September 19, 2014

SciMark Report from September Response

InvenTel's Luma Candles

My latest SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website.

For this month’s column I reviewed: Telebrands’ Clicker Mop [ss], InvenTel’s Luma Candles [ss] and another Telebrands project, Night Stars [ss].

Coming Soon

In the upcoming October issue, I'll review the following new projects:

September 11, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

  1. BBQ Nu. Starring: Beau Rials. Pitch: "Clean any grill without scrubbing instantly." Comments: A 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) Besides grill season being such a short selling season (and it being very late in that season), the Miracle Grill Mat/Yoshi Grill & Bake Mat duel will ensure this problem is solved for the consumer. Also, it's a chemical, a replenishment item and the process sounds complicated. Easy as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8! [ss]
  3. Genie Cool. Pitch: "Breathable, cooling fabric helps keep you fresh no matter what." Marketer: Tristar. Comments: An apparent 'fast fail' -- although probably a good addition to the retail line. (Link goes to spot.) [ss]
  5. Gorilla Green. Starring: Joe Fowler. Marketer: Simoniz. Producer: Opfer. Pitch: "Cleans just like the expensive stuff at a fraction of the price." Comments: Yet another 'fast fail' -- and yet more evidence this is a Siren category. (Link goes to spot.) Even the "cleaning products are mostly water" pitch has been tried a few times without success. As for the commercial, I like the way the creative team treated the 'leading brand' comparison. Nicely done. [ss]
  7. Handy Slicer. Marketer: Global TV. Pitch: "Slice fast and easy with one hand." Comments: 'Fast fail' No. 4. Good category, historically, but also becoming a tough category with many more flops than successes. [ss]
  9. Hot Peplum. Marketer: Edison Nation. Pitch: "A fabulous way to add glamorous pop to any outfit." Comments: The final 'fast fail’ of the post. I have no idea what a "peplum" is, so I'll leave it at that. Sounds like a pizza or sandwich topping to me. "I'll take that with lettuce, tomato ... and what the heck, throw on a few hot peplums, too!" [ss]
  11. Big Boss Insta Mop. Marketer: Emson. Pitch: "Cleans up the hidden dirt and dust that ordinary mops leave behind." Comments: Not sure if this is a sanctioned variation of Hurricane Spin Mop for Canada, a 'follower' item, or what. [ss]
  13. Steady Pro Ruler. Marketer: Lenfest. Producer: Opfer. Pitch: "Ruler with a handle measures, levels and provides [a] straight edge." Comments: This is pretty neat, and it looks useful (lots of solid demos), but tools are a tough category these days. [ss]
  15. Wipe New Headlight Restore. Pitch: "Crystal clear headlights in just seconds." Comments: This is Wipe New's answer to Fast Brite. Too soon to bring back a 2011-2012 hit, but it makes sense as a brand/line extension. [ss]

September 08, 2014

Where do they get those hits?

Charts of hits such as my mid-year True Top Spenders raise inevitable questions. Most are of the sour grapes variety, but one particular question is always worth pondering: Where do the top marketers get their hits?

One might assume the answer to that question is a closely guarded secret, and that every top DRTV company has at least one covert source of inside sales information. But what if the truth is that outside sources are more likely to be responsible for a top marketer’s hits these days?

For instance, if I eliminated 'follower items' (my new euphemism) from the chart , the number of hits for the True Top Marketers of recent years would look like this:

  1. IdeaVillage: 6 (down from 9)
  3. Telebrands: 5 (down from 8)
  5. Allstar: 3 (no reduction)

IdeaVillage stills gets the top spot, and Telebrands is still just one campaign behind, but Allstar's placement no longer looks so distant. IdeaVillage loses three because of Copper Fit (Tommie Copper was first), HD Vision Visor (Easy View was first) and Yoshi Grill & Bake Mat (Miracle Grill Mat was first). Telebrands also loses three because of Amish Secret (Dutch Glow was first), Grassology (Cutting Edge was first) and Trusty Cane (HurryCane was first). Allstar doesn't play this particular game, so they don't lose any.

