December 28, 2011

Review: French Tip Dip

Description: A nail decorating kit
Main Pitch: "A beautiful French manicure at home at a fraction of the cost"
Main Offer: $19.95 for the complete kit
Bonus: Pedicure kit (only pay processing)
Marketer: TV Goods
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

There's only room for one -- and this kit does a fraction of what that "one" can do.

Review: Clip Shot

Description: A compact digital camera with a clip
Main Pitch: "Never miss another precious moment"
Main Offer: $19.99 with USB cable
Bonus: 2nd one with cable (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is a cool product that would probably do well as an impulse item at retail. But on DRTV? There are so many other solutions available, including the phone cameras mentioned in the spot, that I just can't see anyone getting off the couch to order this.

I also think this is more of a vacation/outdoor item rather than an everyday camera. Maybe those guys who carry a big ring of keys clipped to their belt loop would walk around with this as well, but that's a fairly small market.

Review: Better Bagger

Description: A holder for storage bags
Main Pitch: "Fill and store all kinds of food and leftovers quickly and easily without making a mess"
Main Offer: $10 for one with two Better Spouts
Bonus: Bonus set (just pay S&P)
Marketer: SAS Group
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

My prediction is based on some market research I did on this exact item. The research found that, while some people love this idea, most people do not see the need for it. It's also more of a bonus item to my mind, and I have used it as such. Interestingly, even as a freebie it fell flat. Only about a third of people said it positively affected their interest in buying the main product. More than half said it had no impact whatsoever.

December 22, 2011

Dueling Hole Punchers

Review: Roto Punch

Description: A hole-punching tool
Main Pitch: "Punch holes, fix snaps and eyelets in seconds"
Main Offer: $10 for one with 75 eyelets & snaps
Bonus: 2nd one with 75 more eyelets & snaps (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Prediction: N/A

Review: Punch Perfect

Main Pitch: "Punch holes for a perfect fit every time"
Main Offer: $10 for one with 150 eyelets, snaps & fasteners
Bonus: 2nd one with 150 more eyelets, snaps & fasteners
(just pay processing)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: N/A

I first learned of Roto Punch in September of this year. I recall being on the fence about the item. On the one hand, it came with strong sales results from another channel, and the success of Perfect Fit Button had demonstrated a solution for expanding waistlines could sell on DRTV. (A featured use for this product is adding an extra hole to a belt.) On the other hand, it seemed like a very crafty tool that only hobbyists would really love.

In any case, by the time the item was public and I could have made my call, it was too late: The campaign was already in rollout, and I was spared the potential embarassment of underestimating what appears to be a solid hit.

Now, a few months later, comes Punch Perfect -- an identical item with a very similar commercial. I think this must clearly be a mistake that will resolve itself. I can't imagine what the play would be, given one strong-at-retail marketer is already so far ahead of the other.

Review: Mizu Pillow

Description: A pillow with a water core
Main Pitch: "Simply fill with water to find your customized comfort level"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Pillow case
Marketer: National Express
Prediction: On the fence

If there weren't so many DRTV pillows already on the market, I would probably have declared this one 'likely to succeed.' Otherwise, the item and the pitch seem to fit the mold of what works in this category.

Review: Mighty Sealer

Description: A liquid rubber spray
Main Pitch: "Stop those leaks and drafts for good"
Main Offer: $10 for one can
Bonus: 2nd can (just pay P&H)
Prediction: On the fence

This one is second to market behind Phil Swift's Flex Seal, which was No. 2 on my summer True Top 50 and has a huge head start. However, given that it is relatively close in timing, it may have a nice run riding the coattails of that lead campaign.

Positive side note: I loved the scuba diver magic demo in this spot. Very clever.

Negative side note: I heard yet another use of the outdated phrase "space age"(!)

Review: Beat Blaster

Description: A sound transmitter
Main Pitch: "Turns anything into a speaker"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: MP3 Player (just pay processing)
Starring: Jeremy Parker
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Concepts TV
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I saw this item in Japan a few years ago and loved it. But I never brought it to DRTV for the same reason I don't think this test will do well: You need to try this product and hear it live before you'll want to buy it. It's 100% "wow factor," and you can't really be wowed by the item through your TV.

