May 27, 2015

SciMark Report from May Response

Tristar's Genie Hour Glass

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

This month I wrote about an IdeaVillage/Tristar duel involving waist-training belts (Miss Belt vs. Genie Hour Glass), Telebrands' Grass Shot and Spark Innovator's Clever Key.

Coming Soon

In the upcoming June issue, I'll be reviewing yet another duel: Emson's Roto Chop vs. Telebrands' Zip Chopper. I'll also share my thoughts on IdeaVillage's The One Cafe.

Spring Cleaning 2015

Now that Memorial Day has passed, it's time for me to get busy cleaning out my closet before spring is over. Fair warning: It has been two years since my last spring cleaning, so some of these items are going to be pretty dusty!

Now, let's see what I have in here ...

  • ComfiZip Bra (July 2013). Pitch: "Lift and support without the discomfort of underwire." Comments: This project was later flipped to Tristar and became Genie Zip. [ss]
  • Digi-Tech (July 2013). Pitch: "Easily convert and share high-quality video." Comments: This was a second attempt at getting 2010's Convert-A-Classic off the ground. [ss]
  • Engrave-It (June 2013). Pitch: "Easily etches metal, wood, glass, plastic and more." Comments: So dusty, there is now an Engrave-It Pro on the charts! [ss]
  • Juggle Bubbles (Dec 2013). Pitch: "Amazing bubbles you can catch, pass and juggle." Comments: This one went on to become an Allstar/Lenfest True Top Spender of 2014. [ss]
  • Kangaroo Keeper Brite (July 2013). Pitch: "Transforms the most cluttered bag into a super-organized bag instantly ... [and] now it lights up." Comments: The original Kangaroo Keeper, a 2010 hit, surprised me. While very similar to IdeaVillage's Purse Brite, a 2005 hit, it sold much better. The one difference was it didn't have a light. This project was an attempt to see if correcting that could relaunch the product. [ss]
  • Kitty Cushion (Sept 2013). Pitch: "Self-heating cat lounge pad." Comments: This one came out about the same time as my Perfect Pet Mat. [ss]
  • Mattress Wedge (Sep 2013). Pitch: "Closes the gap between the headboard or wall and any size bed." Comments: Another project that went on to become a True Top Spender of 2014. [ss]
  • One Second Slicer (July 2014). Pitch: "The all-in-one food preparation station." Comments: This one could have been an "Old Gold?" feature. The original was the Vidalia Chop Wizard (No. 22 on the 2006 and No. 29 on the 2007 JW Annuals). [ss]
  • Power Tweeze (July 2013). Pitch: "Precise and powerful grip grabs hairs the first time, every time." Comments: Tough category. The only tweezers to roll out in DRTV history were IdeaVillage's Luma Tweeze in 2006. [ss]
  • Snap Up Shelf (March 2014). Pitch: "Turns any (shower) corner into a shelf in a snap." Comments: This one combined two Old Gold products in an attempt to create a new hit. One was Telebrands' Shelf Master (1999), the other Ontel's Snap Hook (2000-2001). [ss]
  • TelePurse (Sept 2013). Pitch: "Convenient, fashionable way to hold your essentials." Comments: This test came several years after the Buxton Cell Phone Wallet (2009) and just a few months before Touch Purse (2014). Of the three, the latter was the most successful -- but none of these cell-phone wallets has done particularly well at retail. [ss]
  • Wig Wag Giggle Ball (May 2014). Pitch: "Interactive toy keeps dogs happy all day as they play." Comments: After a slight renaming to Wobble Wag Giggle Ball, this became another Allstar/Lenfest rollout (currently on the charts). [ss]

May 21, 2015

Dueling Sprinklers

Point Perfect

Main Pitch: "The fully adjustable, flexible sprinkler"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Lenfest
Watch the spot

Spyder Sprinkler

Main Pitch: "The flexible sprinkler that conserves water"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Eagle Eye
Watch the spot

After revisiting the history of sprinklers for my review of Sprinkler 360 (one flop per marketer per year) I quipped, "I guess it's Emson's turn?" Who knew it was going to be a party this year?

All joking aside, while the look of these products is unique, the pitch isn't much different from the Emson product. Regardless, it's unlikely that any of these will defy the history of the category.

Knee Angel

Description: A compression knee sleeve
Main Pitch: "Seven different zones for soothing relief"
Main Offer: $12.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H), Rolling Knee Massager (free)
Marketer: Ontel
Watch the spot

As I wrote in my review of Telebrands' Zip Knee, this is a terrible time to attempt a non-copper knee brace (or a copper knee brace).

Naming side note: Zip Knee was an attempt to extend the Telebrands' hit Ankle Genie, which was originally called "Ankle Angel." Not sure why Zip Knee wasn't called "Knee Genie," but this product's name would have been the right choice if Telebrands had kept its original name.