To make this even more interesting, let's also eliminate campaigns that have appeared on previous charts so that we are only evaluating 2014 rollouts. Now the list looks like this:

  1. IdeaVillage: 4 (down by 2)
  3. Telebrands: 4 (down by one)
  5. Allstar: 3 (still no reduction)

IdeaVillage loses MicroTouch Max and HD Vision Wraparounds, and Telebrands loses Pocket Hose Ultra. That last one isn't perfectly fair since a 'pro' product is technically 'new,' but it serves my purposes here. In any case, now IdeaVillage and Telebrands tie for first, and Allstar is a strong second.

Now a final question: How many of the remaining 11 hits are from 'inside'? In other words, if we eliminate every (new) campaign from my True Top Spenders that wasn't discovered by the listed marketer, how good do the top dogs look?

I ask because it is common to assume the companies that top a chart have exhibited a talent for identifying hits. But as I will now demonstrate, that isn't necessarily true. Indeed, the greatest talent for picking winners may reside outside of the big companies these days -- a fascinating trend.

Here's the list again, this time minus the ones I know came from outside:

  1. IdeaVillage: 2 (down by another 2)
  3. Telebrands: ?
  5. Allstar: 1 (down by 2)

I don't know enough about Telebrands' four campaigns to make this a complete list, but I do know enough about the other seven campaigns to make my point. IdeaVillage loses MicroTouch One, which came from 221 Direct, and Stufz, which came from Zoom TV. Allstar loses Perfect Bacon Bowl, which came from Edison Nation, and Secret Extensions.

I can go on. Emson's campaigns are a mystery to me, but I know Hampton has one old campaign on the list (Chillow) and one from Lenfest (My Spy Birdhouse), which would net them out at one. Even the guys with two on the chart aren't safe: Both Phil Swift and Norman Direct lose one if old items are excluded (Flex Seal and Mr. Lid, respectively). And Mr. Swift would have nothing left if I were as strict with Flex Shot as I was with Pocket Hose Ultra: That brand is well beyond 'pro.'

In the end, it seems the brilliance needed to pick winners is pretty evenly distributed in our industry with no significant difference between a large, veteran firm and a small, emerging one. So in the end, IdeaVillage ties with Infomercials Inc., each with two good picks apiece ... and everyone else is a close second with one.

September 07, 2014

The True Top Spenders of 2014 (Mid-Year)

(Click to see the full list)

The peer-review period is over. Here are the True Top Spenders for the first six months of 2014.

A handful of producers didn't claim their work, and their clients weren't forthcoming, so the chart still has a few holes. So be it. For the rest, it's time to give credit where credit is due. It's time to reveal the smart, hard-working folks who produced the most hits so far this year. Without further ado ...

True Top Marketer: IdeaVillage Products Corp!

IdeaVillage takes the No. 1 spot with a whopping NINE campaigns on the list. I welcome them back to the top of this chart: It has been a while: The last time they hit No.1 was 2010. This is also a big leap forward from 2013 when IdeaVillage had 'only' four rollouts on the list and didn't even place. Congratulations to the IV team.

Close behind IdeaVillage is last year's True Top Marketer, Telebrands, with an impressive EIGHT campaigns on the chart. Telebrands has consistently ranked at or near the top of this chart since I started putting it out. That in itself is quite an achievement.

Everyone else trails by a significant gap with two or three hits apiece. However, a few deserve honorable mentions. Congratulations to Norman Direct for joining 'The True Spenders Club' with a respectable two rollouts (Easy View & Mr. Lid) and to Infomercials Inc, the only combination marketer/producer on the list, also with two rollouts (Miracle Grill Mat & Speed Out).

Speaking of producers, here's your other big winner ...

True Top Producer: Hutton-Miller!

Hutton-Miller climbs back into first place with five campaigns on the list. This is their second time taking the top spot, the last time being 2011. I suspect their placement has suffered in recent years because of my focus on 120-second campaigns. The H-M powerhouse is perhaps best known for an unbroken string of successes in the toy category, and those campaigns tend to run 60s. In any case, congratulations to Peter, John and the rest of their talented creative team.

