November 26, 2013

Hot Bob

Description: A hair accessory
Main Pitch: "Turns long locks into a beautiful faux bob without scissors"
Main Offer: $10 for one set (2 flexibands, 2 ponytailers)
Bonus: 2nd set (just pay P&H), style guide & storage case (free)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Monte-Brooks
Prediction: On the fence

For what it's worth: I like this item. Not because I have any sort of "finger on the pulse" of what's in style (far from it), but because it allows women to experiment with a look that is usually permanent, temporarily. That's different and, if DR criteria apply at all to this category, different should be good.

That said, I have to wonder how viable this category really is. Looking at the track record, I still must conclude that hair is a 1 in 50 category. Just because Allstar found two hits close together (Hot Buns, Hot Huez) doesn't mean the industry won't have to go through 98 more items to find the next hit.

Skinny Steps

Description: A weight-loss system
Main Pitch: "Retrains your body to be skinny again by simply walking"
Main Offer: $10 for the 'Secret Success Formula,' 'Slim Eating Secrets,' Quick Start Chart and Talking Pedometer
Bonus: Skinny Belt (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I continue to give Telebrands credit for trying different things. If anyone has the funding and capacity to go outside of the box once in a while, it's this company, so it makes sense for them to take a few flyers every year. It's how exceptions to the rules are discovered and, in that sense, those who are paying attention are getting free "market research" on Telebrands' dime.

So what is Telebrands' research team up to here? One, they are trying to disprove the popular theory that fitness programs can't work on short-form DRTV. Two, they are testing my hypothesis that "kitchen sink" offers cause so much confusion that they kill the sale (whether they realize that or not).

As for that offer, it's a basket of failed (pedometer) or recycled (belt) DRTV items with a few ideas borrowed from the book business Telebrands is trying to build (see my review of Dump Cakes).

Incidentally, that last sentence explaining the offer was difficult for me to write in a way that was clear, which does not bode well for this project.

Go Belt

Description: A storage belt for small personal items
Main Pitch: "Hands-free security that stays in place, right around your waist"
Main Offer: $10 for one with Go Wallet
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay S&H)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This item reminds me of the SPIbelt that was tested years ago and never heard from again (but apparently does fine online and in certain sporting goods chains). I think my comments back then are still relevant and apply here:

[T]his item gets a checkmark in every category except 'problem solver.' That’s because it only solves a pressing problem for runners. But here’s the Catch 22: If you were to narrow the pitch to hit that target demographic, you wouldn’t be talking to the mass market or the older DRTV buyer any longer.

The commercial does make a noble effort to expand the uses for the item beyond outdoor fitness, but I just don't think any of those uses are particularly motivating. Moreover, the fanny pack crowd -- insomuch as they still exist -- won't believe this is roomy enough to replace their old standby.

November 21, 2013

Nite Brites

Description: Light-up slippers
Main Pitch: "Soft, cozy, warm slippers that light up with each step you take"
Main Offer: $29.95 for a pair
Bonus: Free shipping
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: As Seen on Productions
Prediction: Likely to succeed

This is a cross between Stompeez and Glow Pets. Seems like a winner to me.

As long as the public and retailers continue to have an appetite for these items, I see no reason why Ontel can't keep going, year after year. They seem to have an endless supply of good ideas. The only real threat to the business is fratricide.

Best Pot Pie

Description: A pot pie maker
Main Pitch: "Enjoy homemade pot pies as good as grandma's -- and it's faster than frozen"
Main Offer: $10 for a 2-pie tray, 2 crust cutters, recipe guide
Bonus: 2nd tray, Lift & Serve Spatula (just pay processing)
Starring: Chef Tony Notaro
Marketer: SAS Group
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I have two criteria for success in this category: Either the cookware must solve a problem (e.g. Orgreenic, Perfect Meatloaf), or the food it makes must be something you can't easily find at the store (Perfect Tortilla). I have observed that items that don't meet these criteria fail.

