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Direct Response Marketing

Cover Story: Spinning a Winning Web

1 Sep, 2012 By: Thomas Haire Response

Ryan Campbell says a DR-to-retail campaign is the perfect fit for Spyder Products’ power tool accessories.

“We’re not just trying to sell one product, today,” says Ryan Campbell, general manager of Spyder/SM Products LLC, a hardware company based in N. Kansas City, Mo. “We’re trying to grow a brand to sell not only our existing products, but others in the future. It’s all in how you look at DR, and it allows us to communicate the benefits of the product to a consumer as well as alert them where it’s available.”

The five-year old company has had great success not only with direct sales of its power tool accessory line but — more importantly — in driving retail sales at more than 7,000 outlets around the U.S. and Canada, led by national hardware chain Lowe’s. “Spyder wants to be a pro grade tool company — tools that a professional or experienced DIYer (do-it-yourselfer) should have in their toolbox,” Campbell adds. “DR has helped us become perceived seriously by this market, by consumers who now know that Spyder tools will give them the end result they’re looking for.”

The company turned to direct response in 2011, after establishing itself among knowledgeable hardware users, to expand its scope. It also broke the mold by presenting not one, not two, but three power tool accessories in one DR campaign — often seen as a no-no by old school DRTV marketers who contend straying from a single product muddies the offer.

But, breaking the mold is what the owners and investors in the Spyder brand have done for some time, according to Campbell.

From One Vertical to Another

The 31-year old Campbell says he’s been working with the owners — Dr. Joseph and Judy Roetheli — for most of his post-collegiate career. “Joe and Judy had great success previously in the pet category, driving a little known company into creating Greenies, which became the No. 1 dog treat in the United States before they sold the company to the Mars Co. in 2006,” he says. “I joined that company directly out of college as a financial analyst.”

After the sale, while the Roethelis were looking for other investments, Campbell briefly worked for an I-bank as an advisor for mergers and acquisitions (part of his role at the previous company). But when the Roethelis decided to build a tool company, they brought Campbell back to run the operation. Shortly thereafter, they found the Spyder Scraper®.

The company’s initial product — the Spyder Scraper, a power scraping tool for residential and commercial jobs with multiple sizes — was invented in 2007 by foundry worker and DIYer Justin Kuhn, who fashioned a scraper blade that fit his reciprocating saw. According to the company’s website (, he named it the Spyder Scraper because he “felt like he suddenly had eight arms to do the work.”

The product won the New Product of the Year award at the 2008 National Hardware Show, becoming an instant success and drawing the Roethelis to purchase the company. “The idea to get into the tool business came from the Roethelis, because they believed we could take what we knew about marketing, merchandising, retail and more from the Greenies product and apply it to this space,” Campbell says.

With Campbell’s expertise having grown from the financial side during his time with the Roethelis’ previous company (he ended up as supply chain manager prior to the Mars sale), he was a natural fit to run the overall operation.

All About Retail Support

Early in Spyder’s history, the Roethelis’ experience with Greenies led the company to shun heavy consumer advertising. “The owners’ mindset was not to use advertising since they didn’t use it with the Greenies brand at all,” Campbell says. “It was all about in-store sampling and point-of-sale displays and videos.”

After three years of marketing Spyder’s product line — which has grown to include other power tool accessories like the Spyder Grout-Out™, the Spyder Bore-Blade™ and its newest product, Double-Sided Jig Saw Blades — to both retailers and tool professionals through similar means, an expansion of scope was in order. “With tools, it became clear we needed to advertise,” Campbell says.

That led, in fourth-quarter 2011, to the rollout of Spyder’s first short-form DRTV campaign that drives consumers to either call or visit their local Lowe’s store. “DR has been instrumental for us in creating awareness and a brand,” Campbell says. “It’s also created a big demand for products. These are power tool accessories that are truly innovative and different. They are really a must-demonstrate item, and DRTV is perfect for that.”

Looking to remain cost-effective with a drive-to-retail DR campaign was also important to the Spyder team. “We knew we had big-box locations lined up with the products, and we had to support them with significant traffic,” Campbell says. “There wasn’t another existing solution in this space, so DRTV was perfect to make our solution well known and immediately drive demand to our retail partners. Our brand is all about supporting those retailers.”

Those retailers number more than 7,000 storefronts in North America — not only Lowe’s, which is tagged in the DR spots, but also Menards, Ace, True Value, Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) and more. Lowe’s, though, was the natural partner for a national DRTV rollout.

“It’s really all about Lowe’s national footprint,” Campbell says. “This type of DR is only great if you have somewhere to send consumers. If I am advertising with a regional player, it makes it tougher. We have to send consumers to a store they know will have the product.”

And while direct-to-consumer sales fell slightly short of original goals in the initial campaign, Campbell says the Spyder team is thrilled with the results. “Our DR campaign is not really about those direct sales,” he contends. “They’re all gravy, because the drive is to retail, and that’s been a great success. In fact, a good percentage of our direct consumers — those we drove to the Web — actually still went through retail as we sent all Web sales through Lowe’s website. When we say this campaign is about driving retail, we mean it.”

‘Tools You’ll Love …’

They also meant it when they decided to break another traditional DRTV “rule” and sell three products in one campaign. “We went in with the Scraper, the Grout-Out and the Bore-Blade, selling it online and over the phone as a starter kit,” Campbell says of the kit, which was priced at $27.98 in the spot. “In store, we didn’t offer the kit, but each product is priced competitively in every retailer.”

The company then followed with a Father’s Day DRTV campaign that ran for just a few weeks to supplement in-store sales, while also pushing the original kit into retail for the first time. And, just last month, Spyder went back into the studio to shoot spots for a new product introduction.

“Our tagline is ‘Tools You’ll Love for the Jobs You Don’t,’” Campbell says. “And the new campaign just furthers that as our call-to-action as we expand the line with a new launch. We’re looking at a better price point offer and more aggressive retail support. Since it’s a pure DR-to-retail play, we don’t test the campaign — there will be a full national rollout on October 15.”

Such aggressive tactics can be traced back to those early point-of-sale campaigns for Greenies, according to Campbell. “Those videos were really our DRTV training ground,” he says. “We used video to drive immediate sales of the merchandise at that retail location. We had success communicating that message properly to the consumer, so when we looked at DRTV for Spyder, we saw it simply as increasing the scope of that reach.”

The lessons learned by the Spyder team were supplemented by its team of agencies and vendors. “For our package development, advertising and marketing we work closely with a company called Callahan Creek, a marketing agency for specialty brands,” Campbell says. “But for our DR campaign, we use Atomic Direct virtually exclusively.”

The Portland, Ore.-based agency has a history of success in the hardware space, something Campbell calls “extremely valuable” to Spyder’s efforts. He says that Atomic is really “running” the DRTV campaign, “managing the budgets, creative and media.”

“Atomic has been instrumental for us at all levels,” Campbell adds. “We’ve given them the ability to be as creative as they can with our products while using their expertise to really resonate with our consumers. They use their past experiences in our industry to make our campaigns more powerful.”

About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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