August 30, 2015

DRTV Pop Quiz!

It will probably be Monday morning when you get this, so I apologize in advance. Maybe wait until you've had another cup of coffee and are settled, then tackle this? I'll wait ...

OK, here we go. Do you know everything a DR professional should know? Are you sure? To find out, see how you do on the short pop quiz below:

  1. What do you call the part of a DRTV commercial where a more expensive product is contrasted with your product?
  3. Based on DRTV history, what's the maximum amount TV buyers will spend on impulse (aka the maximum main offer price point)?
  5. Name three costs that must be subtracted from revenue when calculating a break-even CPO.

How did you do? No shame if you don't feel like you aced it. In fact, based on my recent experiences and the response to a blog post I wrote for ERA a while back, many people in the business have gaps in their knowledge. (In the article, I explain why this is completely understandable.)

Anyway, the point of this post is not to start your week by making you feel inferior (or superior). It's to let you know that I am giving a pre-conference workshop at the 2015 ERA D2C Convention called, "What Every DRTV Professional Should Know." The seminar will take place Monday, October 5 between 1 and 5 pm, and it will cover the answers to questions like those above. For more information and to register, visit the landing page for the workshop. Registering online saves you $100, so don't delay! Click here to register today! (See what I did there?)

Speaking of answers, here are the answers to the quiz above:

  • The part of a DRTV commercial where a more expensive product is contrasted with the hero product is called a "value comparison."
  • The maximum amount TV buyers will spend on impulse is $19.99. There have certainly been exceptions, but history has shown that going above that price typically turns an impulse buy into a considered purchase (more on those terms at the workshop).
  • Finally, any of the following would be acceptable answers to the question of what costs should be subtracted from revenue to arrive at a break-even CPO: the cost of goods sold, telemarketing costs, Website transaction costs, fulfillment and warehousing, shipping, customer service, chargebacks, declines, returns, credit-card processing fees and royalties/commissions.

So how did you really do? Don't worry: I'll be posting more pop quizzes in the weeks to come.

August 27, 2015

Sonic Groom

Description: A grooming tool for men
Main Pitch: "The world's first trimmer to combine sonic power with MicroTouch technology"
Main Offer: $39.99 for one
Bonus: Grooming kit (free)
Brand: MicroTouch
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Watch the spot

This is the male version of Yes! by Finishing Touch except "sensa-light technology" has been replaced with "sonic power." Since both products are really just trimmers with fancy lights (one pink and one blue), I suppose any explanation for how it works is possible. But why stray from the association with No! No! and the possibility of again drafting off their impressions?

My guess is that while "great for men" is part of the No! No! pitch, the product is perceived to be mainly for women. Yet I can't think of any association for "sonic," so it seems to me that something would be better than nothing. Plus, the lack of association also removes the value comparison that was being used to justify the higher price.

As for the commercial, it represents a new twist on the drafting strategy in that it seeks to leverage the impressions being generated by the latest Mission Impossible movie. I guess it was inevitable that the product followers would also become creative followers when the opportunity presented itself.

S7 Analysis: IdeaVillage has clearly demonstrated, with an unprecedented string of successes, that hair-removal products meet all of the criteria for DRTV. The only possible shortcoming here is whether the commercial will be clear given this is a bit of a Swiss Army product. That didn't seem to matter in the case of MicroTouch Switchblade, a mid-year 2014 True Top Spender, but then that was a simpler product and pitch (i.e. there was no blue light or sonic technology to explain).

Shake N Peel

Description: An egg peeler
Main Pitch: "Peel eggs in seconds -- quick and easy"
Main Offer: $10 for one with recipe guide
Bonus: 2nd one and guide (just pay P&H), Super Slicer (free)
Marketer: Ontel
Watch the spot

Not a very credible pitch, and the timing is wrong, too. Eggstractor, a product with a much cooler demo, is still on TV and on the shelf.

S7 Analysis: Using the hindsight of a hit that's currently on the air, I conclude this one meets all of the criteria. If only the opportunity weren't already taken.

Good Vibes

Description: A vibrating compression sleeve
Main Pitch: "Combines compression and vibration to help relive pain in stiff, aching joints"
Main Offer: $29.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

This is another example of our industry's inability to ignore the Siren's call. However, this variation starts with a hit, which makes the call even more alluring. Marketers then try every possible variation of that hit to see if there's more room in the market. Sometimes there is, most times there is not. In this case, the project is chasing the success of compression garments and BeActive at the same time. At least it's not infused with copper!

