April 25, 2013

Weekly Round-Up

Zoom TV's Key Cam

  1. Key Cam. Starring: Tim Goewey. Marketer: Zoom TV Products. Pitch: "The high-quality video camera on a key chain." Comments: Too niche and too expensive (it's $29). Not really a DRTV item. (FYI, skydivers only trust a helmet-mounted GoPro.) [ss]
  3. Bubble Up Lid. Marketer: IdeaVillage. Pitch: The antidote for boiled-over pots. Comments: A 'fast fail.'
  5. Jiffy Scoops. Pitch: "The spoon that warms up to the perfect ice cream scooping temperature." Comments: An over-engineered solution in search of a problem. I think mom's technique of running the scoop under hot water is probably good enough for most people. [ss]
  7. Killer Calves. Pitch: "Turn untrained calves into sculpted, diamond-cut muscles." Comments: Only hard-core muscleheads and athletes care about sculpting specific muscles like calves and forearms. [ss]
  9. Perfect Egg Sandwich. Starring: Marc Gill. Marketer: Allstar. Producer: The Schwartz Group. Pitch: "The fast, easy way to make picture-perfect egg sandwiches every time." Comments: Another 'fast fail.' I suppose every "Perfect" item can't be a hit, but I do love those McGriddles.
  11. Pocket Pets. Pitch: "The fun new way to put your stuff away." Comments: Direct-response plush experiment #952. [ss]
  13. Scratchdini. Pitch: "Protect your paint job while removing ugly scratches in seconds." Comments: This is another version of Simoniz Fix It!, which was also tried by another marketer under the name Scratch Magic. I haven't seen anything to indicate the concept is a winning one. [ss]
  15. Shmoozees. Pitch: "The ear resistable fashionable icon." Comments: Direct-response plush experiment #953. The glow-in-the-dark feature is cool, and familiar. [ss]
  17. Sleggins. Pitch: "Fashion slimming leggings that make you appear at least two sizes smaller instantly." Comments: Might have legs (HT: Peter Bieler), but shapewear strikes me as another 1 in 50 category. There are a lot of options out there. [ss]
  19. Snap 'N Pump. Starring: Saul Judah. Pitch: "Simple, handheld vacuum that works with any freezer bag." Comments: This concept has been tried a few times. If it didn't work under the Reynolds brand at the height of the FoodSaver craze (see my 2008 Handi-Vac post), I can't see it working now. [ss]

April 18, 2013

Waffle Cone Fun Factory

Description: A waffle cone maker
Main Pitch: "Create, bake and roll custom cones right on your stovetop"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one with recipe book, roller and ice cream scooper
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Starring: Marc Gill
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Website: www.WaffleConeFunFactory.com
Prediction: On the fence

I love this creative (even though they put poor Marc in that funny hat), but I am not so sure about the product. Waffle cones are great, but I don't know that people want to make them at home. Seems pretty involved for your average Jane.

The category is also pretty 'iffy' these days. For every hit (most of them mediocre), there are many bombs. This could easily become another 1-in-50 category.

Finally, I should probably mention the similarity of this product to Allstar's new Perfect Pancake and Telebrands' Flip Jack (formerly Flip Flap aka the original Perfect Pancake), which could certainly confuse things (further) if this one rolls out.


Description: Reusable bamboo towels
Main Pitch: "The un-paper towel"
Main Offer: $10 for 10 towels
Bonus: Double the offer free
Website: www.Bambooee.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This commercial is a 'fromage' -- a cheesy homage -- to Vince Offer. As for the product, it's trying to compete in a cluttered category dominated by big brands with a product concept that has failed before (see Nano Bamboo).

On a side note, I'll give one free consulting session to the first person who can identify this pitchman's accent. It's very unusual. In fact, the last time I heard it (in a spot for Telebrands' ID Blocker), I thought the audio was going in reverse! [ss]

April 14, 2013

Telebrands Round-Up

Telebrands continues to test more items than any other DRTV company, so this week's round-up is entirely made up of their items. As for why Telebrands is so prolific, I offer the following three reasons ...

The first is economies of scale. Telebrands is arguably the biggest and most successful company in the business, and there is no reason a company of its size shouldn't be leveraging its massive resources, which includes what I'm sure is a huge cash reserve.

Second, that size and a tremendous PR push over the last several years has made Telebrands a giant magnet for individuals and small companies with new item opportunities. That is to say, the company likely has more deal flow than other firms.

