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Direct Response Marketing

Cover Story: Product Power

1 Sep, 2017 By: Thomas Haire Response

Keith Mirchandani says Tristar Products’ 25th anniversary is a reason to celebrate the company’s direct-to-consumer success — and a reason to plan for the next 25 years of top products and brands.


“I could list many accomplishments during the past 25 years, but I am most proud of the team I have assembled and the employees that work here at Tristar everyday,” says Keith Mirchandani, founder and CEO of Fairfield, N.J.-based Tristar Products Inc., a product marketing company that’s celebrating its silver anniversary in 2017. “It is an honor to work hand-in-hand with them and to watch their families and dreams grow with Tristar’s success.”

A 2013 finalist and 2014 winner of the DRMA Marketer of the Year Award, Tristar ’s success in the direct-to-consumer and As Seen On TV retail space spans vertical markets as divergent as fitness, housewares, technology, hardware, women’s clothing, and more. An Inc. 5000 company, Tristar not only boasts dozens of product successes in the past 25 years, but it also operates a 65,000-square-foot state-of-the-art product development and production facility at its headquarters.

From Tristar’s first hit — the Ab Roller in 1995, a version of which still sells in stores today — through its most recent hits in the Copper Chef housewares line, Mirchandani believes that an eye for the right products has been crucial to the company’s success.

“My second greatest accomplishment is choosing and marketing the right products,” he says. “We have been able to create retail category leaders through direct response TV. Some of these products include the Genie Bra, Jack LaLanne Juicer, the Power Air Fryer, the Power Pressure Cooker, and the Copper Chef Brand.”

Reaching the 25-year mark has been a natural time for Mirchandani to look back on Tristar’s successes, as well as the many changes that have helped DRTV product leaders become vanguards at the forefront of the performance-based marketing revolution. But it’s also created the opportunity for Mirchandani to assess today’s landscape and look ahead to where he hopes Tristar will succeed in the coming years.

“The latest developments at Tristar that affect our outlook for the next 25 years are our adaptability and adoption of new technology. Amazon, Facebook, and social media now allow you to buy advertising right from your desktop and sell throughout the world,” Mirchandani says. “We will remain on the cutting edge of digital and social media. We have embraced these new technologies and are maximizing our efforts in educating consumers about our products.”

Abs, Juice … and Genies

“Before I started Tristar, I went to Rutgers University,” Mirchandani says. “I was always an entrepreneur and loved selling. I tried several businesses, but when I discovered direct response marketing, it was a natural fit. I immediately started to dream and envision Tristar, and decided this is what I wanted to do. I put together the key pieces, and started small. Then the hits began to come in, and the rest is history.”

History, indeed — beginning with the Ab Roller in 1995, Tristar has enjoyed a run of success rarely matched in the product marketing world. At the same time, Mirchandani’s family and personal life has rolled along, as well.

“In 1999, I married my beautiful wife Anjali. She has been my No. 1 source of support and strength every step of the way,” he says. “We have two amazing children who have given us so much joy. Our daughter is now looking at colleges, and our son is just beginnning the process. I also attended the Harvard Business School Owner/President Management Program. I graduated in 2012. It was an amazing experience.”

When asked about the most memorable moment of Tristar’s 25 years, Mirchandani doesn’t hesitate. “One of my earliest unforgettable moments was when the Ab Roller hit, and became the No. 1 ab-sculpting product in America. It took the nation by storm and created more six-packs than Budweiser,” he says. “That is when I knew we had a winning formula. Ultimately, the Ab Roller generated more than $1 billion in retail sales, and created the foundation for our continued growth over the years. At the same time, the Ab Roller patent has been litigated on 37 times, and we have won every single challenge.”

Mirchandani also calls out one of Tristar’s longest-running and most successful celebrity relationships: the late Jack LaLanne, who passed away in 2011.

“I loved working with Jack,” he says. “The Jack LaLanne Juicer introduced the world to the power of juicing and suddenly revived the juicing category for retailers. Working with Jack, who was a true legend in fitness, health food, and juicing, was an experience I will never forget. He lived by his motto — ‘Anything Is Possible’ — and he was a true inspiration. He changed how America — and the entire world — works out and eats. He was a visionary and global game changer.”

Mirchandani recalls shooting a show with the forever-youthful LaLanne and his wife Elaine when Jack was 95 years old. “Jack had no problem lasting all day through the shoot,” he says. “Then, at night, we’d take Elaine and him to dinner — and they probably could outlast everyone at the table!”

But success isn’t guaranteed — and even with the best plans, Mirchandani says Tristar’s ability to remain flexible and to be willing to try products he (or others in the company) weren’t certain about helped extend the success. One of Tristar’s biggest products — one that became a branded line of products —was just one of those surprises.

“When we introduced the Genie Bra, I never expected it to become the No. 1 seamless bra in the world,” Mirchandani says of the product that eventually spawned nearly a dozen other Genie-brand products for women. “We developed an ultra-comfortable, smoothing bra that both fits and flatters women of all sizes. Now, every woman can get a great shape under clothing without digging straps or worrying about bulges. No matter how big or how small, we were able to get the perfect fit for all. It was a huge challenge, but we managed it. The Genie Bra completely changed the way women feel about their bras. Our winning combination of comfort, lift, and support rocketed the bra to outrageous success. Women across the globe love it.”

