February 25, 2012

Weekly Round-Up

For the record, here are four items I didn't review for the usual reasons:

  1. Cushie. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "Give that old, tired chair some protection, cushion, and flair." Comments: As with EZ Covers, I would have been on the fence about this one. Actually, EZ Covers has a much better shot at working because there are multiple table chairs in every home. [ss]
  2. EZ Eyes. Marketer: Allstar. Producer: Producers Direct. Pitch: "The new large print keyboard that makes typing easy on your eyes -- and more accurate, too." Comments: Written by yours truly. [ss]
  3. Fresh Liner. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The refrigerator liner that keeps your produce fresh." Comments: Failed attempt No. 83. Unless you are Debbie Meyer, it's time to give up on this concept! [ss]
  4. Raptor Mount. Starring: Art Edmonds. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Producer: NexTV. Pitch: A TV mounting solution that "takes only minutes to install and costs a fraction of the price" of other brackets. Comments: Cool product. High credibility bar. [ss]

February 23, 2012

Review: Gray Away

Description: A root touch-up spray
Main Pitch: "Temporarily covers your gray roots in seconds"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one can in multiple shades
Bonus: 2nd can free
Producer: Concepts TV
Website: www.GrayAway.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

It's a serious challenge to market a hair-coloring product without a recognizable brand. Past history (e.g. Touch Up & Go) isn't encouraging. As global beauty consultant Colin Hession put it: "Because of the high risk of failure, hair color is one of the categories with the highest consumer resistance to trying private label or new brands."

The retail situation is even more challenging. This category defines "crowded."

Review: Pet Cave

Description: A pet bed
Main Pitch: "The comfiest, coziest pet bed ever"
Main Offer: $19.99 & up
Bonus: 2nd one and a Crazy Critter (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.GetPetCave.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

There have been quite a few pet beds tried on DRTV. A few examples are: Telebrands' Comfy Cot and the PetZZZpad in 2010, Tristar's Dogpedic in 2009 and Dolce Vita Therabed in 2007. None of those rolled out, and I can't think of one that did.

February 22, 2012

SciMark Report from February Response

My SciMark Report for February is now available on the Response Website.

Reviews include coverage of no less than THREE sticky rollers:

  1. Vince Offer's Schticky [a],
  3. Telebrands' Sticky Buddy [a], and
  5. SAS Group's Roll-A-Magic [a].

Review: Wonder Ware

Description: Food storage containers
Main Pitch: "No worries, no spills, no mess, no ruined food"
Main Offer: $14.99 for a 3-piece set
Bonus: Second set of three (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.GetWonderWare.com
Prediction: Likely to succeed

At first glance, this seemed like just another food storage container. But when I paid attention, I realized the positioning is different than what we've seen before. The key pitch here isn't locking in freshness (yawn). It's the convenience of being able to take this thing out of the refrigerator and put it right into the microwave, all while the lid remains on. That's a great promise. Add to that the carry handle and the locking tabs (solid secondary features), and I think there might be enough here to get people off the couch.

My only quibble is with the creative. It takes a while to get to what I think is the key selling point here (microwaveability), and it doesn't address a nagging concern we all have when we microwave plastic: That chemicals are leeching into our food. On the other hand, I thought there were some great demos in this spot. I especially liked rolling spaghetti down the stairs, and using the product as a soccer ball. Clever!

Review: Ultimate Brush

Description: A detangling brush
Main Pitch: "Designed to gently detangle your hair in seconds"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one in thick, normal or fine
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Emson
Website: www.NoTangleBrush.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

One of my catch-phrases is: "In DR, the third time is never the charm." So what about the fourth time? Well, that's usually a sign that someone hasn't done their homework.

For the record: Orbit Brush was first and was never heard from again. Then came Hair Glider, which also went nowhere. About that time, Telebrands' also came out with Hair Bean, which had a promising start but a disappointing finish.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions, but I say we add this one to our list of bad categories for DR.

Review: EZ Covers

Description: Seat covers
Main Pitch: "Re-cover most any chair, anywhere, in five minutes or less"
Main Offer: $19.99 for four in black, beige or burgundy
Bonus: Two more, absolutely free
Marketer: Harvest Direct
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.BuyEZCovers.com
Prediction: On the fence

Two concerns about this one. Otherwise, I like it. The first is whether it can really be used on all types of chairs. Some chairs don't make it easy to remove the cushion. The second is a feeling, unconfirmed, that similar solutions may already be available. Besides that, this one meets my criteria. The credibility of it fitting all sizes and shapes isn't strong, but I think people will buy it to try it -- and hopefully not return it!