Finally, unlike several of its competitors, Telebrands did not participate in the recent shift toward Web-based testing (co-pioneered by yours truly). Many companies are now failing quietly online and, as a result, testing far fewer items on TV.

This is not to say I disagree with Telebrands' approach. Going back to my first point, there is a case to be made for skipping Web testing when you have lots of cash and economies of scale. After all, why settle for a Web-based system that tries to predict TV results when you can quickly and (relatively) inexpensively get actual TV results? What you sacrifice in cost and efficiency you make up for in reliability.

Anyway, without further ado, here's the latest from Telebrands:


Amber Vision (25th Anniversary)

Description: Amber-lens aviator sunglasses
Main Pitch: "Still the best UV sunglasses money can buy"
Main Offer: $10 for one pair
Bonus: 2nd pair (just pay a separate fee)
Website: www.BuyAmberVision.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Sometimes "retro" is just old, and that is the case here. Not only has HD Vision become the dominant amber-lens brand at retail, IdeaVillage has continued to bring innovation to the category with modern styles (e.g. Ultra) and features (e.g. Foldaways). I can't see old being gold in this case.

Flexy View

Description: Flexible reading glasses
Main Pitch: "Won't bend or break, and they're guaranteed to never lose their shape"
Main Offer: $12.99 for one pair with carrying case
Bonus: 2nd pair with case (just pay a separate fee)
Producer: Blue Moon
Website: www.FlexyView.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

It's too easy these days to swing by the corner drugstore and buy a pair of cheap reading glasses.

Sleep Tight

Description: A spray for bed bugs
Main Pitch: "The safe, non-toxic spray that helps eliminate bed bugs once and for all"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one bottle
Bonus: 2nd bottle (just pay a separate fee)
Website: www.BuySleepTight.com
Prediction: On the fence

Despite the appearance of Fabriclear on my True Top Spenders of 2012, I don't believe bed bug products can work on DRTV. Besides the obvious problem with trying to sell people a solution to an invisible problem (resulting in odd pleas like "you could be bringing bed bugs home without knowing it"!), the core idea is prevention, and prevention doesn't sell. That said, any time someone spends millions on TV, it creates a retail opportunity -- and Telebrands has been known to capitalize on such opportunities.

Stone Wave

Description: A microwave cooker
Main Pitch: "Make delicious gourmet food in your microwave"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Marc Gill
Producer: Concepts TV
Website: www.StoneWaveCooker.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

'Gourmet microwave food' is an interesting contradiction in terms. But my prediction is more based on my belief that the microwave has lost it cachet. See my Steam 10 review for further explanation.

Trusty Cane

Description: A walking cane
Main Pitch: "The one cane you can trust to work perfectly on all surfaces"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Producer: Blue Moon
Website: www.TrustyCane.com
Prediction: On the fence

This product would quickly fail a Fabulous Five analysis because it is clearly not a one-per-household item. In fact, its target market is a classic 'segment of a segment' that looks something like this: Adults >> who are old enough to need a cane >> who are also dissatisfied with their current cane. Sometimes you can succeed in DR by targeting a large niche with a real problem-solver, but I don't think this product hits either bar. And yet ... just like in the bed bug example above, significant ad dollars have been spent (see HurryCane), creating a potential opportunity at retail.

But wait! There's more!

Here are several additional Telebrands tests that no longer have live Websites:

  • Loafer Laces. Pitch: "No-tie laces turn any shoe into loafers." Comments: This is the second time Telebrands has tested this concept. The first attempt was kid-focused (see Ready Laces). [ss]
  • Pedi Soothe. Pitch: "Acupressure massage ball soothes and rejuvenates." Comments: I am not aware of any acupressure pitch that has ever worked. [ss]
  • Pure Logic. Pitch: "The amazing all-in-one laundry solution." Comments: Yet another failed attempt to compete with P&G. For my thoughts on why these items always fail, see my Dropps review. (You can see the commercial for this product here for the time being). [ss]
  • Shazam Pads. Pitch: "Reusable shammy sweeper pads save you money." Comments: Speaking of P&G, this was an interesting attempt at joining them if you can't beat them (as opposed to an item like Shinobi). [ss]

So there you have it: Nine recent items from Telebrands alone. Whew!

April 05, 2013

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Perfect Toaster. Marketer: Tristar. Pitch: "Watch the toasting process and make perfect toast, just the way you like." Comments: This is a very interesting experiment in what Al Eicoff dubbed K.O.M. (Key Outlet Marketing). In his 1982 autobiography Or Your Money Back, Eicoff writes: "[KOM] involved finding a chain of stores that would agree to exclusive distribution for direct-response items. At the end of the commercial, we would merely substitute names of the store for the phone number and address found in direct-response spots."