For example, every attempt at selling a pizza maker on TV (e.g. My Perfect Pizza, Pizzalicious, Perfect Pizza) has failed because pizza is so easy to order or pick up from the frozen food section. Pot pies are easy to find in that same section -- the commercial acknowledges as much with the line "faster than frozen" -- and are not nearly as popular as pizza.

Weekly Roundup

  1. Lobe Magic. Starring: Taylor Baldwin. Pitch: "The instant solution for heavy earrings and damaged lobes." Comments: This is an old Telebrands' item originally called Ear Lifts (No. 49 on the JW Annual in 2007). I might have made this an "Old Gold" feature, but I don't recall it doing very well back then (more like "Old Silver"), and I don't see it going very far now. Solid creative, though. Taylor always does a great job. [ss]
  3. Convectop. Pitch: "Transforms your stovetop into a gourmet-style convection oven cooker." Comments: Amateur hour. The giveaways: Forced rhymes, "revolution," "space age," "be one of the first 500 callers" and a price double the limit for DRTV. [ss]
  5. Cordini. Pitch: "Cord keeper makes unsightly cords disappear." Comments: Installation, shock danger and a problem that is low on the problem scale. Prediction: Bomb. [ss]
  7. Curl Secret. Marketer: Conair. Pitch: "Hair goes in, curls come out." Comments: Hair curling devices appear to be trending, but this one's a lot more expensive than Telebrands' Curlicue (3 pay of $49.99). [ss]
  9. Scrub N Slide. Pitch: "It's never been easier to have soft, smooth and irresistibly touchable skin." Comments: An over-engineered solution in search of a problem. [ss]
  11. Show No Socks. Pitch: "The socks that don't show." Comments: Trying to convince people "peds don't work" is a tall order and makes this a classic 'better than' product. [ss]
  13. Style Bright. Marketer: IdeaVillage. Pitch: The hair lights that "flash and glow wherever you go." Comments: A 'fast fail.' [ss]
  15. Temptooth. Pitch: "Missing a tooth? Replace it yourself." Comments: Truly bizarre! [ss]

November 20, 2013

Dueling Veggie Pasta Makers

Skinny Gourmet

Description: A veggie pasta maker
Main Pitch: "Twists fresh vegetables into healthy pasta dishes"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one with fitted cheese grater, recipe book
Bonus: Pop & Peeler (just pay S&H)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed


Main Pitch: "Make mouth-watering zucchini and squash pasta in seconds"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one with recipe book (updated price)
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H), Super Slicer (free)
Marketer: Ontel
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I already shared my thoughts about this product in the November issue of Response magazine, so I won't have much to add here. I have no comment on the two brothers dueling as this has become fairly common: We had Dueling Plush Lights earlier this year, Dueling Pillows last year and dueling ceramic pans the year before that.

I will say that IdeaVillage is a little late to this party -- although I do like their commercial a bit better. I am not sure who would win a battle at retail between these two, if it came to that, but I think the point is moot given that neither is likely to roll out.

I should also add one positive note about the product that didn't occur to me earlier: This vegetable pasta is said to be "gluten free," and I know that has become a popular dietary requirement. I don't think it's enough to make this one a winner, but it could help the CPO a bit.

SciMark Report from November Response

Ontel's Veggetti

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

The items covered include: Ontel's Veggetti [ss], Telebrands' Dump Cakes [ss] and Edison Nation's Magic Bristle Gloves [ss].

Coming Soon

And here's a sneak peek at what I'll be covering in the final issue of the year:

Check out the December issue of Response to see what I have to say about these new projects.