February 21, 2012

The True Top 50 of 2011

The results are in at last! Here are the True Top 50 hits of 2011:

All that's left is to announce the top marketer and producer of 2011. Drumroll please!

First, the True Top Marketer of the Year. And the winner is ...

Allstar Products Group!

Allstar dominated last year with nine hits in the top 50. They are: Swivel Store, Perfect Meatloaf, Forever Lazy, Magic Mesh (thank you, thank you), EZ Moves, Eggies, Sift & Toss, Wonder File and Style Snaps. Telebrands comes in second with seven hits, and IdeaVillage is third with four hits. Plymouth Direct/Media Enterprises gets an honorable mention for having three hits on the list.

Next, the True Top Producer of the Year. And the winner is ...

Hutton Miller!

Hutton Miller easily outdid the competition last year with eight hits in the top 50. They are: Gyro Bowl, Fast Brite, EZ Moves, iRenew, Dream Look, Eggies, Slushy Magic and Style Snaps. Blue Moon is second with five hits, and Concepts TV is third with three hits. The Schwartz Group gets an honorable mention because if I hadn't cut the list off at 50, they would have vied for third.

Congratulations to the winners!

February 20, 2012

More Insights

I'm still having fun with Google Insights for Search. Today, I used it to better understand the life cycle of DRTV campaigns when measured in consumer interest online. More on that later.

First, I have to add a few caveats to my first post. (A big thanks to everyone who took the time to think about this new methodology and point out its pros and cons.) There are a few worth mentioning ...

One thing that quickly became clear (HT: Bob G.) is that items with an age skew will be over-represented or under-represented by this tool. That is, if we are to use this tool as a guage of DRTV success, we need to be careful about items that skew toward seniors (who are less likely to buy online than average) and items that skew toward teens and twenty-somethings (who are more likely to buy online). This may help explain the big gap between Emson' Micro Plus (a "3" on the graph) and Allstar's Trendy Top (a "40" on the graph). Having managed both Listen Up and Loud 'N Clear, I know hearing assistance devices skew much older than average. Meanwhile, the media mix for Trendy Top makes it clear that product skews younger than average.

Another thing I learned is that the Google tool does NOT present average searches per day, as I previously thought (HT: Josh A.). Instead, it presents indexed results that are scaled and normalized. As Google explains: "The numbers on the graph reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. They don't represent absolute search volume numbers because the data is normalized and presented on a scale from 0-100." Using the previous example, then, it isn't accurate to say Trendy Top had an average of 40 searches per day during the last month. Rather, its search volume was a 40 on a 100-point scale for the parameters set.

Despite these caveats, the Insights for Search tool is still immensely useful. Most campaigns don't skew older or younger in a way that would distort results significantly: They fall within the general age range for DRTV projects. Likewise, whether the numbers on the graph represent absolute searches or scaled-and-normalized searches doesn't matter much if we are comparing and contrasting DRTV trademarks using the same parameters. It also doesn't matter when we are doing other cool things, such as tracking consumer interest in a product over time.

Take, for example, two campaigns that launched one year ago this month and rolled out. According to what I reviewed in February 2011, two good choices are Telebrands' Slim Away and Allstar's Perfect Meatloaf. Let's look at the life cycle of these products, relative to each other, in terms of consumer interest online:

Here we see a typical campaign and an atypical one. Both spike predictably around the beginning of Q3 (when lower media rates lead to spending ramp-ups) and the holiday season. But Slim Away's general trend line is upward, which is unusual.

What about the rule of thumb that says the life cycle of a DRTV product is 18-24 months? To test that, let's take a campaign that is 18 months old and one that is 24 months old. A good choice for the former would be Style Snaps, which I reviewed in August of 2010. A good choice for the latter would be Cami Secret, which I reviewed in March of 2010.

Here's Style Snaps:

And here's Cami Secret:

As you can see, the bulk of interest was within a six-month window. After that, the campaigns bumped along -- but it would be hard to say they had 'life' relative to peak interest.

February 18, 2012

An Antidote for Bad Information

Recently, I heard about a great tool for measuring consumer interest called Google Insights for Search. Why is it so great? Well, let's say you wanted to figure out which DRTV company has the hottest hit right now. You could look at the charts, but the problems with that methodology are well known.