    Today, we call it "tagging retailers," and it's fairly common. But Tristar is trying more of a throwback approach by tagging only one chain: Wal-Mart. The company is also using a higher-priced item ($40), in a crowded category (toasters) and linking its Website directly to WalMart.com. Is this another example of the 'hybrid shift' I wrote about recently? [ss]
  3. Brazilian Diet. Pitch: "Take it off like a Brazilian." Comments: I have no means of guessing whether this product will be a hit, since the diet category follows a totally different DR model than the one I know. That said, when I saw the word "fogo" on the box, I thought about gauchos serving people in a never-ending parade of meat on swords -- and that kind of unbridled gluttony can't be what this marketer had in mind! [ss]
  5. Broomy. Marketer: Allstar. Producer: Bluewater. Pitch: "The transformable broom and dust pan." Comments: This one appears to be another 'fast fail.' Too bad. The product is remarkably innovative and the creative execution is excellent. For now, you can watch the spot here. [ss]
  7. Cardio Poles. Pitch: "Now you can supercharge your walk and get fit faster." Comments: I like this one a lot. The product is innovative, and I think the concept will appeal to all kinds of people, especially the core demo for DRTV. If they can get past the social risk barrier, I think this one will be a hit. [ss]
  9. Magna Nails. Marketer: InvenTel. Pitch: "Instantly transform your nails into a metallic work of art." Comments: Nails have been hit or miss on DRTV, probably because the category is so cluttered at retail. I think you need something over-the-top amazing to break through, and this doesn't strike me as the one. [ss]

Spring Cleaning 2013

It's that time again: Time to clean out my closet. Every spring, I dust off the few DRTV tests I didn't review the previous year (see 2012 and 2011) in order to continue making this the most complete record of DRTV history possible. Here's what I dug up this year ...

  • 30 Second Styler. Pitch: "Curl and style your hair just by using your microwave." Comments: Hair curling/styling products have a poor track record on DRTV. Other examples include Air Curler (later that year) and Natural Waves (winter 2010). [ss]
  • Clear 2 Go. Pitch: A water bottle that was also the "most powerful, portable filtering system in the world." Comments: This is at least the second time this idea was tested on DRTV, and water filters haven't had much luck either. [ss]
  • Frootle. Marketer: Telebrands. Producer: Sullivan Productions. Pitch: "Satisfy your thirst with healthy, all-natural fruit-flavored water that you make at home." Comments: Neat concept, but with so many pre-made fruit waters in stores, I'm not surprised it failed. [ss]
  • Insta Caulk. Marketer: National Express. Pitch: "The easiest and fastest way to seal your tubs, sinks, tiolets counters and more." Comments: Dueled with my/Lenfest's Wonder Trim. Nobody won. [ss]
  • Mighty Light. Starring: Marc Gill. Marketer: Harvest. Producer: Bluewater. Pitch: "Hands-free, high-powered LED light any time, anywhere." Comments: This one actually made it to retail although it did not appear on my True Top Spenders for 2012. [ss]
  • Red Fusion. Starring: Anthony Sullivan. Marketer: Thane USA. Producer: Sullivan Productions. Pitch: "Soothing warmth where and when you need it." Comments: Dueled with my/Lenfest's Snap 'N Soothe. Again, nobody won. [ss]
  • Zipper Fixer. Starring: Granny Lu. Marketer: Allstar/Media Corp. Producer: Paddock Productions. Pitch: "The fast and easy way to repair broken zippers at home." Comments: Written by yours truly (watch the spot here), and the first time I used Granny Lu. Pump 'N Chop was the second. Ended up dueling with the item below. [ss]
  • Zipper Doctor. Marketer: Ontel. Pitch: "Instantly repairs any broken zipper pull." Comments: Another contest nobody won. [ss]

April 03, 2013

SciMark Report from April Response

The print edition of the SciMark Report for April is now available on the Response Website.

This month, I discuss a new DR strategy I've identified and reveal the name from mythology I've given to it. I use as my example Telebrands' Starry Nite Clock [ss]. But since press time, I have found and written about an even better example.

Also included in the column are reviews of IdeaVillage's Instant 20/20 [ss] and Marc Gill's Snap 2 Strain [ss].

MicroTouch Switch Blade

Description: A 2-in-1 hair trimmer
Main Pitch: "It puts the power to groom from head to toe, and everywhere in between, right in the palm of your hand"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one with 3 snap-on guides
Bonus: 10-piece grooming kit (just pay S&H)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.GetSwitchBlade.com
Prediction: Hit!

