Hardware Market: DR Brings It for Hardware1 May, 2012 By: Jackie Jones Response
>DR is the tool of choice for consumers increasingly interested in the nuts and bolts of how to best take care of their homes amid a slow market recovery.
By now, advertisers have heard enough about economic downgrades and what risks and pitfalls are more commonplace than not in today’s market. But for those looking for that silver lining, it is there. Consumers who have taken it upon themselves to cook, clean and craft on their own to save money during this most recent recession are also realizing they’re more than capable of a little home construction, as well — opening the door for direct response hardware marketers to align themselves with a post-recessionary customer base ready and willing to spend.
For those with the right tools, it is a mutually beneficial relationship. Hardware consumers can give DR what it needs — a customer base that proves direct response is a value-filled industry beyond “yell-and-sell” tactics, and DR gives hardware consumers what they are looking for: education and a long-term, holistic approach to home maintenance.
“From a marketer standpoint, today’s consumers have changed. The post-recessionary hardware customers informed themselves better about products, so as a marketer, the more you clearly detail your product features and benefits, the better,” says Dan Tratensek, publisher of Hardware Retailing magazine, part of the North American Retail Hardware Association. “After everything consumers have been through in the past few years, today’s consumer is also looking more at value, which doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. They are looking for an investment, and hardware marketers need to know that consumers will spend more if their product proves it can deliver long-term solutions, quality and benefits.”
The housing market has had a significant impact on hardware sales, according to Tratensek. Though it’s been a mixed bag for the industry, with retailers in particular affected, there has been steady growth since 2009, he adds.
“As the housing market changes, there is certainly attrition and we lost some ammo on the retail side,” Tratensek says. “But as the market has begun to recover and people are getting back to normal, we’re seeing a lot of homeowners looking to do different things, which is where the hardware marketers come into play. There’s been a lot of investment in rental properties and much more home-improvement activity to capitalize on.”
While consumers are looking to save money by picking up a tool or two themselves, they aren’t looking to cut corners and skimp on quality. If the recession has taught them anything, it’s that long-lasting value — especially when it comes to larger purchases such as a home or property — will matter more even when times get tough. At the same time, competition has only increased as more points of purchase enter the equation, whether that is alternate screens, at retail or through long- and short-form DRTV. Hardware marketers utilizing DRTV and other accountable, engaging platforms, such as mobile or social, provide a distinct, unparalleled connection to those type of consumers while helping their products stand out from any other tool in the shed.
“A lot of the recent product success stories you see in retail or in general have started with DR roots,” Tratensek says. “DR is different. It provides that connection with consumers as an advertising platform that allows time to really delve into product details, and that becomes vitally important as hardware marketers look to dive deeper into the retail life cycle, as well.”
Amid all the tools, machinery and equipment encompassed by the hardware market, DR marketers are honing in on where the heart is, all while appealing to the other important organ when it comes to purchasing decisions: the brain. TEHO Innovations recently worked with Atomic Direct to launch a campaign exclusive to DRTV on its new product, the TEHO Garden Maintenance Kit, a powered pruning and trimming tool kit for lawn and garden use, according to Gina Knodle, director of sales and marketing at TEHO.
“Direct response is extremely important to use, especially in the beginning, as we’re exclusively selling the kit through DRTV and our website. We decided on launching via DRTV rather than in traditional retail outlets as the innovative nature of our tools can be explained much more thoroughly through an infomercial than a box on a shelf. This is amplified by the fact we’re launching a brand along with these tools,” Knodle says. “The success of other high-quality, innovative products on DRTV led us to explore the medium, so the importance of DR to the vertical market in general is huge. Today’s customers are more receptive than ever to purchasing through DRTV, which is not only a strong alternative to traditional retail, but can also be an effective partner with traditional retail.”
TEHO Garden Maintenance’s long-form infomercial is the core medium of the marketer’s advertising campaign, while the company tests online options as a possible future complement. Consumers can also order directly through the product’s microsite and can interact with the brand through its Facebook page, according to Knodle.
“The long-form spot focused on the fun of using the tools and was backed up by its innovative and ergonomic qualities,” she says. “Atomic Direct helped us with upfront research, fulfillment and airing, as well as assisting with upsell opportunities, like our Bucket Caddie.”
Direct response veteran Hampton Direct has also found success with its latest foray into short-form DRTV for InstaHang, a tool that allows consumers to hang objects on walls without the use of a hammer, nails, wires or traditional hooks. The 60-second and 120-second DRTV spots were created last summer, tested in August 2011 and launched on TV early November, and started shipping to retail at the end of January this year, according to Steve Heroux, founder and CEO of Hampton Direct Inc.
“InstaHang has mass appeal and a great demographic,” says Heroux, a member of the Response Advisory Board. “There is an instant gratification and ease of use with this product, and being able to demonstrate on TV as much as we can with DR — actually showing where you can hang multiple amounts of pictures or frames — is crucial and resonates with potential buyers. Having TV to show that is a real benefit to creating awareness for the product overall and ultimately for a push to retail.”
Expansion into retail can be more of a challenge for hardware advertisers than other vertical markets, Heroux advises.
“One of the challenges is, in contrast to general retail stores like Wal-Mart or Bed Bath & Beyond, hardware chains often don’t have an As Seen On TV section. A lot of hardware buyers aren’t familiar with that world, and we have to do a lot of educating when we bring products to hardware retailers,” Heroux says. “But once you overcome that challenge, the retailers get it because they see the success. They see us drive customers to the stores, and they see the exposure DR provides. Some of the hardware chains are not used to buying these products and you have to educate them a bit, but they’ve always been happy and surprised with the volume we’ve been able to generate with the demand from DRTV.”
Thinking Outside the (Tool) Box
“Consumers, retailers and distributors are always looking for something to get people excited about buying new things, and introducing new products to market consistently is so important these days,” Tratensek says. “New products are always exciting, and we’re going to see a lot more of those as the year continues.”
Tratensek adds that the North American Retail Hardware Association has also noticed a renewed interest in American-made products within the hardware industry.
“We see a lot more promotion for products made in America, and it’s something for marketers to take note of because it is a trend that is really driven by consumers showing a renewed interest in domestic innovation and growth,” he advises.
Hampton Direct is already ahead of the game: The InstaHang product was created by the direct response marketing company’s in-house development team, headquartered in Williston, Vt., and they are already busy developing new hook additions and add-ons to the original launch, according to Heroux.
“We see InstaHang as a whole program for a lot of the retailers out there. The uniqueness of the product and the continued innovation of our team will build a viable, lasting program to keep it around a long time,” Heroux says. “There is a lot of longevity in products in the hardware space. Once we get them in the hardware chains, they can be there for years and years, which is great for DRTV marketers.”
TEHO also plans to use DR to continue its brand development, Knodle says. “Along with the launch of our Garden Maintenance kit, we’re hoping to develop strong brand recognition for TEHO,” she contends. “Under this brand, we plan to continue bringing innovative tools into the market.”
That commitment to continued innovation and a long-term outlook on consumer relations is key to hardware marketers’ success, both in DR and beyond.
“Whether you’re selling through traditional means, through DR, or breaking into retail, making a connection with a hardware consumer is more important now than ever,” Tratensek says. “They have so many options. If you’re not reaching out to them, educating them, proving your value, your product is just going to become part of the white noise and you’re going to be putting yourself behind the 8-ball.”