A coin commemorating Prince William's wedding
Main Pitch: "Own a piece of priceless royal history for yourself or for your family"
Main Offer: $10 for one in a designer case
Bonus: Certificate of authenticity from Buckingham Mint
Website: www.BuyRoyalCoin.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

When I wrote about the success of Telebrands' Royal Heirloom Ring (see No. 15), I made a prediction: "All who follow with similar memorabilia will fail." Let's see if I was right.

Review: Upcake Cupcake Pan

Description: An innovative cupcake pan
Main Pitch: "The non-stick cupcake pan that pops up so there's no mess up"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one with recipe guide
Bonus: Mini cupcake pan, batter dispenser
Marketer: Edison Nation
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.BuyUpcakeCupcake.com
Prediction: Likely to succeed

Allstar's Perfect Brownie pan was a hit. This is the same idea for cupcakes, so logic dictates it should enjoy some kind of success. I don't like it nearly as much as its predecessor, though, because there is no "hard edges" problem to solve with cupcakes.

April 07, 2011

Winter True Top 50 Analysis

As promised, here is an analysis of my recently published Winter True Top 50, which covers the beginning of December 2010 through the end of February:

Quite a few new hits have emerged. They are:

No. 12: Gyro Bowl (Media Enterprises/Hutton-Miller). A testament to the power of "wow factor." I hear big claims about this campaign on TV, and sources say retailers are clamoring for it. Although I never reviewed it (inside info), I did critique it early on, and my thoughts remain the same: Awesome product, but the market is limited to parents of toddlers (like me). So there will be a cap on how far this item can go relative to more mass-market items. Still, the TV results suprised me, so maybe this is one of those items that captures 100% of a niche market and, as a result, delivers mass-market level sales.

No. 15: Royal Heirloom Ring (Telebrands). I declined to make a prediction in my review of this one because this is not my area of expertise, but I was favorable toward it and understand why it was successful. However, I will make a prediction now: All who follow with similar memorabilia will fail.

No. 20: Supreme 90 Day (Telebrands). I missed this one until it was too late. But given the sucess of Beach Body's P90X, it would have been an easy call.

No. 23: Style Snaps (Allstar-Merchant Media/Hutton-Miller). I reviewed it, and I was wrong. In my defense, I was misled by inside info on a similar product that tested and failed. I also hedged a bit, declaring: "I can see this selling well in other channels." So I wasn't dead wrong. That counts for something, right?

No. 24: Easy Feet (IdeaVillage-Zoom TV Products). I reviewed it, and I was right.

No. 26: T-Core (Fitness IQ). I completely missed this one, which comes from the company that brought you Shake Weight (No. 9). Another example of how the criteria are different for men's short-form fitness.

No. 28: RoboStir (Telebrands/Sullivan). I reviewed it in Response, and I was right. However, the item required a new pricing strategy and new marketer for my prediction to come true.

No. 29: Aluma Wallet (Telebrands/Sullivan). I reviewed it, and I was wrong. Dead wrong. And watching the commercial again, I get it. Kudos to the Telebrads/Sullivan team for figuring out how to sell women a wallet when so many others have failed at the same task.

No. 30: Sunny Seat. I reviewed it, and I was wrong -- maybe. I tend to doubt it. Something is fishy here. I predict it disappears by the time I post my spring chart.

No. 38: One Second Needle (Telebrands/Sullivan). I reviewed it in Response magazine and predicted failure. I guess I was wrong. The problem: I still don't know why. I can't imagine why anyone would buy this product and would love to hear the reasons from a few people who have (not marketers and not "theorists," since anyone can rationalize a hit after the fact).

No. 39: Press Dough (Little Kids/Hutton-Miller). I don't usually review kids' products, so I skipped this one. Nothing to say, really. I get it.

No. 41: The Rack. I reviewed it, and I was right. Still wondering about those shipping costs, though, and customer satisfaction with the price.

No. 43: Happy Nappers (Jay at Play/Hutton-Miller). I reviewed it, but I didn't make a prediction.

No. 44: Fushigi (IdeaVillage-Zoom TV Products). The name of this product means "mystery," and it's still a mystery to me why anyone bought it. I mean, I get why kids would want it after watching the commercial. But keep it? Use it? I'll bet it's sitting in a lot of closets gathering dust. Needless to say, my review wasn't favorable, and I was wrong again.