Predicting success for this item is a no-brainer based on three simple facts:

  1. The MicroTouch mini-trimmer, originally launched in 2003, is still selling so strong that it is topping charts 10 years later (e.g. see my True Top Spenders of 2012)
  3. In 2005, IdeaVillage had a solid DRTV hit with a product called Just-A-Trim (No. 27 on the JW Annual for that year), the features of which are now incorporated into this product
  5. IdeaVillage is one of the forward-looking brand extenders I wrote about recently, which means the company is committed to building its lines at retail -- and the Touch line is its strongest and oldest

You don't need a crystal ball to see that this one is definitely going to appear on the True Top Spenders list for 2013.

On a side note: I enjoyed the amusing opening to this commercial. Great attention-getter. Blue Moon has been experimenting with the format of late (the latest Finishing Touch Diamond commercial is another example), and I approve!


Description: A kitchen slicer
Main Pitch: "Chop, cube, mince, slice and dice in just seconds"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one with 3 blades
Bonus: 2nd complete set (just pay P&H)
Starring: The ubiquitous Marc Gill
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Website: www.GetChopTastic.com
Prediction: Likely to succeed

This project has everything going for it: A great product, a great pitchman and a producer with a long track record of success in the category (I don't call them the 'undisputed champions of Food DR' for nuthin'!).

My only hesitation is the market's reaction to another kitchen slicer recently tested by this marketer: Pump 'N Chop. Granted the pitchperson and production team (especially that writer/creative director guy) weren't nearly as awesome as the heavy-hitters coming together here -- but I was surprised by just how loud the crickets seemed to be. Perhaps the timing isn't right for yet another slicer/dicer to take off? Or perhaps we just got it wrong.

If it's the latter, I think I will blame the product. In any case, the safe bet here is to predict success, so that's what I am doing.

Great Kitchen Secrets

Description: A book of kitchen tips
Main Pitch: "More than 5,000 fantastic tips" to "help you save"
Main Offer: $10 for the book
Bonus: Great Cleaning Secrets (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Chef Tony Notaro
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.GetKitchenSecrets.com
Prediction: N/A

At the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago last month, I was surprised to learn Telebrands is promoting books such as Who Knew? 10,0001 Easy Solutions to Everyday Problems.

With the exception of the Kevin Trudeau Natural Cures phenomenon, I have never known a book to sell well on DRTV, especially in short form. But Telebrands obviously has something new going on that I don't understand yet, so I am going to take a 'wait and see' position until I do understand it.

Fuel Up

Description: A gas-saving device
Main Pitch: "Increase your gas mileage by up to 10% or more"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Dual power adaptor (free), 2nd one (just pay S&P)
Marketer: SAS Group
Website: www.TryFuelUp.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

One of my least important criterion for DRTV products is credibility. It was No. 7 on my Divine Seven checklist, and didn't even make my SciMark Seven or Fabulous Five checklists. That's because DRTV buyers often seem willing to believe anything if the problem/solution or "wow factor" is strong enough. But there are limits.

In my opinion, gas-saving products always have a significant credibility problem. This particular item is especially lacking in believability. The idea that you can plug something into your cigarette lighter and have it do anything beneficial for your car is ludicrous on its face.

These products also suffer from weak economics. That is, it's hard to justify spending $40-$50 (with shipping and upsells) to save pennies at the pump.

Aunt Betty's Amazing Polish

Description: Metal polish
Main Pitch: "Brings back the shine in half the time"
Main Offer: $10 for a tube and applicator
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Kerrmercials
Website: www.AmazingPolish.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

In 2008, Telebrands tried to bring back Silver Lightning, an item that was No. 10 on the Jordan Whitney annual in 1996. The following year, Media Enterprises tried again under its Mighty brand. They called the product Mighty Shine, and the commercial featured a memorable moment where the late, great Billy Mays appears wearing a suit of armor.

Both attempts failed.

There are lots of reasons why DR projects fail, but I think in these cases it was because the market has changed. As I wrote in my Silver Lightning review: "Years ago, tarnished silverware was a much bigger problem, one that was on every housewife's mind. These days, it's much less of a concern. I don't know if that's because tarnish-free silverware has displaced real silverware, because formal events are less frequent, or both."

Marc Gill's New Ride

Check out (the ubiquitous) Marc Gill's new custom ride, featuring sponsorships from some of the industry's top marketers and producers: