November 25, 2015

In the News: Peek-A-Boos

Adweek reports that Ty Inc., the creator of Beanie Babies, just made its first-ever TV spot for a new line of products:

The new plush toys, called Peek-A-Boos, show you how completely—some might say how depressingly—smartphones have come to dominate children's play. The Peek-A-Boos aren't so much toys as toy holders. They're designed to hold phones upright so kids can play on them more easily. (They also have a microfiber bottom that doubles as a screen cleaner.)

The commercial is from Leo Burnett and is noted for its "stick-in-your-head tune ... that features the product name being repeated over and over." You can watch/listen here.

I have a few observations. First, I don't understand why Ty would wait until now to jump into the plush space? As the article reminds us, "Beanie Babies, introduced in 1991, were once the hottest toys in the world." So the original plush-toy master sat back and watched our industry make millions and millions of dollars in their space, completely saturating the market, and then decided to jump in? I know traditional companies move slow, but that's glacial. Pillow Pets presented as a monster item in 2010.

Maybe the strategists at Ty think that now the market has cleared and is ready for them. If so, I disagree with them. From what I'm seeing and hearing, we're at the shallow end of the 'long tail' with most major retailers pretty sour on the category.

Second, this product combines the No. 1 (phone/tablet accessories) and No. 2 (plush toys) worst categories for DRTV. Of course Ty is going to run a traditional brand advertising campaign and (one assumes) get placement outside of our areas of the store. They also have a very cheap, impulse price and kids aren't the main reason phone accessories fail. Still, the information isn't worthless. I've already covered the situation with plush, and the main reason phone accessories fail is because the category is super-crowded.

Third, this goes to show that copying isn't unique to our industry. We just perfected it. That is, there is nothing original about this product or creative. In fact, it borrows heavily from what has already been done by DRTV players. The "stick-in-your-head tune" that repeats the product name "over and over"? Been there, done that. Clever holders for your phone? We have 20. Even the melody to their song isn't original. It did immediately stick in my head -- to the point where I started humming it shortly after hearing it. Then I realized what I was really humming was Missy Elliot's "Get Ur Freak On."

All of that said, the product is simple, inexpensive and should have enough support to sell fairly well. There's just nothing special about it from our perspective.

November 24, 2015

SciMark Report from November Response

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

This month I write about Top Dog's BeAligned, Ontel's Crystal Smooth and Telebrands' PedEgg Magic Slippers.

Coming Soon

In the upcoming December issue, I'll round out the year with a first: two duels in a single category at the same time ... and one is a triple duel! If you thought the competition in our industry got out of hand this year, you ain't see nothin' yet.

November 19, 2015

Simply Straight

Description: A ceramic straightening brush
Main Pitch:"Combines the power of a flat iron with the gentle styling ability of a brush"
Main Offer: 2 pay of $19.99
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Blue Moon
Watch the spot

From what I can tell, women really like this concept. On the other hand, the history of this category isn't very promising -- at least in short form. What's most interesting to me is the price point. In an upcoming piece for the ERA blog, I'll be talking about this trend toward higher prices. In a reversal from the years of the "Great Recession," it seems the impulse price barrier may be heading north for the first time in a long time.

S7 Analysis: From a product perspective, this one checks all the boxes. It gets its highest marks for being different. The creative also meets or exceeds all of the S7 criteria -- even when it comes to the price because the VALUE is good compared to other products in the category. That's an important point to keep in mind when evaluating this new 'higher prices' trend.

Jitter Critters

Description: A dog toy
Main Pitch: "Interactive motion and sound dog toy will keep him busy for hours"
Main Offer: $10 for "Rockin' Raccoon"
Bonus: "Frenzy Fox" (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Watch the spot

Was Telebrands' 2010 hit Crazy Critters an outlier? Following my rule of three, the answer is heading toward "outlier." The no-squeak version of Crazy Critters -- 2013's Hushies -- failed.

On the other had, this borrows a few lessons from Wobble Wag Giggle Ball, a rollout this year from Allstar/Lenfest. It could be viewed as a cross between that hit and the aforementioned hit. Does one past hit plus one present hit equal one future hit? I guess we'll find out.

S7 Analysis: Much like toys for kids, toys for pets always fail the needed question and usually pass the different test. That's the case here, although I wonder if the recency of Wig Wag diminishes the perception of difference.


Description: A peeler
Main Pitch: "Ever sharp dual-sided blades cut your prep time in half"
Main Offer: $10 for one with recipe book
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Ontel
Watch the spot

In 2009, Tristar's Titan Peeler dueled with SAS Group's Samurai Speed Peeler and won (although both made the charts). In October 2014, Ontel brought back the Speed Peeler design with a new twist: dual-sided blades. They called it Miracle Peeler, and the commercial starred Marc Gill. Soon thereafter, Tristar made it a duel by bringing back the Titan Peeler with the same new twist, calling it the Titan Peeler Pro.

From what I can tell, neither item went very far. To further complicate things, IdeaVillage and Vince Offer teamed up around that same time to try another, similar peeler called Da Vinci Pro. In addition to offending a lot of viewers, it also failed.

One year later, Ontel is trying Tristar's item, which doesn't make very much sense to me. This is essentially the same product, same creative and same price with a lesser offer.

S7 Analysis: The three tests in 2014 demonstrated that while different, a dual-sided peeler isn't needed. Even the point of difference may not be enough these days given the original Titan Peeler still sells and is a great, quality item.

Photo Chest

Description: A photo storage case
Main Pitch: "Keep your treasured memories protected, safe and organized"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one with 16 containers
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Jordan Direct
Watch the spot

Although this bears the same name as a product Telebrands tested in February 2013 (watch the spot here), it is a different product entirely. The former was a USB flash drive that could "store up to 4,000 digital photos." By contrast, this is an analog solution in a digital world -- and in that regard it is less likely than its predecessor to succeed.

On the other hand, flash drives are common and consumers with digital photos have so many free, cloud-based options from which to choose. A good solution for prints, especially given the demographics of DR, may be more likely to succeed.

The tie-breaker for me is the meta-category here: organization. So far, only shoes and spices have shown any ability to succeed in that category. Could photos be a third exception? Maybe a few decades ago, but probably not today.

S7 Analysis: Another way of putting the above: A good way to organize printed photos was much more needed a generation ago than it is today. And while the target isn't wrong, it is limited as a result. Additionally, as mentioned, the marketplace is crowded with options for preserving photos -- even to the point of services that turn old prints into high-quality digital photos.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Dot-To-Dot. Brand: Colorama. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Over 100 challenging connect-the-dot puzzles designed for adults." Comments: At the risk of coming across as absurd, I'm going to argue that this makes less sense than its predecessor did. It seems to me that Colorama is about being artistic whereas this is pitched as an alternative to crossword puzzles, a different target market. It's also worth noting that at press time, an adult coloring book was No. 6 on Amazon's Top 100 books list while the highest ranked adult connect-the-dots books were in the 16,000s. On a separate note, it will be interesting to see how many of these 'kid books for adults' Telebrands and its competitors will try. This is Telebrands' third (here's their second.) The most alluring Siren categories always start with a hit (see lanterns). [ss]
  3. Amish Cleaning Tonic. Brand: Dutch Glow. Marketer: SAS Group. Pitch: "Powerful, non-toxic all natural kitchen cleaner." Comments: This is another attempt at line extending Dutch Glow, a 2014 True Top Spender that Telebrands followed with Amish Secret (also a TTS). This product's full name is a mouthful -- it's "Dutch Glow Amish Cleaning Tonic"-- but I guess that was to help prevent immediate competition from Amish Secret Cleaning Tonic. [ss]
  5. Big Show. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The incredible magnifying screen that triples your cell phone screen size." Comments: I'm guessing this one failed. The demographics are all wrong, and (largely as a result) phone accessories is a terrible DRTV category. [ss]
  7. Colorama Cats & Kittens. Brand: Colorama. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The purrfect way to melt your stress away." Comments: That didn't take long! No. 4 and counting ... The positive: It's really just another volume of the same kind of book that's already a big hit. The negative: It segments the segment. [ss]
  9. Gotham Steel Knives. Starring: Chef Daniel Green. Marketer: Emson. Pitch: "The sharpest, most precise knife set you'll ever own." Comments: This comes on the heels of Gotham Steel cookware, which is by the same marketer. I suppose that's one way to create a brand: Launch multiple items with the same name at once. On the other hand, this Web site is already down, so maybe that isn't the way to do it. [ss]
  11. Mighty Shears. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "The only scissor tool that you'll ever need." Comments: This one would be a great example for the part of my workshop where I talked about "Swiss Army" products. The key problem is fitting 10 pounds of pitch in a five-pound bag. Not only does the product do multiple things, it is multiple things. Even worse, the base product has been tried before: IdeaVillage and Chef Tony failed with it back in 2008 under the name Super Shears (see No. 10 in this post). [ss]
  13. Perfect Bake. Pitch: "A patented smart scale and downloadable app that makes baking easy and fast." Comments: You lost them at baking scale ... and downloadable app. [ss]
  15. Pillow Active. Pitch: "The world's first cold and flu pillowcase." Comments: Credibility is still an important element of a good DRTV pitch, and it is sorely lacking here. [ss]
  17. Trash Tidy. Pitch: "Quickly replace trash bags in seconds." Comments: A classic solution in search of a problem. Watch the opening of the spot also to see two examples of what I call a "contrived problem." [ss]
  19. Wiser Visor. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The hands-free visor clip that holds your phone at eye level, so you never have to take your eyes off the road." Comments: It's probably too soon after Allstar's GripGo and Emson's Clever Grip, which is still on the market, for a similar product to be successful. Then again, I said the same thing about Clever Grip when it came out. [ss]

In the News: Workshop Recap

The November/December issue of ER Magazine has a nice, two-page spread that recaps the afternoon workshop I gave at the ERA D2C Convention this October. (Click here to read it online.)

My thanks, once again, to everyone who attended. Special thanks to Rick Petry for the coverage and article.

And while you are considering some off-blog reading, make a note to check out this great article on choosing names from my friend and former colleague Steve Rivkin.

November 12, 2015


Description: A Japanese skill toy
Main Pitch: "Sharpen balance, reflexes and creativity"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: Glow-in-the-dark version (separate fee)
Brand: Wham-O
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Watch the spot

Although the names are similar, this is nothing like the 2010-2011 hit Fushigi. That toy was simple in concept -- a magic gravity ball -- and only difficult in execution. Put another way: It didn't get complicated until you got it home. On TV, it looked like anyone could make it levitate.

By contrast, this toy looks very complicated from the first seconds of the commercial. It's almost the product's USP. The explanation is complicated, and the gadget looks complicated. The results are also less magical. (No levitation here.) Bottom line: I can't see kids pestering their parents for this one.

Crazy Chillers

Description: Color-changing gloves
Main Pitch: "When the cold air hits, it reveals the special hidden colors and designs every time"
Main Offer: $19.99 for a pair
Bonus: None
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Watch the spot

I remember these from when I was a kid. It's smart to bring them back as they seem made for kids' DR. Other winter gear for kids has been successful (see Flipeez), and so have many magic tricks. This is essentially a magic trick you can wear. The play value is somewhat limited, but the "wow" is strong. I can see this one doing well, especially as we head into the holidays.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Bacon Boss. Pitch: "Perfectly brown, juicy, crispy and flat bacon from the microwave or oven." Comments: This is the second bacon item in as many weeks (see Bacon Bake). I don't think 'perfect bacon' is a strong enough idea to generate an impulse purchase. The Bacon Bowl was interesting and different -- a new way to enjoy bacon. This is merely perfecting the old way, which is probably 'good enough' for most people. [ss]
  3. Happy Toezy Friends. Pitch: "The feet-warming slippers with mouths that have zippers." Comments: IdeaVillage had a good run with Infomercials Inc.'s Stompeez from 2012-2013, but those were visually interesting slippers that had play value. These have neither, and the primary benefit (warm feet) is better suited to adults. [ss]
  5. Side Paws. Marketer: National Express. Pitch: "Keep your dog or cat close without sacrificing a good night's sleep." Comments: An expensive ($40) contraption designed for a segment of a segment. [ss]

November 05, 2015


Description: Kid-safe nail polish
Main Pitch: "When it's time for a new look, just peel it off"
Main Offer: $10 for three bottles (red, blue and pink)
Bonus: Double the offer (free)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

As the father of two young girls, I like this product concept a lot. As a marketer, I'm not sure it's exciting enough to generate 'pester power.' Possibly. The fact it peels off has some fun play value, and the fact parents might let their girls paint their nails more often (or at all) solves a problem for said girls.

S7 Analysis: The trickiest thing about a project like this is who it's targeted toward. Traditionally, young girls have been one of the hardest demographics to reach using DRTV, and the media situation is getting worse every year.

Gotham Steel

Description: A non-stick pan
Main Pitch: "The newest technology in non-stick cookware made with ceramic and super-strong titanium"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Folding omelet pan (just pay separate P&H)
Starring: Chef Daniel Green
Marketer: Emson
Watch the spot

Telebrands' Orgreenic was a monster item from 2012-2013, but it is way too soon to bring it back -- or anything like it. Besides, Telebrands couldn't make a go of the Slip Stone Pan last year, and they had a ton of experience in the category plus retailers who would have loved a second act even half as good as Orgeenic.

As for the creative, it's really good with lots of first-rate demos, and Chef Green carries the spot well. If this were 2011, I'd be predicting a winner!

S7 Analysis: When Orgreenic hit the market, there was clearly a strong need for a new kind of non-stick cookware. Today, that need has been met ... in spades.

Pumpkin Paradise!

Description: A recipe book
Main Pitch: "Favorite pumpkin recipes you can make at home in minutes"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd book (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Cathy Mitchell
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

Telebrands has figured out how to market books successfully, and they have a winning recipe (smile) with cookbooks presented by Cathy Mitchell. However, I don't see how a hyper-seasonal book geared toward a particular taste can work.

I happen to love pumpkin, especially pumpkin pie, but I'm only one of two people at Thanksgiving who's interested. (More for me!) Not that my family focus group means anything. It's possible pumpkins are fought over in other homes, or that pumpkin is trending, but the combination of risks makes this one look unlikely to succeed.

S7 Analysis: It would be hard to argue that any cookbook is truly needed, and the concerns expressed above call into question whether this particular book is targeted to a big enough buying group. Otherwise, the category and commercial meet the S7 criteria.

Hover Hockey

Description: Portable air hockey
Main Pitch: "Take the fun and excitement of air hockey anywhere"
Main Offer: $14.99 for the set
Bonus: None
Brand: Wham-O
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Watch the spot

This is one of two attempts at a sequel to Hover Ball to come out at the same time. (The other is Hover Bowling.) My take: While indoor soccer was something new, this is just a cheap-o (grin) version of something that already exists. If you love air hockey, you'd probably spring for a real table -- and you probably don't love it so much that you need a portable version.

Hover Bowling

Description: Indoor bowling
Main Pitch: "Imagine having a bowling alley in your home"
Main Offer: $14.99 for the set
Bonus: None
Brand: Wham-O
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Watch the spot

This is the second of two attempts at a sequel to Hover Ball. (See also Hover Hockey.) This one is more in-line with its predecessor as there is no well-known indoor bowling system. I'm not sure bowling will generate the same interest as soccer did, though. Plus, bowling with a flat, hovering disc seems a little awkward.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. TV Squeegee. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "The microfiber wand that safely cleans any device screen with a simple swipe." Comments: This is a classic solution in search of a problem. [ss]
  3. Emerald Vision. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Specially designed sunglasses that brighten your mood." Comments: This Website came down quickly and barely left a trace, so it's safe to assume it didn't work. [ss]
  5. Hair Ball. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "All in one grooming system that fits in the palm of your hand." Comments: This is another site that came down quickly, so I have to assume it failed. [ss]
  7. HD Free TV. Marketer: InvenTel. Pitch: "Don't pay hundreds of dollars for cable or satellite TV again." Comments: This is a distant fourth-to-market follower. See my review of Tristar's Free TV Key for the history. [ss]