Meanwhile, as a practical item, this one fails the logic test. Something like a Music Bullet makes much more sense. That said, there may be a way to sell this product to kids, but that is not my area of expertise.

Review: Cat Caller

Description: A pet-finding keychain
Main Pitch: "The ultimate pet locator and training device"
Main Offer: $39.90 for keychain and receiver
Bonus: None
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Amateur hour. I really just posted this one for posterity. As for the item, I don't think there's a strong enough need for it. Besides, Telebrands already tried something similar.

Weekly Round-Up

Although most of these are still live online, all are unlikely to be around for long and are 'posted for posterity.'

  1. Ab Assist. Pitch: "Get a toned, sexy body in minutes a day." Comments: One of the 50 ab items that will be tested in any given year. The lack of originality in the slogan and creative makes this highly unlikely to be the one that hits. [a]
  2. Germ Bloc. Pitch: "The ultimate germ barrier for your hands." Comments: Still more proof that the germaphobe market is not big enough to sustain a DRTV campaign. [a]
  3. Perfect Green. Marketer: NuWave. Pitch: "The only pan you'll ever need." Comments: Fourth to market with a me-too solution. [a]
  4. Pillow Puppets. Marketer: Vermont Teady Bear. Pitch: "The playful puppets you bring to life to create your own show." Comments: I used my Response magazine column this month to express my thoughts about Pillow Pets and "chasing outliers". No need for a rehash. At least Vermont Teddy Bear has experience in the category. If only they weren't 37th to market. [a]
  5. Sole Shapers. Pitch: "Turn any shoe into a toning shoe." Comments: Sneakers. Flip-flops. Insoles. And now "outsoles." Everything has been tried in short-form to replicate the success of Shape-Ups and similar shoes without success. This super-late entry makes even less sense given the bad PR, lawsuits and FTC actions that Skechers, Reebok and others have faced. [a]
  6. Stuffies. Pitch: "Secret pockets keep your child's treasures safe inside." Comments: Definitely the next Pillow Pets. [a]
  7. Twist and Tone. Pitch: "The complete handheld gym." Comments: I'll use this opportunity to confess that most fitness spots bore me. They all pitch the same thing. Making matters worse, this particular one features a lame attempt to one-up Shake Weight with a product that has one-fifth the credibility and usefulness. Prediction: Bomb. [a]

December 21, 2011

Review: Monkey Bags

Description: A bag that keeps bananas fresh
Main Pitch: "You'll never have a banana go bad again"
Main Offer: $10 for one bag
Bonus: 2nd bag (just pay processing)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Bomb

First, let me say that I'm impressed. I would have thought it impossible to create an entire two-minute commercial just about bananas.

Second, I am going to avoid mentioning the 800 lb gorilla in the room (get it?) and just say: There's a fine line between good DRTV cheese and bad DRTV cheese (see Magic Thimble), and this commercial crosses that line. It's hard to identify the exact moment the creative went too far, but I'd have to say it was probably when the ape gave a testimonial.

Third, if it were possible to get past the creative and just evaluate the product on its merits (it's not), I would be just as negative because of the "segement of a segment" problem, and the fact this is roughly 1/16 as useful as a Green Bag. No one has been successful at replicating Debbie Meyer's success, and I don't see how narrowing the uses to one was supposed to buck that trend.

Finally, a note to all DRTV creative people: The phrase "space-age" isn't cool or meaningful anymore. It's been more than four decades since we landed on the moon, and we don't even have a space shuttle program these days. The Space Age is clearly over. I only mention this because way too many DRTV scripts come across my desk with that retro phrase in them.