As for the runners' up: Concepts TV, last year's True Top Producer, just missed the top spot again with four campaigns. Meanwhile, Blue Moon and Cole Media tied for third, and both Kerrmercials and Morgan James deserve honorable mentions with a laudable two rollouts each.

As for me, no one should be lauding my track record! Sure, I called three correctly (MicroTouch Switch Blade, Grassology & Chop Magic), but that mild achievement quickly fades next to the 10 I got wrong. I did sit the fence on an additional five, which is pretty positive for me, but no excuses -- I guessed incorrectly far too many times.

Of the ones I underestimated, two of them helped me discover a new category. Combined with Gyro Bowl (a 2011 True Top Spender), Snackeez and Wow Cup complete the three I require to establish 'toddlerware' as a valid DR category. I don't mind being wrong when it's educational!

As for which campaign shocked me the most, that would have to be MicroTouch One. Who could have guessed that a single-blade razor my grandpa used could compete with the 5-blade vibrating wonders of today? Some very smart people, it seems. Regarding one of them: Years ago, I did a panel with Fred Vanore of Blue Moon Studios called "Turning Losers Into Winners." Well, this year Fred once again proved he's an expert on this subject by taking a losing concept that had already failed once on TV (Akira) and turning it into a major winner. Kudos to him and the other marketing geniuses behind this surprise hit!

September 05, 2014

Air Writer

Description: A 3D pen
Main Pitch: "Like a 3D printer in the palm of your hand"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Kerrmercials
Prediction: Likely to succeed (but)

It's not uncommon for Telebrands to test two, three or more versions of a commercial for an item they decide has potential. I've noted everything from name changes (e.g. Ankle Genie) to whole new creatives by different producers (e.g. Trusty Cane). I got the prediction for Ped Egg wrong largely because I watched an early creative that did not mention a key feature of the product -- or so I tell myself.

I bring this up because the only reason I think this project is likely to succeed is because the product has so much potential: The commercial will need to be completely redone. I'm not sure what went wrong (quite possibly product performance was an issue), but the demos and ideas shown are either lame (the cube), repetitive (the cube and the flower) or way beyond the capability of the average person (copying a photo). That's a shame because this product is awesome and easily has as much potential as Bendaroos or other 'kid craft' items that have been successful.

Speaking of which ... Where are all the kids?

[Note: At press time, the link to this site was working -- and then it stopped working. I'm not sure if that's a technical glitch or if this one crossed over into 'fast fail' territory as I was writing about it! If the site's down when you click, you can read about similar pens and watch a demo of one in this Daily Mail article.]

Pedi Paws Pro

Description: A nail trimming tool for pets
Main Pitch: "It's back and better than ever"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: On the fence

IdeaVillage has taught us that periodically launching 'new and improved' versions of hit products is a smart strategy for stretching success into years and even decades. The Touch line of hair removers that was launched in 2003 is still going strong at the end of 2014. The HD Vision line has demonstrated almost as much longevity. That said, there is a certain timing to the strategy that wasn't followed in this case, which makes this more of an attempt to mine 'Old Gold.'

The original Pedi Paws peaked at No. 28 on the 2008 Jordan Whitney Annual. Peticure (the original product) was No. 15 the same year and No. 9 on the IMS chart. So can an 'Old Gold' attempt work just five years later? I have scant evidence to support that conclusion. Indeed, I have seen more evidence to support the '7-10 years' rule of thumb.

That said, I always liked this product, and I think this is a meaningful upgrade to its design. If this were 2010, I would be off the fence and predicting a long-term hit.

Ped Egg Power

Description: A power pedicure tool
Main Pitch: "Easily buffs away callouses, dead skin or dry and rough skin"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Heel Tastic (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This product has too little in common with its predecessor to raise the concerns I have with Pedi Paws Pro -- and that isn't a good thing. The original Ped Egg was a monster hit. Surprisingly, it only hit No. 59 on the 2007 Jordan Whitney Annual. But at retail its sales volume was unparalleled. It is said to have even sold better than Snickers bars at one point in time. As for the final tally, the Web site for this product places it at 40 million sold, which makes it one of the best-selling DRTV products of all time.

