Hanging Around the Home1 Mar, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
The economy has created a thriving environment for DR marketers to advertise housewares that make life at home easier and more enjoyable.
One company that is taking advantage of the ripeness of DR is Aero Products International Inc., the company that launched the smash success AeroBed line of air-filled beds in the early 1990s. Today, Aero has a full line of inflatable mattresses plus some active lifestyle equipment. The Schaumburg, Ill.-based company accounts for 40 percent of sales in the air-bed category. Plus, with the economy forcing consumers to travel closer to home or to bunk at a relative's house for the holidays — and the transient age of people changing homes so quickly — a portable bed seems to fit a need in the market.
"It's the type of product that, without seeing it, you might not believe what it can do," says Ann Gonzalez, senior director of marketing, Aero Products, of the AeroBed. "The economy can make people wary, but when we show them all the applications for it, it's definitely a benefit to the consumer to make this type of purchase from a value perspective."
While Aero Products credits DRTV and live demonstrations for a boom in its product sales, it is now taking steps to move beyond traditional DR to digital channels. The company recently launched campaigns on video in retail stores and online, and will dabble in online social communities in 2009.
"Our campaign was on Evite, Epicurious and other sites where our demographic would spend time online," says Gonzalez. "We've also launched E-mail campaigns online from our customer database, and we're looking into loyalty programs for our customers that would include promotions and E-mail blasts."
Demonstration videos are even getting play on YouTube, especially Aero's Endurabed, which in one video shows a 1,500-pound horse walking on the bed to demonstrate the product's strength. "We're getting great viral buzz from fans," says Gonzalez.
DR in the Kitchen
Another DRTV-launched product that is now benefiting from the desire to eat at home in a bad economy — as well as benefiting from multi-channel campaigns — is Vita-Mix. Vita-Mix was launched in the first-ever DR commercial in 1949 as a machine for healthy eating by its founder W.G. "Papa" Barnard.
But today, it takes more than the correct target audience, a good offer and a creative message to sell the machine, says Dan Kleps, Web marketing manager. "At Vita-Mix, we have an infrastructure in place — one that is continuously enhanced — to inform and engage our customers. We reach them through the multiple channels that are most relevant to them and offer information that speaks specifically to their unique interests or lifestyles," he says.
Vita-Mix finished 2008 with record-breaking sales. Kleps attributes some of that success to the unveiling of the Vita-Mix 5200 in fall 2007, in conjunction with a corporate refresh of the look and feel of the product — packaging, color palettes, live demonstration booths and all collateral now portray a unified appearance. Most of all, the product's success lies in demonstrations, both live — more than 2,000 a year throughout the U.S. — and on television and online video.
If consumers are staying home to eat, Keurig is hoping they will also drink more home-brewed coffee. By the looks of the number of Starbucks coffee shops that began closing in summer 2008, the days of buying a daily latte may be over, or at least on hold. Launched in 1998, Keurig, the Reading, Mass.-based company specializing in the single-cup brew, now has more than 200 varieties and has seen a huge surge in sales during the past two years. What started as an office product is now widely used in hotels and homes.
"There has been an explosion by word of mouth for our products," says Erin Wormell, Internet marketing manager, Keurig. "After seeing the demonstrations, people want it for their home."
Though Keurig has not yet taken the slant in marketing materials of being an economical solution, Wormell believes it could happen as people start to realize that going out for a cup of coffee can get expensive, especially if it takes gas to get there.
Keurig's team recently started engaging in blogger outreach. "We do some blog monitoring. Right now we are engaged in blogger outreach activities as well. In a number of cases, we provide free products for review or giveaways," says Wormell. Why is Keurig so successful in social communities? "People get really excited about coffee. There is a lot of enthusiasm around caffeine intake," she adds.
Hearthware Home Products is taking the "eat-at-home" angle with the latest promotion of its Nu-Wave Pro infrared ovens. The current version of the Nu-Wave was launched in 2002 (originally called the FlavorWave in 2001) via long-form DRTV. "We've been doing it for many years, and it's been successful," says Mike Rawdon, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Gurnee, Ill.-based Hearthware Home Products. "You put a lot of money into infomercial time, so you have to have some success or it's a huge drain."
About year ago, the product started making the move to retail. In fall 2007, the Nu-Wave Pro was the top selling product in the housewares department at JCPenney. According to Rawdon, most housewares products need a DRTV base before they can shift to retail (and only once the retailer is confident that the product has legs). "They [retailers] know we can provide a media and advertising base to get the product out there," says Rawdon. "If they display it and give it the right price, they can share in that success."
The latest campaign angle for the Nu-Wave oven is the pizza-making accessory, which takes a frozen pizza to fresh and hot in a short amount of time. "In today's economy, with everyone running around and working two jobs, this product is tailor-made for busy people," says Rawdon. Plus, it is a cheaper alternative to ordering in pizza.
And like with most housewares products, demonstration is key to Nu-Wave's sales. Rawdon concentrates on captivating the audience for 10 or 30 minutes at a time. Infomercials are also a great platform for measuring responses. "We know exactly when the responses come, depending on what is said or done on the TV. We have devices in place so we can measure response right down to the second," saws Rawdon.
But he cautions against running too many campaigns on DRTV at once. "Quite honestly, to really focus on one product, it's a huge job just to maintain. I can't imagine having to focus on three or four," Rawdon says.
Focusing on one product allows Nu-Wave to buy the most quality DRTV spots. He adds, "We try to buy a live broadcast on Saturday and Sunday between 10 a.m. and noon. We spend on quality, and we get a big return on that," he says.
Freshly Baked DR Products
One housewares product developer looking to learn from these other DR-launched products is Angela Nardis, who released Baker's Sto 'N Go in 2007. Nardis saw a need in the market for a way to store baked goods that would keep all the food from touching. "The market we were going after did not exist and still doesn't exist," says Nardis.
Though some Baker's Sto 'N Gos have been sold online, in catalogues and retail stores, the product has had a lot of success being sold at trade shows and on QVC and HSN — where it sold nearly 900 units in four-and-a-half minutes. Word-of-mouth and publicity by celebrity chefs have also gone a long way for Nardis. At her first International Housewares Association (IHA) show, Nardis was placed next to Paula Deen, who helped get her product attention in magazines such as Taste of the South and Real Simple.
Deen also featured the product as one of Paula's Picks in the January issue of Cooking With Paula Deen. And thus far, good old-fashioned mailers have been a huge driver to sales. Before shows like the IHA and the Gourmet Housewares Show, Nardis sends out direct mail inviting people to her booth.
What's the tough part for Nardis? Picking the right price point. She hears from some customers that the price is too high, but for others, the price is more than reasonable. She does say that the price point is based on the material of the Sto 'N Go, which is Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved and made in America. But Nardis' customers are willing to pay for these attributes, so she's just hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to saturating the market with her bakeware.