December 18, 2011

SciMark Report from December Response

For my final column of the year, the SciMark Report for December, I had a little fun. Instead of reviews, I shared some of my favorite catch-phrases and used items from the year to illustrate them. [a]

December 16, 2011

SciMark Report from November Response

It seems I neglected to post my SciMark Report for November. In case you missed it, I reviewed: Halo Hands Free, Pushover Plunge and Marble Cookware. [a]

December 10, 2011

Weekly Round-Up

Better Pet Blanket

I'm going to use this feature to do some housekeeping this week. Oftentimes, projects fail and are taken down so quickly, the Web addresses are "dead links" by the time I get around to them. At that point, predictions are unncessary and the only reason to blog about the project at all is what I call, 'posting for posterity.'

It happens all the time. We see an item and think, "I could swear someone tested this, but I can't remember who or when!" So I think it's important to record every item that tests on DRTV, even these 'fast failures,' in order to save marketers (including myself) from repeating the mistakes of the past.

And to show that this feature isn't about embarassing anyone, I'll lead with one of my own recent attempts ...

  1. Better Pet Blanket. Starring: Art Edmonds. Marketer: Allstar/Media Corp. Producer: Producers Direct. Pitch: "Repels liquids and stains" and "prevents odor-causing bacteria, fungus, mold and mildew." Comments: Written by yours truly. Hey, they can't all be winners! [a]
  2. Firenze Bag. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "The bag you'll always grab when you're on the go." Comments: This one is important to note because bags on DRTV have had to be pretty special (e.g. Buxton Bag) to be successful. [a]
  3. Leg Glo. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Rejuvenates even the dullest, dry skin." Comments: If Guthy-Renker couldn't make leg beauty work (see No. 11), it is unlikely anyone else can. [a]

December 07, 2011

Review: Stuff Fit

Description: A bedroom organizer
Main Pitch: "Wraps around any size bed for extra storage space"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H) plus two Moon Bags
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is similar to a product called Shoe Skirt that Allstar tested in 2008: It's just more narrowly focused toward kids. My concern is that Shoe Skirt didn't go very far, so I don't see how segmenting the market is going to yield better results.

It's true that focusing a rationale can be good in some cases, but this particular focus also creates a problem. Kids have zero interest in organizational items, yet we know it's critical to get kids excited about an item so they'll pester their parents to buy it. Selling items directly to parents for their kids -- with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Gyro Bowl) -- hasn't been a successful strategy.

The demographics of DR further compound the problem. Most of our buyers have grandkids this age. Picking up after them and getting them off to school isn't their problem.

Review: Sneaker Saver

Description: A sneaker cleaner
Main Pitch: "Guaranteed to extend the life and expensive look of your sneakers"
Main Offer: $10 for one bottle
Bonus: 2nd bottle, scrub brush & 2 deodorizers (just pay processing)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Meltzer Media
Prediction: N/A

I'm too late on this one, so I'm just posting for posterity. Similar items have been considered for DRTV before, so it's important to keep track of the ones that were tested.

Review: MicroMaid

Description: A microwave-cleaning gadget
Main Pitch: "Uses the power of steam to get your microwave sparkling clean"
Main Offer: $10 for one with two Micro Chamois
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay S&H)
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is sort of like a Mister Steamy (No. 15 on last year's True Top 50) for microwaves. However, the problem/solution is a lot less compelling. Between the various splatter guards and cleaning sprays available, I just don't think people view this as a problem in need of a new solution. The commercial does a good job trying to manufacture a rationale ("like a pressure washer for your microwave" is especially clever), but it ultimately fails to justify.

December 06, 2011

Review: Blankid Buddy

Description: A(nother) transforming plush toy
Main Pitch: "It's a blanket, a backpack and a pillow!"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Water-repellent inner bag
Prediction: Bomb

No one will ever accuse the DRTV industry of originality, but this is getting ridiculous. Are there really still people out there who believe that because a plush toy that transforms into a pillow became a hot seller, a plush toy that transforms into other bedroom objects is a potential hit waiting to happen?

Give it up, people! Pillow Pets was an outlier and a craze. There is absolutely no indication that transforming plush toys are a new category capable of producing regular hits. Crazes just don't work that way.