First, the charts report media spending based on the old assumption that strong spending equals strong response. It's not that this is necessarily a bad assumption, it's just that the DR methodology is no longer pure. In the old days, when most of the money was made on direct sales from TV, you'd have to be an idiot to spend beyond profitability. Today, with retail comprising about 90% of sales, we keep getting closer to a traditional model where advertising is an expense and not a profit center. The charts are a relic: Today, everyone has a different tolerance for losing money on TV in the hopes of making it back at retail.

Second, the charts are manipulated. I am not breaking any news here, so I'll be brief. There are 75 rated cable networks and growing. Monitoring every hour of programming on every one of these networks would be a Herculean task, so the monitoring services don't even try. (I'm not saying I blame them.) But as someone with a basic understanding of statistics, I can tell you the handful of stations and rotations they do monitor are not even close to a representative sample. So the charts are hopelessly inaccurate from the get-go. Add to that the scandal of inflated self-reporting and -- now you know why I created the True Top 50.

And that's why I love this new Web tool. You can't manipulate consumer interest (as anyone who has forced an item into retail can attest), and Google keyword searches are a great indicator of that interest. For fun, let's take the charts' top five hits from the Big Five (short form), and see what Google Insights for Search has to say.

According to latest reports:

  • Emson's Micro Plus is the hottest at No. 3 on both charts
  • Telebrands' Sticky Buddy is the next hottest at No. 4 on the JW
  • IdeaVillage's Music Bullet is next at No. 9 on the JW
  • Ontel's Miracle Socks is next at No. 21 on the IMS
  • Allstar's EZ Eyes is last at No. 32 on the JW

Now, here are searches for those five trademarks over the last 30 days (click to enlarge):

As you can see, the order based on consumer interest should be:

  • Telebrands' Sticky Buddy with an average of 34 searches per day
  • IdeaVillage's Music Bullet with an average of 21 searches per day
  • Allstar's EZ Eyes with an average of 17 searches per day
  • Ontel's Miracle Socks with an average of 9 searches per day
  • Emson's Micro Plus with an average of 3 searches per day

It gets more interesting when we start looking at a company's hits relative to each other. Let's take Allstar and Telebrands as examples.

Allstar's top three hottest hits, according to the charts, are EZ Eyes (No. 32 on the JW), Trendy Top (No. 39 on the IMS) and Hot Booties (No. 47 on the JW). Now here's what Google's tool says:

Trendy Top blows the other two away with 40 searches per day, making it hotter than even Sticky Buddy, which is 17 places higher than it on the IMS chart.

Speaking of Telebrands, their top three hottest hits are Sticky Buddy (No. 4 on the JW), Lint Lizard (No. 8 on the JW) and Plaque Blast (No. 8 on IMS). But according to the Google tool:

Lint Lizard is clearly dominant with even more searches per day than Trendy Top and almost double the searches of Sticky Buddy.

I could go on, but you get the point. Want to know how hot your campaign is relative to the competition? Check out Google Insights for Search yourself.

February 15, 2012

Review: Seatbelt Mate

Description: A seatbelt accessory
Main Pitch: "Customize your seatbelt to fit every driver or passenger perfectly"
Main Offer: $9.99 for one plus Gap Mate
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: Hampton Direct
Producer: Concepts TV
Website: www.SeatBeltMate.com
Prediction: On the fence

I don't have much DRTV history (product or category) to reference on this one, and my gut instinct isn't telling me much, either. I can see how this is a problem for some people, but it doesn't strike me as a mass-market problem. But I could be wrong, so I'm going to take the easy way out and sit on the fence!

Stick Up Bulb: Old Gold?

New Name: Insta Bulb
Current/Original Marketer: Telebrands
Original Hit Year: 2007 (No. 28 on the JW Annual)
Website: www.GetInstaBulb.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Lighting was a hot category when this item first enjoyed success. Today, lighting is on my list of categories to stay away from because there have been too many bombs to count (many of them Telebrands items). This may make sense as a retail play, but I strongly doubt it will do good numbers on DRTV.

Review: Instant Trainer Leash

Description: A dog leash
Main Pitch: "The gentle way to transform any dog from unruly puller to perfect walker instantly"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one plus a (ubiquitous) sticky roller
Bonus: Double the offer absolutely free
Starring: Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: Plymouth Direct/Media Enterprises
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.BuyInstantTrainer.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Leashes are a tough category for DRTV. I can think of only one that is supposed to have worked (Telebrands' Comfy Control Harness) out of dozens tried. I also think this product is just OK. Not a big wow. There are other harness-like solutions on the market, although mainly for humane reasons. All in all, I just don't see enough here to give this one high marks.