S7 Analysis: Once again, the glaring lack of a check mark for the uncrowded criterion overshadows any other pros or cons.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Curl-A-Dog. Pitch: "Make the most incredible-tasting hot dogs you ever had." Comments: My guess is that this one will go the way of Boardwalk Tater Tornado and Happy Hot Dog Man. As I've theorized before, novelty food items don’t work unless someone else has already done the hard work of popularizing the idea. I've never heard of curled hot dogs, but maybe I'm out of touch? [ss]
  3. Attach-a-Vac. Marketer: Lenfest. Pitch: "Cordless, compact power vac that fits on any broom handle." Comments: This is a unique product but also an odd one. My guess is the broom and Dustbuster in most homes are 'good enough' solutions, and that the line dustpans leave behind is much closer to an itch than a heart attack. [ss]
  5. Cobra Max. Marketer: National Express. Pitch: "Trim your lawn quicker and easier than you've ever done before." Comments: It seems that one of these is attempted every year about this time. Several have been successful, so I guess it's not a bad idea if you can handle a seasonal seller. This one doesn't strike me as particularly exciting, but there must be a chronic frustration with edgers that is fueling all of these attempts. [ss]
  7. Diamond White. Pitch: "Get dazzling white teeth with polished natural diamonds." Comments: This one enters the epitome of a crowded category with a low-credibility pitch. Looking at recent history, Telebrands' White Light (2005-2006) was totally unique, and IdeaVillage's Finishing Touch Smile (2012) was mostly a retail play. Otherwise, there is nothing to suggest a whitening toothpaste would make a good DR product. [ss]
  9. Dr. Milano's Washable Potty Pads. Producer: Dynamic TV. Pitch: "Keep your pet from having untimely accidents." Comments: This is too soon after Telebrands' Bullseye Pee Pads, a 2014 True Top Spender, to have a shot. In fact, it appears that not even Telebrands can launch a similar product for this reason. [ss]
  11. Finally Me. Pitch: The "fast, discreet and modern way to deal with an old-fashioned problem (incontinence)." Comments: Reusable adult diapers? Gross! And what an odd choice for DRTV. [ss]
  13. Hot Straws. Pitch: "The only straw for hot drinks." Comments: I tried to think of one criterion this product meets besides "unique" and came up empty. Speaking of white teeth, the "keep teeth white" pitch is interesting. But seriously: How vain do you have to be to use a straw with your coffee to prevent tooth discoloration? [ss]
  15. Pinion Pins. Pitch: "Hold comforters and duvets in place." Comments: A solution in search of a problem -- with a perceived-value problem to boot. $19.99 for 8 pins? [ss]
  17. Twist-A-Plug. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "Easily accommodates a variety of plugs and adapters." Comments: An apparent 'fast fail.' NB: This marketer has one of the only successes in this category -- Side Socket, a 2013 True Top Spender. [ss]

May 19, 2015

Pedi Peel Magic

Description: Exfoliating boots
Main Pitch: "Magically removes calluses, corns and cracked, dry skin right before your eyes"
Main Offer: $10 for a pair
Bonus: 2nd pair (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

This concept has been tried at least once before (see 30 Minute Foot Repair). I never liked the perceived value because it always looks like a pair of plastic bags. More to the point, the timing is off for a foot product given the ASOTV section of every store is dominated by power pedicure devices right now. There's only room for one -- even if the one is a crazy duel.

S7 Analysis: As indicated above, the problems here will be with the needed and uncrowded criteria. The latter (too much on the shelf at retail) will impact the former.

Secret Cover

Description: Snap-in hair
Main Pitch: "Naturally beautiful hair to cover what isn't there"
Main Offer: 2 pay of $24.99
Bonus: None
Starring: Tabatha Coffey
Marketer: On Demand
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Watch the spot

By my count, this is the fifth attempt to extend the partial-word brand launched with Secret Extensions, a 2014 True Top Spender. The others are Secret Color (in rollout), Secret Cinch and Secret Twist. In this way, On Demand is attempting to do with "secret" what partner Allstar did with "hot" -- albeit with less category discipline. When it comes to hair, these two may have the category figured out. Time will tell.

S7 Analysis: What I like most about this product idea is that it's different in a way that makes a lot of sense. Women use hair extensions to make their hair look longer and fuller. Why not use a variation of the same idea to conceal thinning hair? On the other hand, products targeted toward this segment of a segment have struggled to find the same sort of success enjoyed by products for men with hair loss. It may be that even a smart idea like this can't find enough pockets of response to build a campaign.

Coping with Missed DRTV Opportunities

My latest piece for the ERA blog is now live. This month, I take on the role of psychiatrist and share how I've learned to cope with missed opportunities. Pull up a couch, and click here to read it now.

