Euro-Pro Makes Its Mark1 Mar, 2011 By: Thomas Haire Response
Mark Barrocas and Mark Rosenzweig team up to take the marketer of the Shark and other housewares successes to new heights.
"The more we can build and sustain brands, sustain products and product lines and use direct response as the main vehicle to market our products, the more it adds credibility to this form of media," says Mark Barrocas, president of Newton, Mass.-based Euro-Pro Operating LLC, the parent company of the popular Shark, Navigator and Ninja housewares brands. "The success we’ve had using the tenets of DR marketing helps eliminate any remaining stigma about infomercial products being a ‘flash in the pan.’"
Along with Founder and CEO Mark Rosenzweig, Barrocas has overseen a string of DRTV hits that have gone on to sensational brick-and-mortar retail success. Euro-Pro’s Shark line of sweepers and steam cleaners is based on the company’s focus on easy-to-use, innovative solutions for quick cleaning.
In an interview that appeared in Response’s January issue, Rosenzweig said, "During the past 12-18 months, Euro-Pro has shifted all development to product offerings that are truly innovative. We have systematically diversified away from lower-end, me-too products and focused all our resources against breakthrough, highly competitive products."
Barrocas, who joined the 16-year-old company in 2008, reinforces that idea. "What’s most integral to our success is strong, innovative product development," he says. "When you have a rich pipeline of products across many categories to choose from, differentiating them and creating a story through DRTV about them becomes the enabler for us to educate consumers and drive demand."
Working hand in hand, Rosenzweig and Barrocas saw perhaps the company’s greatest successes to date beginning in mid-2009 as consecutive introductions of the Shark Steam Pocket mop, the Shark Navigator vacuum and the Shark Portable Steam Pocket mop all enjoyed sales success via DRTV, online and in big-box retail. And, looking ahead, the duo clearly believes they’ve found a winning formula. "The key to success is to remain relevant in consumers’ lives by providing truly beneficial solutions to everyday challenges," Rosenzweig says.
The Right Team
The 43-year-old Rosenzweig is the third-generation operator of a family business that began in Europe before moving to his hometown of Montreal and, now, to Newton, Mass. He founded the company now known as Euro-Pro in 1995 in Montreal and entered the U.S. market three years later.
"Before Euro-Pro came into the American market, my parents and grandparents sold sewing machines in Canada. I’d say Euro-Pro was almost ‘founded’ by that business, as I worked with my parents in Montreal," Rosenzweig says. "I work on new product development, strategic direction, and — of course — our customers know me as ‘the guy on the infomercial.’" Prior to creating Euro-Pro, Rosenzweig also was involved in the entertainment business — perhaps where he gets his flair in front of the cameras.
Barrocas, 39, joined the company in late 2008 from WearGuard-Crest, a division of Fortune 500 business Aramark Corp. "My three years there gave me some really good large-company grounding," he says. "Prior to that, I was president of Broder Bros. Co., a Bain Capital Co., for two years. I went there as part of the acquisition by Broder Bros. of Alpha Shirt Co. (a Linsalata Capital Co., where he was executive vice president of sales and marketing for two years prior)."
Barrocas’ background also includes a stint at Perry Ellis International, as well as a number of entrepreneurial endeavors late in the last century. His entrepreneurial experience came in handy when he arrived at Euro-Pro. "It was an entrepreneurial business when I arrived, but had the infrastructure in place to transition into a more traditionally managed large organization," he says. "I run day-to-day operations, and with Mark’s product and strategy expertise, together we shape the direction of the business."
While the company has a number of successful product lines, including the current hit Ninja Master Prep blender system, it made its name in both DRTV and retail circles with the Shark brand of sweepers, which have revolutionized the way consumers clean messes throughout their homes. Building on that success, the Shark line of steam-cleaning products has become a rapid-fire success, led by the Shark Steam Mop. Last May, the company launched a combo product of sorts, the Vac-Then-Steam, to more impressive sales results.
But the constant thread through all this success has been the successful use of direct response marketing — starting with DRTV, then moving online and then to retail.
Euro-Pro’s latest housewares hit is the Ninja Kitchen System 1100 blender, which has seen tremendous success via DRTV and in retail at stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s and Bed Bath & Beyond.
"Direct response allows consumers to decide how they want to shop — call now, visit the website or go to a retail outlet," Barrocas says. "Our goal is to use DRTV to blanket the marketplace for consumer demand, and give those consumers all those options to shop. Unlike businesses that use DRTV as a one-off for a single hit item, for us, it’s really a huge part of our business model. We are developing products every day, and on an annual basis, we generate five or six new infomercials to support our brand platform."