Do you remember that Elmo doll that burst out in insane laughter when you tickeld him? Ever hear of any hot-selling, psychotic Sesame Street dolls after that? Right, because there were none (although I had a great idea for a Big Bird with Tourette's). Or how about those little gerbil things that scoot across the floor and make weird noises? Those are still hot, as evidenced by the fact I keep stepping on them in my house. But have you seen any other vermin -- perhaps a rat that squeals or a cockroach that hisses -- appear on store shelves in a stack-out? No? Well, there's a reason for that, too.

I give the first few people who attempted to ride the Pillow Pet coattails a pass. For all we knew, maybe Infomercials Inc. had discovered a rich mine of pent-up childish desire for Transformers you can hug. But the 50th attempt? It's time for someone to say it: Enough is enough.

Review: Toast-It-All Bags

Description: Toaster bags for sandwiches
Main Pitch: "A piping hot, restaurant-style sandwich in seconds"
Main Offer: $9.99 for four bags
Bonus: Double the order, recipe book (just pay S&H)
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This test gives me a chance to use one of my newer catch-phrases: "In DR, the third time is never the charm." I'm cheating a little here because I don't believe the second attempt made it to a DRTV test -- it was killed in the Web testing phase. But the first time they gave away a toaster and the item still didn't sell. That's telling you something.

Review: Bra Tree

Description: A bra organizer
Main Pitch: "Keeps all your bras in perfect shape by giving them their very own place"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one (pink or black) with bra saver bag
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Starring: Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: Plymouth Direct/Media Enterprises
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: On the fence

I don't have a good sense on this one because personal experience and DRTV history offer little in the way of clear direction. My handful of attempts at marketing a closet-organizing product have met with failure. Several closet hangers have been successful over the years (Magic Hangers, Huggable Hangers, Wonder Hanger), but the common benefit is that they were all space saving. The only bra-saving item that ever popped up on my radar was Bra Baby. Although it seems to have found some success, it wasn't a big DRTV item.

If this were my project, then, I would have filled the knowledge gap with some kind of market research. Looking at the creative team behind this one, I'm sure that's exactly what happened, so there's a decent shot this project will succeed.

December 05, 2011

Review: GSP Rush Fit

Description: A DVD workout program
Main Pitch: "Ultimate home fitness"
Main Offer: 3 pay of $29.99
Starring: Georges St-Pierre
Prediction: On the fence

Since I don't have a great understanding of what drives sales in this category or how the business model might be different, I can't say one way or the other how this will fare. I am also hopelessly biased toward the positive here because I am a big GSP fan! I wish him well.

On a separate note, this test is noteworthy because it is yet another example of the MMA short-form fitness trend and a UFC legend participating in that trend. Other legends that have tried their hand include Randy Couture (Tower 200, No. 2 on last year's True Top 50), Chuck Lidell (Jack Rack) and Rich Franklin (Iron Arms).

Review: Ready Laces

Description: Colorful shoelaces
Main Pitch: "Cool new laces that never need tying"
Main Offer: $10 for three laces
Bonus: Three more laces (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This product doesn't offer enough "wow factor" for kids to pester their parents about it, and we know that pestering drives sales in this category. That's probably why the site is already down (although, again, I made my call before that happened.)

Review: Sonic Breathe

Description: A compact humidifier
Main Pitch: "Eliminates dry air that causes sore throats, hacking coughs, bloody noses and inflamed sinuses"
Main Offer: $29.95 for one with carrying case
Bonus: 2nd one with carrying case (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Emson under the "Bell + Howell" brand
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This posting has been corrected. A previous version stated that the Website was down, but it had just moved to a different Web address. (HT: Bob K.)

This commercial features a classic "contrived problem." That is, a problem doesn't really exist, so one is made up. In debates, this is sometimes called a "straw man" argument. You set up a superficial problem and attack it to score points. But the "straw man" here -- humidifiers that are big and bulky -- doesn't score (that is, sell anyone) because people who use humidifiers have been to the store and know they come in all kinds of convenient shapes and sizes.