May 07, 2015

Sprinkler 360

Description: A sprinkler
Main Pitch: "360-degree range of motion and custom spray patterns that water on target every time"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: EZ Timer (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Emson
Watch the spot

I've tracked one failed sprinkler per year since 2012. The others were: Tristar's Rainbow Mist (2014), Telebrands' Triple Play Sprinkler (2013) and Ontel's Smart Sprinkler (2012). I guess it's Emson's turn?

Incidentally, the Ontel item from 2012 looks quite similar to this item, bonus and all.

S7 Analysis: It's safe to say that DRTV history is showing us this type of product isn't needed. The category is also crowded in the sense there are plenty of 'good enough' sprinkler solutions on the shelf.

Red Shift XT

Description: Sunglasses
Main Pitch: "Tame the haze and glare, so you can clearly see what's there"
Main Offer: $10 for one pair
Bonus: 2nd pair (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Top Dog
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Watch the spot

Sunglasses have a long history of direct-response success, going back to Joe Sugarman's BluBlockers and Telebrands' Ambervision sunglasses, which celebrated 25 years in 2013. IdeaVillage brought the concept back in 2002 and again in 2008, launching a line (HD Vision) that continues selling to this day.

All of the successful sunglasses to date have had yellow (blue-blocking) lenses -- including Top Dog's Night View glasses (a 2014 True Top Spender). IdeaVillage tried to get away from yellow with HD Vision Cristal sunglasses (rose-colored lenses) and HD Vision Computer Eyes (purple lenses), but both were flops. Now comes these red-lens sunglasses. We'll see if that color can buck the trend.

I should also mention the frames: They strike me as more guy-oriented whereas past hits have favored unisex frames for the most part. That may also be a factor here. Speaking of which ...

S7 Analysis: I wonder toward whom this product is targeted? The preponderance of military people and guns in the commercial create the impression that these are primarily shooting glasses (which, incidentally, tend to have light-yellow lenses). However, that focus significantly narrows the market.

Viewer Helper

Description: A free-standing magnifier
Main Pitch: "Guaranteed to enlarge any object up to three times"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: Mini wallet magnifier
Marketer: Hampton
Producer: Concepts
Watch the spot

This is essentially Spark Innovator's Page Brite (a 2010 True Top Spender) with a stand. The bonus is also a previous hit: Telebrands' OWL from 2005. Combining and bringing back two successful items should be a recipe for success. At the very least, it's worth the shot.

S7 Analysis: Based on past history alone, this one meets the criteria. The stand makes it less portable and, perhaps, less needed as a result, but that's a minor issue.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Comfi Step. Marketer: Global TV. Pitch: "The incredibly comfortable socks with the shock-absorbing, comfi-gel heel." Comments: Not much to like here, unfortunately. The pitch puts the product too close to the insole category for my liking (see my Copper Step review for more), and socks haven't fared much better (see No Sweat Socks, Bunion Bliss). The jingle is also a questionable choice. Old school! [ss]
  3. 75th Anniversary Santa Fe Super Chief (Lionel Train) Clock. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "You'll thrill as this super-train speeds around the clock face on the hour while you listen to the sounds of the diesels and the blast of the horn." Comments: Speaking of the Lionel Train Clock ... This has similarities to that 1999-2000 Emson hit, but notice how much information I had to jam into the title and description of this post. Similarly, it's almost 22 seconds (73% of a typical commercial) before this spot is able to explain itself and get to the product. There's just too much information for a TV spot, and that's probably one reason why the Website is already down. [ss]
  5. Bark Stop. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Stop your dog's barking the simple, fast & humane way." Comments: An apparent 'fast fail.' Since Telebrands' Bark Off (a 2010 hit), this category has had a mixed history. Emson rolled out with Pet Command (a 2014 True Top Spender), but Ontel's Bark Away flopped the same year. [ss]
  7. Fuzz Secret. Marketer: Global TV. Producer: Concepts. Pitch: "The amazing 3-in-1 tool for reviving any sweater or fabric." Comments: I've seen this product, and a few like it, several times over the years. The consensus was always that sweater pilling isn't frequent enough or high enough on the problem scale for the project to go forward. Now that someone has gone forward, we'll get to find out if the consensus was wrong. [ss]
  9. Miracle 360 Planter. Brand: Gardener's Collection. Pitch: "Grows from the top and all around, giving you thick, lush plants." Comments: A truly bizarre creative approach. Sort of like Red Bull meets DRTV. [ss]
  11. My Anywhere Garden. Brand: Gardener's Collection. Pitch: "The fast, easy way to garden with no digging, no bending, no hassle." Comments: This creative is more traditional, but it's all over the place. It opens with tomatoes, shows flowers in bloom and then goes inside the house. It's as if the marketer were unable to pick a pitch and so decided to try them all at once. [ss]

Special thanks to Dave D. for his help this week.