S7 Analysis: Once again, the shortcoming here is with the crowded criterion. What's interesting is that in our business, one is often a crowd. Entering when there is already three (as with compression garments) just seems insane.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Zap! Pitch: "It's a remodel in every bottle." Comments: Old brand, new creative -- and I like it! This is how you do humor in DR. Not saying it will get a CPO, but the execution is excellent. I laughed out loud. Good slogan, too! [ss]
  3. Bookades. Pitch: "Reduce glare and brightness to finally make outdoor book reading easy on the eyes." Comments: This takes one use for HD Vision Readers (a mediocre line extension as it was) and tries to build an entire sales pitch around it. For a product with a low-perceived value. That's seasonal. Yeesh. [ss]
  5. Bunchems. Marketer: Spin Master. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "The shapeable bits that stick and stay then pull away for endless play." Comments: A classic marketer/producer pairing with great DRTV history behind it (see Pixos, Bendaroos) and a place on the shelf already. [ss]
  7. Easy Reach Loofah. Pitch: "The all-in-one, full body wash cloth." Comments: Other solutions to this problem haven't fared well (see Nu Spa, Body Snake). The only success to date was Spin Spa, a 2006-2007 IdeaVillage hit that was motorized and had additional uses. [ss]
  9. Red Ring. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Securely and comfortably hold your phone in any position." Comments: A variation of Wedding Ring. I like the creative and approach much better but still dislike the item and category. [ss]
  11. Tray N Play. Pitch: "The foldable fun table." Comments: Ever wish you had an airplane tray table in the back of your car? Me neither ... OK, I get the thinking behind the product, but I find it to be too utilitarian for kid DR. That is, it's a good pitch for parents but has none of the necessary elements (play value, pester power) for appealing to kids. [ss]

August 13, 2015

SciMark Report from August Response

The year's second triple

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

This month I write about the year's second 'triple duel' (here's the first), this one over zippered blankets and pitting TechnoSource and Hutton-Miller's Zippy Sack against Tristar's Zip Blankies and Ontel's Zipit Bedding.

August 06, 2015

Auto Cool: Old Gold?

Current Name: Cool Ride
Current Marketer: Telebrands
Original Hit Year: 2006 (No. 39 on the JW Annual)
Original Marketer: Allstar
Watch the spot

If this product is anything like the original, the "38 degrees" cooler claim is a stretch. I'm not sure an internal car temperature of 86 degrees qualifies as cool, either. Putting those issues aside, this one could be successful. For one thing, the timing is perfect. Auto Cool came out during a 2006 heatwave, and here in the Northeast we just experienced a week of 95-degree temps with high humidity. And speaking of being on fire, enough time also should have passed for this Phoenix to rise again. Unless ...

I have a hypothesis I call 'fool me once' -- as in "this is a fool-me-once type product." It's really more of a superstition because I have no data to support the idea. In any case, my belief is that certain products that made big promises and failed to deliver (e.g. a weak fan that was supposed to keep a car's interior 'cool' on a hot summer day) may never be able to make a comeback. Or if it is possible, such products will need longer than usual to become Old Gold. If the rule of thumb is 7-10 years, we're talking 10 years at minimum.

In other words, such projects require a lot of time for everyone to forget the poor customer satisfaction they experienced. That reverse halo effect (horn effect?) will be a barrier to purchase even if the new product works great.

One Hands & Feet

Description: A hand treatment
Main Pitch: "Turn back the hands of time, right before your eyes"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one bottle
Bonus: 2nd bottle (just pay P&H)
Starring: Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: Top Dog
Watch the spot

Correctly guessing the outcome of this project boils down to one's understanding of the older female consumer. We know she is concerned about wrinkles and other signs of aging on her face. What isn't well known is whether she is equally concerned about signs of aging elsewhere. There have been a few attempts to find out, none of them successful (yet). For instance, Ontel tried a a wrinkle treatment for the d├ęcolletage called Lift Away in 2013.

Complicating things is the fact that even wrinkle treatments for the face have not been successful. (Click the Lift Away link for a recap.) So it may be that even if women are equally concerned about the aging of their hands, short-form DRTV is not the right medium to sell them a solution to that problem.