This new product is similar to that 'Old Platinum' hit in name only. Besides the obvious lack of an egg shape or 'cheese grater' type file, it doesn't even catch the dead skin, which was a key point of difference separating Ped Egg from all other foot files. In fact, this product is actually much closer in appearance and function to Emjoi's Micro-Pedi, which tested and flopped in 2012 at $30 (see No. 5 in this Weekly Round-Up). It's possible the same idea at a DR price could make this time the charm, but too many other foot-buffing products have failed for that to be likely.

As for a 'new and improved' strategy for Ped Egg, someone did figure it out and the item was a (modest) success. The timing was also perfect as it came out right as the original was starting to wind down. The problem, and what ultimately limited its success: It wasn't done by Telebrands, and it didn't have the Ped Egg name.

Can you name the product and the marketer? First one to do so in the comments section gets bragging rights!

Stick Shade

Description: A sun shade for a car
Main Pitch: "Keeps the heat out of your car to keep you comfortable"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: Night Angel driving glasses (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Akos Jankura
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Although this item is seasonal, and therefore limited from the start, it tested during the best month of the year to get a good response. Also, Allstar had a solid success with Auto Cool back in the summer of 2006 (No. 39 on the Jordan Whitney annual for that year), so it's definitely possible to make a campaign like this one work.

That said, I doubt this product will catch on because sun shades of all varieties are ubiquitous in the marketplace. Walk through any parking lot on a hot day, and you'll see many of the popular ones. This one certainly has some unique features (I especially like the one-way mirror effect), but it's ultimately a 'better than' product and those never seem to make it on DRTV.

Beverly Hills Twist

Description: A hair styling accessory
Main Pitch: "Get fabulous looking hairstyles instantly with just a quick twist"
Main Offer: $10 for 1 Twist, 1 Hair Bump
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Monte-Brooks
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

IdeaVillage tried a product similar to this one under the name Twist 'N Style in 2009 (see No. 4 in this Weekly Round-Up). I don't think the 'Beverly Hills' positioning will make a difference.

More to the point, hair is still a 1 in 50 category -- the success of Allstar's "Hot" line notwithstanding -- and I don't see anything special to suggest this one will be the next one to break through.

Steam Dome

Description: A microwave dome
Main Pitch: "Infuses moisture into food, so leftovers taste moist and fresh"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

IdeaVillage recently tried a similar product called Magic Steam Wave, and that doesn't seem to have gone anywhere.

Allstar has also tried this main pitch before without success (see Lovin' Leftovers), and their Shogun Steamer is a much better (and more useful) product for steaming in the microwave. If anything is going to take off, it will be that project.

Ready To Roll

Description: A bag that rolls up
Main Pitch: "The best bag you'll ever use"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Sticky Buddy (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Anthony Sullivan
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I hate to ruffle any feathers (who me?), but this is just a terrible idea for a commercial. Sully is a veteran pitchman and his success in certain categories cannot be disputed. Just turn on the TV and you're bound to see his face eventually. But Sully for a ladies' makeup bag? With a masculine name/tag-line like "ready to roll"? Pitched on an empty white set like a cleaning product? I don't get it.

Of course, even if this item were presented well, I wouldn't like it. Makeup bags are a commodity item. Travel items never work on DRTV because the average American just doesn't travel that often. Prescription organizer, sewing and craft bag -- the uses just get worse and worse.

If I didn't know and respect the players involved (here's hoping there's some crazy sales data behind this one), I would have given this my worst possible rating.

Green Gobbler

Description: A drain cleaner
Main Pitch: "The safe, simple and totally green solution for blocked up pipes"
Main Offer: $10 for 3 packs
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Anthony Sullivan
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is a solid commercial with an awesome magic demo. Unlike Ready To Roll, it makes perfect sense to have Sully pitch this -- and he pitches it well. However, I don't see much of significance to differentiate this product from Tristar's Go Green, which was an apparent 'fast fail' a month ago.

Either this is an oversight, a delayed duel ... or Telebrands knows something Tristar doesn't.