On a side note, kudos to the marketing team for having the courage to try a higher price with a truly free bonus! You just don't see that anymore.

February 09, 2012

Review: Hand Perfection

Description: An anti-aging cream
Main Pitch: "The first award-winning, anti-aging hand-care system for younger looking hands"
Main Offer: $19.95 for 30-day supply of day and night cream
Bonus: Free nail & cuticle treatment
Starring: Ellen Sirot
Website: www.HandPerfection.com
Prediction: N/A

This is not really my area (the business model is different), but I have dabbled in it. The focus has always been on the face in this category, mainly because that's what has been successful. I always liked the idea of targeting other areas (hands, neck, etc.), but such products never seem to go very far. My instinct is that this is because the face is 'high stakes' -- people look at it all day, every day -- whereas the hands and neck are lower stakes.

In a down economy, it may also seem frivolous to have a different vanity cream for every body part. I suspect many are using 'general purpose' creams instead, or using a cream meant for one body part on all body parts.

Review: Better Sealer

Description: A reusable bag sealer
Main Pitch: "Locks the stale out and keeps the fresh in"
Main Offer: $10 for 2 large, 3 jumbo plus 2 Better Bag Seals
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay S&P) plus 2 storage caddies
Marketer: SAS Group
Website: www.BetterSealer.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Solutions like these have been tried before without success. As I wrote in my review of the last one, Anthony Sullivan's Ba'Noodle, I don't believe such solutions are "needed given the category is crowded with 'good enough' solutions, such as chip clips." This pitch tries to convince people otherwise, but the main argument (represented in the opening) is pretty weak.

Weekly Round-Up

For posterity, here are quick hits on four items I haven't blogged about before (for various reasons):

  1. Glow Buddy. Pitch: "The huggable bear that glows in the dark." Marketer: Telebrands. Producer: Harvest. Comments: There is something to this 'huggable night light' idea (see my Dream Lites review). We'll have to see how far it goes. [a]
  2. Body Snake. Producer: Opfer Communications. Pitch: "Clean and scrub hard-to-reach areas of your body effortlessly." Comments: This general pitch has generated some success (e.g. IdeaVillage's Spin Spa), and items like it also sell well in catalogs. [a]
  3. Spec Tamer. Pitch: "Never lose sight of your glasses again." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: An important reason I 'post for posterity' is to keep track of all the times an idea is tried. This is the second attempt (see iSpex), and the second flop. [a]
  4. Toilet Bullet. Pitch: "Keeps toilets clean up to 50,000 flushes." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: I'm not surpised this one failed. The category is dominated by entrenched brands. [a]

February 08, 2012

SciMark Report from January Response

My SciMark Report for January is now available on the Response Website.

Reviews include: Blast Off [a], Trendy Top [a] and Whack-A-Mite [a].

Review: Spa Pants

Description: Weight-loss pants
Main Pitch: "The pants that heat up to slim you down fast"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Monte-Brooks
Website: www.GetSpaPants.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Even overweight DRTV fanatics have limits, and I think this 'human dehydrator' is below even their low bar. I get why Telebrands took the shot -- dehydrating body wraps are trendy at some spas -- but this DR version makes it clear just how silly the idea really is.

Review: Scratch Magic

Description: A scratch-repair pen
Main Pitch: "Fills and repairs any surface scratch ... just press, apply and let dry"
Main Offer: $9.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (pay S&H), 12 Rain Repellent Wipes (pay shipping)
Starring: Johnny Rocket
Website: www.ScratchMagicPen.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

There's only room for one, and Simoniz Fix It! is the one. Also, am I the only one who thinks unknown pitchmen with try-hard names like "Johnny Rocket" do more harm than good?

Finally, this test seems a little out of season to me. Are people really focused on their cars in the winter months?

February 06, 2012

Review: Infinity Filter

Description: A water filter
Main Pitch: "20 years of great-tasting, clean and pure water, and 20 years of never having to replace your filter"
Main Offer: $29.95 for one with diverter valve and faucet adapter
Bonus: 2nd complete kit (just pay additional P&H)
Starring: Bob Circosta
Marketer: Allstar
Website: www.InfinityFilter.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This product features a compelling value proposition, but that alone usually isn't enough to carry a campaign. You need a new twist, or else a concept that seems new to most people because they haven't heard much about it before (see Yoshi Blade).

