December 11, 2009

Weekly Round-Up

A power nail file
Main Pitch: "Files nails quickly and easily for a perfect finish"
Main Offer: $10 for one with two styling heads
Bonus: Second one with two styling heads free (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Concepts TV
S7 Score: 5 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Different (?)
Comments: "Old is gold" as they say, and Telebrands is the one to bring this concept back since they were behind the original TV hit, 2001's Salon Shaper. However, the Pedi Pistol didn't make it, and similar items have also been tried without success.

Adhesive hooks with an optional snap-in bar
Main Pitch: "Keep your cupboards clean and your countertops clear"
Main Offer: $19.95 for 10 hooks, 10 bars and eight S-hooks
Bonus: Double the offer FREE (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: Allstar Marketing
S7 Score: 4 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Different, Uncrowded (?)
Comments: The only hit item I can think of like this was Ontel's Snap Hooks, which made the Top 20 in 2000. Today, adhesive hooks are fairly common. For example, 3M has a line. This product tries to be more with the addition of the bar, but there are much better-looking solutions, and they are widely available at retail.

An exercise device for a woman's arms
Main Pitch: "A fun and effective way to melt away the fat on your arm problem areas"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one workout set with yellow resistance band (3-16 lbs) and orange resistance band (8-30 pounds)
Bonus: Quick-start workout DVD and user's guide
S7 Score: 4 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Targeted, Engaging (?)
Comments: The WHAT Pro?! Getting past the name, I'm not sure an exercise device just for women's arms is needed. Women's fitness is also a tough category for short-form DRTV. With a few notable exceptions (e.g. Bender Ball), the category has traditionally worked best in long form. As for the commercial, this opening has been done many times, and I think it is always done wrong. Women don't want to be insulted, and talking about their "jingle jangle" is insulting.

A small vibrator
Main Pitch: "The high-quality personal massager from Trojan"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: A Trojan condom, storage pouch and 2 button cell batteries
Marketer: Church & Dwight
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Comments: This one's outside the norm for DRTV, so I didn't bother to give it an S7 rating. However, this is a newly popular DRTV category worth noting. Notice I didn't write "a new DRTV category." I was checking the archives recently and noticed Telebrands at No. 23 on the 1999 Jordan Whitney annual with Vibra Touch. These "personal massagers" have also been a staple in catalogs for decades. But Blue Moon has put a great new twist on the creative, and the Trojan name gives the product a trustworthiness it wouldn't otherwise have.

Prepared by Lynda J. Moore.

December 09, 2009

There's Only Room For One

I was thinking back on the year recently and talking about some of my most disheartening bombs with my wife. What was really bothering me was that I fully expected these particular items to succeed. I wasn't on the fence. I was sure they would at least roll out.

Anyway, in trying to explain why one item didn't make it, I found myself describing the success of another item in the category. My item was a shoe organization product, and the winner in that category this past year was Telebrands' Shoes Under. My story went something like this:

"Our Predict-A-Hit results were great, but while we waited for the inventor to sign our deal, six months went by. By then, Shoes Under was all over TV and retail, and when we tried to validate the results with a re-test on Predict-A-Hit, the item bombed."

Later in the conversation I brought up another of my bombs, this one a space-saving product for the closet. The big hit in that category this year was Hampton Direct's Wonder Hanger, and I ended up repeating myself:

"We had high hopes for this item, and the retailers loved it. But the TV results were awful because by the time we launched, Wonder Hanger was all over TV and retail."

At that point, the voice of Al Ries popped into my head:

"They key to success in marketing is to be first in the mind in a new category."

I know this. I preach this. You probably know it and preach it, too. But as DR marketers, how often do we forget it?

I can't count the number of times the counter to this argument has won the day. It goes something like this: "The big success of XYZ means this is a hot category! The big success of XYZ is proof people are looking for items like this! Our item is not the same as XYZ, so it's bound to be a hit." And our ego goes a step further, telling us we're going to take the market away from that other guy.

Part of the problem is Ries also taught there's enough room in a category for two dominant players. Coke and Pepsi. Hertz and Avis. McDonald's and Burger King. But that's in the world of branding.

When it comes to DRTV, I've come to the disturbing conclusion there's only room for one. After all, DRTV buyers are a relatively small group -- less than 10% of the buying public the last time I checked -- and they're fickle. Hot today, cold tomorrow. The item that first captures their interest will pick all the low-hanging fruit in a hurry, leaving slim pickings for the next guy.

Sure, there are exceptions. But another favorite Ries quote of mine is this:

"You can either live by the rules and accept the possibility that you might miss an opportunity because you didn’t break the rules. Or you can live a life of anarchy."

I really should listen to him more often.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment.

December 06, 2009

Weekly Round-Up

A hands-free LED light with bendable "legs"
Main Pitch: "Bendable, durable and stay-put-able ... 1,001 uses and counting"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Triple the offer free (just pay separate S&H)
S7 Score: 5 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Uncrowded, Motivating (?)
Comments: I think there's room in the market for a hands-free lighting solution, but this particular product is odd-looking and many of the uses in the commercial aren't likely. In fact, this is more like a kid's product and might find success in that market.

A toothpowder made from India's Neem tree
Main Pitch: "The natural toothpaste booster that bathes your teeth and gums in powerful antioxidants"
Main Offer: $19.95 for a three-month supply (1 oz. of cinnamon, 1 oz. of peppermint)
Bonus: Double the offer (six-month supply) plus a month's supply of mouthwash
Marketer: Aaah Company
S7 Score: 4 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Uncrowded, Motivating (?)
Comments: If I had to choose one example of what I mean when I talk about a "crowded category," the toothpaste category would be it. Also, to say people are unlikely to sprinkle this brown powder on their toothpaste just for some antioxidant benefit would be understatement.

An "o"-shaped hair accessory you crimp to lock in place
Main Pitch: "Makes hair styling easy"
Main Offer: $9.99 for two in black plus an instructional DVD
Bonus: Two more in blonde (just pay separate S&H)
Producer: Concepts TV
S7 Score: 3 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Different, Uncrowded, Motivating (?)
Comments: This is yet another product trying to capitalize on the success of Bumpits. Like the others, it is unlikely to succeed, largely because of the dozens of brand-name hair accessories already on the market.

A device that stretches your back
Main Pitch: "In five to ten minutes .. it allows you to ease your back, neck and shoulder muscles"
Main Offer: $29.95 for one
Bonus: Workout DVD
Starring: Barry Radcliffe
Marketer: AltruEon
S7 Score: 3 out of 7
Missing Qualities: Needed, Uncrowded, Motivating, Clear (?)
Comments: This is a tried-and-true category for DRTV, but the product is too plain to motivate people off the couch on its own. The minimalist approach to the creative doesn't help, and the spokesman sounds more like a preacher than a pitchman.   

Prepared by Lynda J. Moore.