Rosenzweig told Response in January, "Each Shark, Navigator or Ninja product was launched with heavy infomercial advertising support, generating consumer demand and direct response. At the same time, we supported our retail partners by driving consumer traffic to their locations. At one point in late 2010, Euro-Pro had five campaigns listed simultaneously on the IMS (Infomercial Monitoring Service) Retail Rankings of the top 25 infomercials."
The company has used DRTV as the basis of efforts that have driven huge sales numbers in various outlets and — more importantly, Barrocas and Rosenzweig agree — built well-known retail brands at stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Kohl’s. "We have brought strong business to each of these valued retail partners," Barrocas says.
However, with all those successes, Barrocas says there have been crucial moments of learning when certain products struggled. "About 18 months ago, we had some early problems with the Shark Multi-Vac," he says. "What we learned then is that, first and foremost, you have to understand that you are developing a product that must generate high consumer satisfaction and five-star ratings. ‘Are consumers going to love it?’ has to be the starting point, the first question."
Barrocas says that consumer information and education has become so vast and such a normal part of the multi-media world, that product quality has become even more important. "If a consumer goes on-air, online or anywhere else and gives the product a bad review, it can spread like wildfire," he contends. "Merely not meeting consumer expectations can kill a campaign before it starts. We spend a lot of time doing in-home testing and getting consumers to use the products before we go on the air. Before putting out that first dollar for media, we need a reasonable certainty that consumers will love the product when it is in their homes. That is an absolute key principle in campaign development."
DR Drives It All
Currently, Euro-Pro has a number of shows on the DRTV airwaves. "The biggest are the Shark Navigator Lift-Away, the Ninja Kitchen System 1100 and the Shark Vac-Then-Steam," Barrocas says. "Shark Press-and-Refresh and the Shark Steam Pocket are also out there, but those first three are running very strong."
Rosenzweig discussed the company’s current DRTV strategy in Response’s January issue. "While Euro-Pro’s current business model relies heavily on long-form advertising to build consumer demand, stimulate direct purchase and support our retail partners, short-form advertising has an important role to play as well," he said. "Long-form is still essential to build consumer interest and understanding of higher priced and more complex products, but it is becoming more and more difficult to capture and hold their attention. After the initial demand is established, the short-form strategy, with higher frequency and broader reach, can extend the campaign and further drive retail traffic."
Barrocas says frequency and timing is also crucial to the success of Euro-Pro’s current DRTV efforts. "Unlike a lot of companies that run media in spurts, we support our products with TV media 52 weeks per year," he says. "And it’s not running at that typical DR spot people think of — you know, 2 a.m. Tuesday, or whatever. We are in very heavy rotation on weekends, allowing us to get more eyeballs to drive more website and retail traffic. These are just a couple more reasons we believe our campaigns are running very strong."
Creating the atmosphere for an "evolution," as Barrocas calls it, from a strict DRTV product to a branded business model is what he believes every DR marketer should strive for. "Sure, it’s different for some of those DRTV marketers who just want to promote a single item, but our model starts with the idea that we’re about building and developing innovative brands — not just products," he adds. "Because of this, we’ve had online success and we’ve become a sizable participant on retailer shelves."
Euro-Pro supports its most successful products, such as the Shark Navigator brand, with DRTV media year-round, often featuring company founder and CEO Mark Rosenzweig.
Innovating the Future
Part of that success has also come from a series of agency and vendor partnerships that have allowed Euro-Pro to maximize its DRTV investments, including Acquirgy, R2C Group, Cmedia and Euro RSCG Edge, according to Barrocas. At the same time, he says internal development during the past three years has also been crucial.
"A lot of it comes down to having a solid internal analytics group," Barrocas says. "That allows us to fully measure and monitor our performance weekly — and then collaborate with our media agencies to refine media selection and rotation on a weekly basis."
Looking ahead, both Barrocas and Rosenzweig believe continued success for Euro-Pro rests on maintaining, refining and improving on its already proven focus on product innovation and DRTV brand building.
"The companies that will succeed in this environment are those that remain relevant to consumers’ needs," Rosenzweig told Response in January. "We see future growth opportunities in our Steam cleaning portfolio and no-loss-of-suction, lightweight vacuums."
Barrocas adds, "If you’re all about selling a single item and closing up shop eight months later, maybe you can generate enough sales using the most basic form of DRTV. But, that’s not what we’re focused on. Our business model is to build the Shark and Ninja brands for success 10 years down the road. And all of our decisions — about products, marketing methods and more — are about what’s going to impact that brand reputation. And DRTV has done nothing but build our brand’s reputation." ¦