No. 49: Comfy Control Harness. I reviewed it, and I was wrong again. I have to believe this is more of a retail play because I don't believe enough people are buying off TV for this to be profitable. Of course, I could very well be wrong.
I didn't cover the $50 Gold Buffalo Coin (No. 1) or the Ajax Flatbed (No. 48) because coins and collectibles are way outside my area of expertise.

For those who like to keep score, that makes my winter track record a paltry 33 percent (or 1 in 3 predicted correctly). What's going on? Am I losing my touch? Or were people pushing mediocre items because of the holidays, followed by that great January media, and a lack of bigger hits? Or both? I report; you decide.

In other news, Telebrands and IdeaVillage tied for the "true top marketer" of the winter, each with eight hits in the Top 50.

Telebrands had Chef Basket (5), Royal Heirloom Ring (15), Supreme 90 Day (20), RoboStir (28), Aluma Wallet (29), Pasta Boat (31), One Second Needle (38) and Comfy Control Harness (49).

IdeaVillage had Yoshi Blade (11), Criss Angel Magic Kit (16), MicroTouch (22), Easy Feet (24), Slim Ts (25), Finishing Touch (35), Prayer Cross (37) and Fushigi (44).

If I had to declare one the winner, I would say it's Telebrands because they had one in the Top 10 (Chef Basket) and three in the top 20, while IdeaVillage had none in the Top 10 and two in the Top 20. But it's a close call.

Meanwhile, Hutton-Miller earns "true top producer" of the winter honors with seven hits in the Top 50. They were iRenew (3), Gyro Bowl (12), Style Snaps (23), Mighty Fixit (33), Press Dough (39, Happy Nappers (43) and Page Brite (45). Blue Moon was a close second with six hits in the Top 50.

April 05, 2011

Winter True Top 50

Now that spring is here, it's time to take a look back and see what was hot this winter ...

Keep in mind this listing is based on our unique (and recently revised) methodology, which you can read more about here.

In a follow-up post, I will talk about any new hits that have emerged and report on my track record once again.

Spring Cleaning 2011

Pardon the dust - cough! cough! - but I just got done cleaning out my closet. In it, I found a bunch of old DRTV tests from last year that I didn't blog about (for various reasons).

In an effort to continue making this blog the most complete record of DRTV history possible, I present them now ...

  • Alligetter. Marketer: Lenfest. Pitch: "The handy little creature that safely rescues rings and things." Comments: Allstar would test the 'mini Gopher' concept again later under the name Grababilty. [a]
  • Better Breakfast. Starring: David Jones. Marketer: IdeaVillage. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "The fast, easy way to make a delicious breakfast right from your microwave." Comments: Many other would test the 'breakfast in your microwave' pitch, including two attempts to bring back Tristar's Egg Wave. But none were successful. [ss]
  • Brazilian Secret. Pitch: "The sexy little undergarment that instantly firms and shapes for a look that thrills." Comments: Asstastic! Butt this marked the second time the Booty Pop concept failed. [a]
  • Do Daddy. Marketer: Grill Daddy. Producer: Concepts. Pitch: "Put an end to the bend with these ... grips for tool handles." Comments: This concept had been tested once before as Pro Handle with the late, great Billy Mays.
  • Foot Free Pillow. Pitch: "Helps reduce [the] pain, pressure and discomfort that blankets and sheets create." Comments: No idea why I didn't review this. Maybe because the product is such a bad idea? [a]
  • Millionnaire Memory. Starring: Dave Farrow. Pitch: "Triple your memory in moments." Comments: An attempt to bring back Kevin Trudeau's Mega Memory concept.
  • My Lil' Fountain. Marketer: Lenfest. Producer: Blue Moon. Pitch: "Turns a regular faucet into a convenient water fountain with just the press of a button." Comments: Worth a shot given the history of the item (strong sales on QVC) and the earlier success of Merchant Media's Touch 'N Brush. [a]
  • Sticky Balls. Pitch: "Amazingly addictive magnetic balls." Comments: I guess nobody wanted sticky balls (tee hee). Good thing, too. A small problem with the product would be discovered later. [a]


As George Santayana said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I like to do my part, so look for this feature again next spring!