July 29, 2011

SciMark Report from July Response

My latest SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response magazine Web site. Reviews include: Genius Air, Kitchen Candu and Shed Monster. [a]

{Note: At press time, I did not know the producer of Kitchen Candu. It's Hutton-Miller.}

July 28, 2011

In The News

AJ talks to AOL News about how he made his first (several) million.

The sub-headline is a bit sensationalized. According to the body of the article, delivering pizzas was only one of his early jobs, when he was in college. Most of us worked low-paying jobs as students for "book and beer money." Those jobs hardly defined us.

My favorite part is when AJ talks about what it takes to be successful in business. "Some people don't want to be thinking about work seven days a week," he says. "Some people don't want to work 12, 14 hours a day. If that's the case, then you shouldn't be in business."

It was also interesting to read about his early hits. Many of the product descriptions will sound familiar. "Old is gold," as they say.

July 20, 2011

Sore Loser Stuff

I may be good about admitting when I'm wrong, but I must confess -- I'm a sore loser. Even when faced with solid evidence my "unlikely to succeed" predictions weren't right, I still look for ways to prove a hit isn't really a hit.

Of course, it's too easy to say, "Oh, so-and-so is probably just spending at a loss to support retail." That happens, but most campaigns that air enough media to get on my True Top 50 must be delivering some sort of ROI. Otherwise, the margins would be too tight and even retail couldn't make up the difference. One or two times and a company could survive that. Three or four times and a company would go bankrupt. (At least, that's my understanding. Let me know if you have a successful business model that contradicts that understanding: I'll be all ears!)

Besides, that explanation is really just a cop-out. Not knowing the real numbers, I would have no way of knowing which campaigns are just retail pushes and which campaigns are delivering great CPOs. If I'm going to be a sore loser, I at least need to have some measurement to substantiate my complaints ... which is why I went back and compared my "got it wrong" items from the winter to my most recent chart for the spring.

What I wanted to see is how many campaigns I got wrong survived from winter into spring. With the exception of clearly seasonal items, a strong DRTV item should stay on the charts for more than three months. To be fair about it, I went beyond the Top 50 and also looked at spending. Here's what I found:

  1. Style Snaps. No. 23 on my winter Top 50 and now No. 18 on my spring Top 50, so I was definitely wrong.

  2. Aluma Wallet. No. 29 on my winter Top 50 and now No. 3 on my spring Top 50. Definitely wrong again!

  3. Sunny Seat. I predicted it would disappear from my Top 50 by spring -- and it did. Spending dropped 83% from winter to spring.

  4. One Second Needle. To date, I still have no idea why this one was a hit, and nobody has explained it to me. It also fell way off the Top 50. Spending declined 95% from winter to spring and barely even registered in the spring period.

  5. Fushigi. A fourth-quarter item to be sure, so the fact it didn't register on the spring rankings makes sense. It may have been short-lived, but I understand it was a real hit.

  6. Comfy Control Harness. I suspected this was a retail play, but I may be wrong about that. Even though the campaign doesn't appear on the spring Top 50, it would have been No. 63 on a hypothetical Top 100 -- not bad. Spending dropped a bit, but not by much. Seems this is a real hit.

So there you have it. Am I just a sore loser? Or is there something to this method for validating TV winners? I blog; you decide.

Review: Thera Curve

Description: A curved back device
Main Pitch: "Helps alleviate lower back pain"
Main Offer: $19.95 with heat pack
Bonus: 2nd heat pack free
Producer: Infomercials Inc.
Website: www.TheraCurve.com
Prediction: N/A

The Web site for this campaign is down, so it would be un-sporting to make a prediction. However, I've been aware of this item for some time, so I will share my original thought: "unlikely to succeed."

The reason is simple: Others have tried and failed with similar items. Comfort Curve (No. 3) failed in 2010, and LayBack (No. 2) failed in 2008. To use another favorite catch-phrase: In DR, the third time is never the charm.