The "infinity" angle of this filter seems like a twist at first, but it's really just a value play in disguise. The filter itself looks like other filters on the market and has the same important disadvantage compared with the Brita filters it indicts: It requires installation, a dirty word in DR.

[Posterity Note: This isn't Allstar's first foray into the water filtration category. In the fall of last year, the company tested a water bottle with a built-in filter called Tap 2 Pure [ss], which was produced by Blue Moon Studios. For some reason, it slipped past my radar.]

Review: Bell + Howell Solar Charger

Description: A solar-powered cell phone charger
Main Pitch: "Captures and stores solar energy" or any "indoor light soure"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Upgraded unit with LED flashlight
Marketer: Emson
Website: www.GetSolarCharger.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I thought about these long and hard after a trip to Asia a few years ago because they were everywhere at the trade shows and because solar power is a hot topic here in the US. This is the best version of the idea, a backup power source that charges itself with outdoor or indoor light, but it still fails my test.

The problem: There are just too many other ways to get power if you need it. There are compact wall chargers, universal travel chargers, cigarette lighter and USB chargers -- even battery-powered quick chargers under big brands (e.g. Energizer). If you have an electronic device upon which you rely, chances are you've already purchased a backup solution or managed to live without one.

As for those moments when you are lost in the woods and your GPS runs out of juice ... well, you've probably got bigger problems in life.

February 01, 2012

Review: Nail Doodle

Description: A nail-decorating kit
Main Pitch: "Design your own salon-quality nail styles"
Main Offer: $19.99 for 4 doodles/8 colors plus the Doodle Design Guide
Bonus: Evening Collection with 8 more colors (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Monte-Brooks
Website: www.NailDoodle.com
Prediction: On the fence

Now that Salon Express is known to be a bona-fide hit (it was No. 41 on my True Top 50 for the fall of 2011), everyone is predictably jumping on the bandwagon. In the last few months alone, I've tracked at least two more attempts in the category: Nailtastic and French Tip Dip. And I'm sure there are many more to follow.

While it's possible there is an unrealized opportunity here and nails will become the next great DRTV category, it's also possible this will be another negative case study in support of my one is an outlier; three is a category rule. The market for these products is younger women, which is not the sweet spot for DRTV, so this could very well be another 1-in-50 category.

However, I must admit the size and scope of the Salon Express success surprised me. So why not be cautiously optimistic?

Review: Soft Air Pillow

Description: An inflatable travel pillow
Main Pitch: "The amazing portable pillow that gives you perfect comfort and support"
Main Offer: $19.99 for pillow and no-slip jacket
Bonus: 2nd one with jacket (just pay P&H), travel strap, eye mask
Website: www.SoftAirPillow.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Most Americans don't travel nearly as much as most executives. This leads to an interesting phenomenon where marketers develop an exaggerated view of the potential appeal of travel items. The result has been many attempts in this category with no successes (unless you count Total Pillow, which had multiple uses).

As for this specific item, I think it would probably do well in a Hudson News. My theory is that travel pillows are like umbrellas: They sell best at the moment of need.

Review: Squishy Baff

Description: A bath additive
Main Pitch: "Turn water into a squishy (red, pink, green or blue) goo"
Main Offer: $19.99 for two bath's worth
Bonus: Double the offer free
Website: www.TrySquishyBaff.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Based on what I know about kids' DRTV (not a lot), this doesn't have the play value (or value, period) to take off. It's more of a novelty.

Now if it were flavored and maybe marketed toward fraternities and sororities ...

Review: Stretch Genie

Description: A shoe stretcher
Main Pitch: "The miracle solution that stretches your shoes to the size you need for perfect comfort"
Main Offer: $9.99 for a 4-ounce bottle plus 2 Expanders
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H) plus 2 gel pads
Marketer: Hampton Direct
Producer: Concepts TV
Website: www.StretchGenie.com
Prediction: On the fence

Many marketers choose items based on sales history, but they also take a lot of shots on items with no sales history or with a sales history that isn't reliable for predicting DRTV results. Based on what I've seen from this particular marketer, however, there is always a relevant sales history behin the item, and that helps me answer my biggest question: Is this a real problem?

If people are buying this solution in sufficient numbers to warrant this company shooting and testing a DRTV spot, there must be something to it. That said, the bar for a national TV and retail rollout is quite high these days, and I just can't imagine enough Americans needing this for the campaign to become a major hit.