Mirchandani calls the Genie brand one of Tristar’s two most successful campaigns. “The Genie Bra and the entire Genie brand family have sold more than 100 million units around the world,” he says.

The other top success named by Mirchandani is a key part of Tristar’s current efforts.

Copper Takes the Gold

“My most recent campaign is the Copper Chef brand,” Mirchandani says. “It started with the innovation of a square-shaped pan that gives you more room to cook more food, and has grown into an entire lifestyle brand. It’s family of innovative non-stick cookware and bakeware products make it easy for anyone to cook like a chef in their own kitchen.”

The Copper Chef brand — the Copper Chef pan itself sold nearly 240,000 units in a single day on QVC in 2016 — helped launch a series of housewares products across the As Seen On TV universe, but Mirchandani believes Tristar’s particular success in the space is due to the company’s insistence on quality.

“The quality of our pan, the stainless steel induction plate, and the investment in production so that our product performs at the highest standards has proved to be very rewarding,” he says. “It has taught us the importance of five-star reviews, social media, and positive word of mouth. They have propelled our brand to enormous sales figures way beyond simply advertising on TV.”

And Copper Chef line extensions are either already on the market — or on the way. “We have bakeware coming, plus a grill, a crisper, a meatloaf pan, a pizza pan, and more,” Mirchandani says.

Tristar has grown along with consumers’ changing viewing habits, shopping expectations, and more.

“Consumers continue to evolve and change their buying habits with technology,” Mirchandani says. “Viewing habits are radically changing now, and people are not watching television the way they used to. Everyone has their phone with them at all times and they want to watch their programs wherever and whenever they feel like it. Consumers have become very demanding. No one wants to wait four-to-six weeks for delivery anymore. They want it the next day or sooner. We are continuously adapting to the new ways of viewing television, ordering, and consumer expectations.”

Mirchandani says Tristar’s agency and vendor partners — especially in media — play a crucial role in keeping the company in line with consumer expectations.

“Our media agency partners help to deliver our message, promote our products, and make sure that we are buying media at the right price and in the right places,” he contends. “They are indispensible allies who react to consumers as quickly as possible as an extension of our 360-degree approach on all channels: phone, TV, and social media.”

A Vision for 2042

Mirchandani believes Tristar’s ability to change with the times — and with consumers’ expanding control of the marketing conversation — will be key to its future.

“Tristar must always stay ahead of the trends for reaching out and communicating with our customers. Our strategy must be fluid and flexible, and it is important to experiment and try new forms of communication,” Mirchandani says. “The only constant is change, and Tristar must always be nimble so that it can proactively prepare for change and new trends and stay ahead of the curve.”

How is Tristar preparing to stay ahead of the game?

“Amazon, Facebook, and social media now allow you to buy advertising right from your desktop and sell throughout the world,” Mirchandani says. “We have embraced these new technologies and are maximizing our efforts in educating consumers about our products.”

He adds, “It is important that Tristar can touch a consumer on just about every device, screen, and app they choose to view. To educate consumers today, you have to deliver them your video content. Our team must stay ahead of the curve with innovative websites, high-impact social media promotions, YouTube videos, innovative content, and even mobile marketing.”

Mirchandani says he’s grown to respect and understand the power of the mobile device in recent years. “Everybody has a phone in hand — morning to night. My wife and I do, our kids do — so we’ve learned we have to make ordering as easy as possible. Look at the product on your device and click buy — that’s what we’re going after.”

Mirroring the early disdain between direct response marketers and brick-and-mortar retailers — long before the prevalence of As Seen On TV end caps at countless retail locations — many in the product marketing world have been averse to working with Amazon as it’s grown. Tristar was no different but, Mirchandani says, change means partnering with Amazon is now necessary.

“Shopping behaviors have changed, and we must market as strategically on Amazon, social media, and throughout the digital world as we market on television and streaming,” he says. “I fought it for years, but consumers are used to shopping on Amazon, they trust it, and we can maximize success with positive product reviews, which are having a great effect on our products. It creates an even playing field where more innovative products can win the day.”

Mirchandani’s vision for the future of Tristar — and the entire direct-to-consumer product sector — is one reason he maintains high hopes. Asked about where he’d like to be in the next five years, he says, “I would like to spend more time with my family, improve my golf game, watch my children excel in college, and lead Tristar Products to continued growth and success so that my employees, vendors, inventors, and friends are able to achieve all of their dreams, as well.”

Asked the same question about the next 25 years, Mirchandani’s vision is even grander.

“On the 50th anniversary of Tristar, I’ll be 77 years old. I hope I don’t have any back pain,” he says with a laugh. “I want the company to be poised and ready to foresee and adapt to whatever changes will be at the forefront of technology at that time. If we can maintain our formula — find a problem many people have and offer them an easy, valuable solution for a very reasonable price — the key to our success will be mastering the various ways of reaching the consumer and fulfilling our products.”

He adds, “In 25 years, the cutting-edge marketing we are doing now will be obsolete, and there will be new trends and technologies to replace them. In 2042, I would like Tristar to be a company that creates innovative solutions to consumer products and optimizes the cutting-edge technologies to create category dominating brands and loyal consumer relationships.” ■

 


About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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