This case study is also instructive for another reason. When a producer has a major hit, people start to think of them as infallible. They also start to believe creative is more powerful than it really is. But while creative brilliance can take a good item and make it great (see Snap-2-O), it can't sell an item people ultimately don't want.

July 19, 2011

Review: Snap-2-O

Description: A quick connector for hoses
Main Pitch: "Lets you snap, snap, snap all your hose supplies in one second flat"
Main Offer: $10 for two plus Water Pressure Nozzle
Bonus: 2nd complete set (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar [current True Top Marketer]
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Website: www.Snap-2-O.com
Prediction: Hit!

I liked this product when I first saw it because I thought it solved a real problem. But I absolutely loved the product after I saw the commercial. This is what the best producers can do: Take a good item and make it great. Well done!

Review: Sling Duck

Description: A duck dog toy
Main Pitch: "The incredible flying duck your dog won't be able to resist"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay processing)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.SlingDuck.com
Prediction: Bomb

Figuratively, I think this one is going to fly about as well as a ruptured duck (bah-dum-dum). I was wrong about Crazy Critters to be sure, but it turns out that item solved a real problem. This is just a novelty item ("wacky quacker" is right), and the odds of it catching on are about as good as Snap-On Feathers (No. 12) becoming a hot new trend in America.

July 18, 2011

Dueling Saws

Review: Mighty Saw

Description: A manual chainsaw
Main Pitch: "The portable chainsaw that cuts it all and fits in your pocket"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Starring: David Jones and Taylor Baldwin
Producer: Hutton-Miller [current True Top Producer]
Website: www.MightySaw.com
Prediction: On the Fence

Review: Perfect Saw

Main Pitch: "The portable hand chainsaw that cuts about anything fast and easy"
Main Offer: $19.95 with storage case
Bonus: 2nd one with case (just pay P&H)
Website: www.PerfectSaw.com
Prediction: On the Fence

Mighty Saw will win this duel because it has the better offer (at least at press time). Otherwise, this would be a close call. What the Perfect Saw commercial lacks in credibility and creative prowess (Hutton-Miller did just break my record for most hits on the True Top 50), it makes up for with solid outdoor demos and strong selling points. While I really like the mall testimonial approach Hutton-Miller uses and think that it adds a ton of crediblity, I think this spot needs to spend most of its time outdoors.

Beyond those differences, both commercials feature the same product with the same features and benefits, so my prediction is the same. I don't think price will matter much in the final analysis. People will want the product, or not, just the same. As for the item, my initial gut reaction when I saw it on live shopping was that DRTV buyers wouldn't want it. I figured small electric chainsaws were a widely available alternative for those who didn't want to handle bulky, gas-powered saws. Besides, using this requires a dirty word in DR ... "work." It also looks a little dangerous to me because of how it springs free at the end of the cut.

However, these commercials have made me doubt my initial evaluation. One thing I didn't pick up on, until I saw these spots, was the "cuts on three sides" pitch -- that's a nice benefit even chainsaws can't offer. As a result, I am truly on the fence about this one.

July 17, 2011

Spring True Top 50

The numbers are in, so it's time to take a look back and see what was really a hit this past spring. Here's the Top 50:

Once again, please keep in mind this listing is based on our unique methodology, which you can always read more about here.

So what did we learn? First, an update on my track record. With regard to new items only, my track record is 6-4-4. I got six wrong (yeesh), four right and four didn't count for one reason or another.

Ones I got wrong: Dream Look, Swivel Store, Fast Brite, Pocket Chair (No. 13), Raptor Strap (No. 6) and Pet Rider and PetZoom Loungee (although I did call the lead dog).

Ones I got right: The Rack (No. 7), Easy Reach, Miyashi Pillow and EZ Moves.

I did not review Furniture Fix, so that's not included in these results. I also did not take credit or dock myself for HD Aviators and Pack It because I was "on the fence" for both. And I am reserving judgment on Shed Monster even though I gave it a bad review. Why? The review hasn't even been published yet, that's how new it is, so some other strategy must be in play if it already made the chart.