November 13, 2013

Weekly Round-Up

Watch the Sammich Shapers commercial

  1. Sammich Shapers. Pitch: "Turn ordinary sandwiches into extraordinary lunchtime treats." Comments: Written by yours truly. [ss]
  3. Genie Sport. Marketer: Tristar. Pitch: "Amazing shape, lift and support." Comments: Another addition to the line. [ss]
  5. Jidue. Starring: Forbes Riley. Pitch: "Combines the ancient principles of acupuncture and massage to help you ... fall asleep fast, sleep soundly and wake up refreshed." Comments: I just don't ("jidon't"?) see anyone but hard-core insomniacs trying this, let alone paying a hefty $120 to keep it. Also, the acupuncture pitch and odd wording in places make me suspect this one was taken directly from an Asian infomercial. [ss]
  7. Miracle Grill Mat. Pitch: "Turns just about any grill into a non-stick, easy to clean surface." Comments: I'm trying to figure out if this is the same item as the Magic Grill Mat I reviewed in September. This creative and pitch are a lot better, but we are way outside of grill season! [ss]
  9. Perfect Pie Cutter. Pitch: "Angled blades cut your pie into perfect slices." Comments: This would have been a good companion for Marc Gill's Perfect Server (HT: AF). Of course, even the two combined wouldn't have half a shot. This is a seasonal catalog item -- at best. [ss]

November 12, 2013

New Column: Ask the Expert

I've been asked to write a new column for the folks over at titled, "Ask the Expert." Each post will answer a DRTV question in an advice-column style.

My inaugural column addresses a question I was recently asked by an agency account rep: "How do you know a product test has a shot at being successful?"

Click here to read my answer.

November 11, 2013

Pop Top

Description: A jar opener
Main Pitch: "Lets you pop loose any lid with just a touch"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Opening jars can certainly be a problem from time to time, but how big of a problem is it? I ask because the few attempts to solve it with a DRTV product have been met with a yawn from prospective buyers.

For example, not even the huge success of the One Touch Can Opener could keep the One Touch Jar Opener from a quick death. And Black & Decker's expensive contraption for serious sufferers of this problem (Lids Off) would be lost to memory if it weren't for archives like this one.

Still, category history alone wouldn't be enough to kill this one for me if it weren't for the additional credibility challenge. Don't get me wrong: The commercial does a great job of making it look like, as the talented writers at TSG put it, "if you can press a doorbell, you can use" this product to easily punch a hole in a metal lid. I just don't think America will buy it -- literally.

Tak Wrap

Description: A silicone wrap for tools
Main Pitch: "Gives you a cushioned, pain-free grip that will never slip"
Main Offer: $10.99 for three rolls
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Starring: Marc Gill
Marketer: For Life Products
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Marc Gill makes any product seem super awesome. Hutton-Miller comes up with better demos than anyone else in the industry. But even these marketing masters cannot make America buy a product it doesn't really need ... and that's why I gotta go with a "no go" on this one. I just don't think any of the uses for this product are particularly compelling.

Of course, I was (in)famously wrong about Mighty Putty, and I could be repeating history here. Indeed, the two creatives are similar in that they follow a 'sum is greater than the parts' strategy. In Mighty Putty, no one demo was strong enough to sell the product on its own -- and some were downright silly (e.g. putting a new handle on a mug) -- but there were so many different demos in the spot there was something for everyone. And the rest of the demos combined to create an overwhelming impression that the product was critical to have around.

I can't see the same thing happening here ... But I do love that jackhammer demo!

Pet Command

Description: A dog training device
Main Pitch: "Stops bad behaviors instantly, helps teach your dog new tricks and even finds your pet at night"
Main Offer: $10 for one with training guide
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Emson
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

In a 2010 duel, Emson and Telebrands both marketed the predecessor to this product, a sonic dog trainer. Emson called theirs PetZoom Sonic Pet Trainer and Telebrands called theirs Bark Off.

This product is trying to be the 'new and improved' version of that not-so-old gold, but I think it comes across as more of the Victorinox version -- my way of saying it's a Swiss Army product.

Is it a sonic trainer? Is it a clicker? Is it a flashlight? The answer is yes, that's confusing, and confusion is a sales killer.