S7 Analysis: Is this product needed? Guthy-Renker seems to agree with Top Dog that it is. Their commercial for Hand Perfection is currently in rollout. That might answer my first question (are women concerned about aging hands?), but it doesn't answer my second question (is the pitch right for short form?).

Fight Mite

Description: Anti-dust mite pads
Main Pitch: "The world's first dust mite detection, capture and removal system"
Main Offer: $19.95 for a set of three
Bonus: 2nd set of three (free)
Marketer: Emson
Watch the spot

I have always argued against "selling the invisible." DRTV is a visual medium with deep roots in the pitch world, which is all about demonstrability. From this history, we know the items that will generate the strongest impulse to buy are the ones that can perform their magic right before your eyes. This is also important with commercials because people are inherently skeptical of advertising claims. The more we can stay away from dramatization and animation -- by showing actual product performance -- the more credible our claims will be.

A product that solves an invisible (or microscopic, in this case) problem is the opposite of what we should be looking for in this business. In my opinion, such items shouldn't make it past the product-evaluation phase.

The counter-argument is FabriClear, a solution for bed bugs that was a 2013 True Top Spender. But I have a few caveats. First, the way that project rolled out suggests it wasn't a strong item -- at least not at first. Second, that was probably the 10th attempt to launch a bed-bug solution. Third, there will always be outliers. Seasoned gamblers favor games with much better odds.

S7 Analysis: Until I see more than a single success, I'm going to continue to believe solutions for invisible problems fail the engaging criterion and shouldn't be tried.

Lid Buddy

Description: A caddy for pot lids
Main Pitch: "Gives you two places to rest your lid ... [and] catches all the drippings"
Main Offer: $10 for one large, one small in black or red
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H), Gripper (free)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Watch the spot

This is a useful product that should be in every home. The challenge: Getting people excited enough about it to buy off TV. It's a high bar and some products will never hit it, no matter how great the creative. There are also built-in disincentives, such as processing and handling charges. In other words, this might sell well for $5 on a clip strip in the pots-and-pans department, but it's probably not for DRTV.

S7 Analysis: It's the needed criterion that stops me. More specifically, and using the language of the Fab Five, this is much closer to an 'itch' than a 'heart attack' on the problem scale.

Funnel 5

Description: A 5-in-1 funnel
Main Pitch: "Create a custom-size funnel for the job you need"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Kerrmercials
Producer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

Not much to write about this one. It's a funnel ... and a 'Swiss Army' funnel at that.

S7 Analysis: Someone must have brought some pretty compelling sales information to the table because this one fails most of the criteria.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Windo Bully. Starring: Marc Gill. Marketer: Prime Direct. Pitch: "The all-new universal lock for sliding windows and glass doors." Comments: I can't think of a hit in the home-security category since Telebrands' First Alert in 2004-2005. That said, this device has other applications that might get around the typical shortcomings of a 'fear and prevention' pitch. [ss]
  3. Slice Right. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Producer: Paddock Productions. Pitch: "The new way to cut and serve watermelon with ease." Comments: Written by yours truly. [ss]
  5. EZ Tote. Pitch: "The one bag that carries it all." Comments: This is a classic "better than" pitch -- and with a Swiss Army twist. It's supposedly better than a tote, better than an insulated bag, better than a Grab Bag and so on. Only novices think that pitch can work ... or that combining several products into one product designed to please everybody is a viable strategy. [ss]
  7. The Drib. Pitch: "Keep your clothing clean and pristine." Comments: This is the problem with a top DRTV company doing a coloring book for adults: People lose all sense of perspective and start thinking absurd products like a bib for adults could actually work. [ss]
  9. Sani Sticks. Marketer: Hampton Direct. Pitch: "Keep your drains clear and odor-free, all year long." Comments: Interesting product concept, but I see too many flaws for this one to do well. For one thing, very few drain-clearing solutions have been successful. You have to go back six years to Ontel's Turbo Snake to find a hit, and before that you have to go back nine years to Bob Villa's Plumber's Secret. For another thing, the 'smelly drain' problem strikes me as highly contrived. Add in that this is something you must use before you have a clog (prevention) and the uncertainty of ordering an item that requires replenishment from an unknown brand, and you can see why I think this one is unlikely to succeed. [ss]