Next, I am announcing that Allstar Products is my new True Top Marketer. Allstar had six hits in the Top 50 this spring, four of them new items (Easy Reach, Swivel Store, EZ Moves & Pocket Chair). Telebrands was a close second with six hits in the Top 50 as well, but only one of them is new (Pet Rider). IdeaVillage is third this time around with five hits, two of them new (HD Vision Aviators & Miyashi Pillow).

This is the first time Allstar has been No. 1, so congratulations to them!

Finally, Hutton-Miller easily re-takes the top spot and True Top Producer with NINE hits in the Top 50. Four of those hits are new.

This is an all-time record number of hits for one producer on the True Top 50.

Congratulations to John and Peter! Number two on the list is Blue Moon Studios with six hits, two of them new. There was no third place this time around because the next closest producer only had two hits, both of them old.

July 09, 2011

Review: Shelf Solution

Description: A storage solution for closet shelves
Main Pitch: "Transforms hard-to-reach shelf space into a neatly organized showcase"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Merchant Media
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.ShelfSolution.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

When it comes to organization, the Merchant Media/Blue Moon team knows something other marketers don't ... including me. As I've blogged before, they surprised me with Swivel Store and some other great items in this category. Such unexpected hits make me smarter, so I don't mind having had to eat a little crow. But I'm also not ready to declare open season on this category quite yet. My new favorite catch-phrase applies here as well: 'One is an anomaly; three is a category.'

That said, this product has a lot going for it. It's not just about organization: It's about getting to that "hard-to-reach shelf space" quickly and easily. That's a great promise, but it also raises an objection. It's right there in the opening negative. When you dig around on your closet's top shelf, "everything fall[s] out of place" on top of you. The solution would seem to be a product that consolidates everything, so it falls on top of you in one block.

Joking aside, the commercial does a good job handling that concern with repeated demos and lines like "folds down right in front of you" (instead of right on top of you). But then it gets to the installation part and an even bigger objection pops up. This product uses "peel and place Velcro strips." Anyone who knows Velcro and/or "peel and place" glue knows neither is great at bearing weight, so it strains credibility to think this method will actually hold the heavy stuff shown in the commercial. It's one of those situtations where the "everything on this shelf" demo could actually be a negative as well as a positive.

If those problems were fixed -- and they may not be fixable -- I'd give this one higher odds of success.

Review: Plate Talk

Description: A license plate frame you can write on
Main Pitch: "Stop advertising for a car dealer and make a statement"
Main Offer: $9.99 for one with eraser and marker
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay processing)
Starring: Tim Goewey
Website: www.BuyPlateTalk.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

DRTV works best when it taps into an existing trend. Trying to start a trend with DRTV -- or tap into a trend early, for that matter (see Snap-On Feathers) -- is a fast way to lose money. Witness all the folks who crashed and burned trying to be the next Snuggie.

In this case, a bad strategy is compounded by the failure of the product to solve a real problem. "Advertising for a car dealer" is a contrived problem. Not being able to "make a statement" on your license plate frame is a problem people didn't know they had.

July 08, 2011

Review: Lap It Up

Description: Vitamin water for dogs
Main Pitch: "Nutritional crystals you simply add to your dog's water"
Main Offer: 12 packets in 4 formulas, AquaBall dispenser cap
Bonus: Double the packets (just pay processing), free shipping
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.LapItUp.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Telebrands will test just about anything ... and that's not necessarily a criticism. However, in this case, it seems way outside the DRTV model to try to market "vitamin water for dogs" -- although I know a better bonus for the product if it catches on.

Another problem here is the offer: It's a jumble. This is a problem I often see with multi-SKU, multi-variety products like this one. They're just not conducive to short form because there's no way to present all the necessary choices without creating confusion, a sales kiler.