November 07, 2013

Smart Chopper: Old Gold?

New Name: Fresh Mex Express
Current Marketer: Ontel
Original Hit Year: 1999 (No. 39 on the JW Annual)
Original Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: On the fence

(Editor's Note: This post has been updated with the correct historical information.)

Jon Nokes, Bill McAlister, Anthony Sullivan and Telebrands joined forces to make this product a hit in 1999 under the name Smart Chopper (here's a picture). Several versions of it have been tried since then without success. In fact, this is Ontel's third attempt to resurrect the idea.

The first two attempts were the Kitchen King Pro in 2008 and the Triple Chopper in 2009. Both were also done by Anthony Sullivan. National Express tried with the Vidalia Chop It -- starring the late, great Billy Mays -- as well.

So why am I on the fence? Because I really like the marketing ideas on display in this commercial. Salsa is too narrow and too common in the modern era. A manual food processor like Kitchen King Pro is too broad. This one finds the perfect middle ground and stars the ultra-likable David Jones. I think that could be a winning combination.

Pocket Mechanic

Description: A personal diagnostic computer
Main Pitch: "Like having the best car technician right by your side everywhere you go"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Free 24-hour protection hotline, free access to Website
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: N/A

This is one of those products that can be made to sound great in a DRTV commercial but has no chance of actually delivering on the promises made. I imagine real diagnostic computers are expensive because they have to work well on all makes and models. A $20 version is unlikely to hit that bar.

I'm also going to guess that diagnostic computers aren't used by the general public because they are technical products that aren't easy for your average Joe or Jane to figure out. There's a reason we don't bother to market anything even remotely technical in DR: It's hard enough to avoid customer service issues with even simple products. No way this one doesn't become a total nightmare.

Hot Designs

Description: Nail-decorating pens
Main Pitch: "The easy-to-use professional nail art kit"
Main Offer: $14.95 for three pens
Bonus: Three more, carrying case, design guide
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: On the fence

Nails are hot and Allstar's "hot" line is hot (Hot Buns, Hot Huez), so there's a good chance this one will do well.

That's if the second time is the charm: Telebrands tried this concept back in February of 2012 under the name Nail Doodle, and the project did not roll out.

UPDATE: I am informed that SAS Group rolled out with this item in 2004 under the name Nail Dazzle [ss]. The commercial was produced by the old Broadcast Arts (Derek Schwartz & John Miller). It made the Jordan Whitney Annual that year, coming in at No. 67.

I guess we'll find out if the third time's the charm when the first time was "old gold."

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Orgreenic Everyday Pan. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Cook, mix and serve all in one family-size pan." Comments: Posting for posterity only as this one's a line extension selling for $39.99. [ss]
  3. Bling Dots. Pitch: "Makes wearing earrings more comfortable, more secure and more beautiful." Comments: Seems like a good bonus, but not a stand-alone item. [ss]
  5. Bling Wraps. Pitch: "Secures your rings in place so stones sit right on top and make jewelry look its very best." Comments: Another good bonus item. I'm not even sure the two items together would make a strong enough offer for DRTV. It's a shame, too, because this marketer clearly invested a lot of money in quality production work. [ss]
  7. Corner Colander. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "Raises the colander from the bottom of your sink to the corner of your counter, leaving those icky germs behind." Comments: A 'fast fail.' (Spot is here.) [ss]
  9. Gleener. Marketer: Northern Response. Pitch: "The ultimate fuzz and lint remover." Comments: Ontel's Lint Wizard Pro stored lint and fur in an internal reservoir. Vince Offer's Schticky (and Telebrands' Sticky Buddy) were washable and reusable hundreds of times. This item seems to be different from a normal lint remover in design only. Actually, its main demo seems to be removing sweater fuzz, which Ontel rightfully viewed as a more of a bonus-item idea (see Fuzz Wizard). (Spot is here.) [ss]