Review: Hair Bean

Description: A bean-shaped detangling brush
Main Pitch: "The pain-free way to eliminate tangles without pulling out a single hair"
Main Offer: $10 for one with mirrored travel case
Bonus: 2nd set (just pay processing), free shipping, surprise gift
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.HairBean.com
Prediction: On The Fence

This is the better Telebrands' product I mentioned in my quick review of Hair Glider (No. 4). Still, I recall having mixed feelings when I first saw it. Although it solves a problem a similar concept, OrbitBrush, failed on DRTV a few years ago.

This has a much different design and a different pitch, so maybe this one will succeed. Blue Moon does a good job broadening the appeal as well, since there's a tendency in these spots to focus too much on kids. Speaking of the commercial, I really like the convertible "torture test." Well conceived and executed!

July 06, 2011

Weekly Round-Up

So many tests, so little time. Here are 14 quick reviews:

  1. Bonsai Mat. Pitch: "Over 8,000 therapeutic accupoints quickly soothe aches and pains." Comments: I think this campaign will suffer from a credibility problem. Accupressure isn't widely embraced in the western world. [a]
  2. Flex-O-Ring. Marketer: Smooth Fitness. Pitch: "Hundreds of exercises for strength training, toning and cardio." Comments: Not sure what I'm looking at with this one, but it isn't good short-form DR. Maybe it's part of some other strategy? [a]
  3. Happy Bowl. Pitch: "World's first biodegradable toilet bowl liners." Comments: This is not a product for DRTV. Using mass media to hit RV and boat owners is like using a shotgun to kill a fly. [a]
  4. Hot Top. Pitch: "Turn your stove into a professional cooktop." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: An interesting idea, but I don't think the problem this solves is very high on the 10-point pain scale. Also, it faces the "segment of a segment" problem because it's only for electric stoves. [a]
  5. iKleenit. Pitch: "Keep your screens clear and your devices germ-free." Comments: Say it with me now, "Prevention doesn't sell." You know you're in for trouble when a key line in your commercial is, "Most of us don't clean our phones, let alone know how dirty they are." Um, that sounds like an argument that should have been used to kill the project before investing in a DRTV test. [a]
  6. Light Saver. Pitch: "The light that saves lives." Comments: Amateur hour. This wouldn't sell at $19.99, let alone $89.99. [a]
  7. My Top Off. Pitch: "Take your top off." Comments: No, this is not a new series by Joe Francis. It's a new style of bottle opener. It's different, but it solves a minor problem at best. A good catalog item perhaps, but unlikely to succeed on DRTV. [a]
  8. Push Up Pump. Pitch: "Get a full body workout in just 5 minutes a day!" Comments: Another odd and expensive piece of fitness equipment. I doubt people want to do push-ups this badly. [a]
  9. Reel-EZ. Pitch: "The easiest way to clean up messy cords." Comments: A classic solution in search of a problem. [a]
  10. Shed Pal. Pitch: "The only vacuum grooming system that pets actually prefer." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: Generally, I have the same thoughts about this that I had about National Express's Shed Vac when it launched last year. Not sure if there's a connection since that site is down now. [a]
  11. Shrug Shaper. Pitch: "Look slim, trim, lifted and toned instantly!" Marketer: Kymaro/BJ Global Direct. Comments: Allstar tried something like this last summer called Skinny Arms, followed by a similar product in the fall called NuBod. Although different, I see no reason why this item would succeed where those others apparently failed. [a]
  12. Snap-On Feathers. Pitch: "Get the latest hair craze that's sweeping the nation!" Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: Trying to identify and tap into crazes is seldom a winning strategy for DRTV. The odds of success are bad enough without trying to hit a trend just right. I give this a 1 in 50 chance. [a]
  13. Survival Steel. Pitch: "Lights a fire every time" Comments: See the "shotgun to kill a fly" comment above. Cool item; wrong medium. [a]
  14. Up, Up and a Weigh. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "You'll never be charged for overweight luggage." Comments: I don't think most Americans travel frequently enough for this to be on the top of their list of things to buy. In general, air travel items don't work on DRTV for this reason. Businesspeople tend to have a distorted view because we fly all the time, which is why such items get the green light. [a]