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Direct Response Marketing

Indestructable iPhone Protector Toku Breaks Into DRTV

1 Jul, 2012 By: Nicole Urso Reed Response

Toku means ‘shield’ in Japanese, and the new iPhone case is going head to head with tough competition.Toku Advertising

It solves a common problem and lends itself to one heck of a demonstration. The new Toku, a “virtually indestructible” iPhone case, appears to be the perfect fit for direct response television as it makes its debut, but will the national cable TV and mobile marketing campaign ring to a diverse audience of mobile consumers?

Anyone who owns (or has once owned and broken) an Apple iPhone, iPod or other fragile smartphone or eReader product understands the panic of dropping one and the heartbreak of a shattered screen. While the gadgets are an indispensable necessity of today’s socially connected multitaskers, the risk of breaking one and the cost of replacing it is a constant threat.

AppleCare, the extended warranty program that covers defects and repairs for iPhone, does not include coverage for accidental damage such as drops, dunks or other misfortunes attributed to misuse versus product failure.

It’s led to a whole new market for iPhone cases and protectors. Fashion designers such as Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs, Juicy Couture, Diane von Furstenberg and many others sell candy-colored cases that retail for up to $48. There are numerous websites including and where users upload personal photos or artwork to design their own, and then there are companies, including OtterBox and Crimson USA, which market specially designed cases for ultimate durability.

OtterBox’s Defender series is made of a polycarbonate shell that completely encloses the iPhone to protect against both impact and water. The cases range from $35.95 to $59.95. Crimson USA’s Aluminum Frame Case collection features a sleek, lightweight design crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum and engineering-grade resin with the camera, ports and buttons open and accessible. They range from $39.95 to a 24K gold-plated case for $69.95.

Toku, which means “shield” in Japanese, is the newest of the bunch, and claims to be better than any of its competitors. It is touted as the first protector that can withstand virtually any impact, even from kids. It’s available only for the iPhone 4 and 4S at this time, but according to Nielsen data, that’s a smart audience to target. Although Android claimed 48 percent market share at the end of the first quarter, Apple’s iOS is quickly taking customers from other operating systems while Android showed no new growth. iPhones, which were previously only available to AT&T customers, are available to Verizon and Sprint, and they are now sold for only $99 with a contract.

iPhone owners who know the panic of seeing their device slip from their hands or fall from the edge of a desk may cringe when they see the first TV spot for Toku. The iPhone is run over by a Ford Escalade. It’s also dropped from a ladder and smashed under a brick. It survives. No shattered screen — not even a scratch. TV host Tim Gowey demonstrates the Toku case by slamming it onto the concrete and it bounces back.

“The OtterBox is the (iPhone case) that they claim is the best, so we did the commercial, us against them” says Bill McAlister, president of direct response sales and product sourcing at Trevose, Pa.-based Media Enterprises. “We start out with a 10-foot ladder, we drop them both. The OtterBox breaks. We go from that to a six-story bridge. Mine literally jumps up like a basketball. You’ll see the footage. The other one implodes into dust.”

What will likely be the most memorable demonstration of all is when the iPhone is dropped from a helicopter 60 feet above ground and lands safely in its Toku shell.

“That’s the commercial basically,” says McAlister. “Demo, demo, demo, demo. I have a guy throwing it on the ground as hard as he can. It didn’t break.”

The product is familiarly priced at $19.95 plus $7.95 for processing and handling with a “buy-one, get-one” offer, and upgraded with the addition of a touchscreen shield, a transparent film that protects the screen from scratches. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee and the cases come in black, white and red.

Ready for Impact

Toku cases are made from a super-durable material called Impact Gel — an organic, soy-based material specially designed to move shock, weight and heat laterally. It is used in a variety of products, including saddle pads, hockey gear, airplane seats and motorcycle seats. Its durability and uncanny ability to absorb impact lends itself naturally to demonstration, which did not go unnoticed to McAlister back in 2009 when he marketed Impact Gel Insoles, an As Seen On TV product with pitchmen Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan.

“I love the insole. I love the idea. The commercial didn’t work, but I kept on working with (Impact Gel) to try to develop something else and we developed this over the last few years,” McAlister says. “This Impact Gel is absolutely incredible.”

After nearly 25 years in the direct marketing industry, McAlister has an eye for products that will sell. He started his career at QVC and then founded Media Enterprises and became a vendor for the Home Shopping Network (HSN). He sources products with DR potential and manages campaigns from front to back. When the Impact Gel Insole commercial fizzled out, McAlister knew that another opportunity would present itself to use the super-strength material in a successful As Seen On TV product.

“The individuals at Impact Gel actually brought us the item,” says Erica Meloni, project and PR manager for Toku. “They discovered that the gel worked as a cell phone case when they threw the phone against the wall and it didn’t break.”

If the Toku campaign is a success, then Meloni says that they will build out a larger line of Toku products for more smartphone and eReader devices.

“Phase 2 would be iPad cases and then making a different size when the iPhone 5 is introduced in late 2012 or early 2013,” says Meloni.

Call Now

Toku’s DRTV campaign launched in June with a $20,000 national cable buy across multiple channels including MTV, Spike and ESPN, according to McAlister. Unlike other DR products, the commercial couldn’t target a specific demographic. iPhone consumers are an eclectic mix of male and female, young and mature, technical, creative and professional.

They decided to keep the Toku creative straightforward and stick to the simple problem-solution demonstration that speaks to any iPhone owner.

“I know Bill loves those over-the-top demos, and I wanted to give that to him,” says Rick McIntosh, producer of the Toku commercial. “I wanted to give that over-the-top demonstration, and drop it from a helicopter because when people see that they can’t believe it.”

McIntosh and McAlister have worked together to produce other successful DRTV commercials, but this is the most extreme, attention-grabbing demonstration that they’ve devised.

“That was me throwing it out of the helicopter, so I had fun,” says McIntosh. The production team had to toss the iPhone out of the helicopter and film it landing in a certain spot of an intersection. “We had to retake it a couple times but the phone didn’t break.”

To help pinpoint iPhone owners, DRTV media is supplemented with a mobile marketing campaign managed by Pittsburgh-based Songwhale. The company targets users within its network and delivers SMS or text message offers for Toku cases.

“For the first time, we’re using a mobile platform, which makes sense for the phone,” says McAlister. “The company that we’re using can actually identify whether you’re using the iPhone 4 or the 4S, and they’ll actually go after that customer base via text.”

Two days after the campaign launched, and heading into only the first weekend of sales, McAlister spoke very positively about the campaign kickoff.

“The first results are very promising,” he says. “We’ve had 511 hits to the website, which is phenomenal. It’s only cleared on one spot, which is Spike TV.”

With very limited data, response rates were also off to a steady start.

“Sales are very good, but until we clear all the weekend spots, we don’t know,” he says. “But with only Spike TV clearing and us getting 400 to 500 hits, 35 to 40 orders is very good. The conversion rate is high, so it’s very promising.”

Once the campaign picks up more speed, social media and other public relations outreach will be next.

“I think once we test, we will roll out with social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter,” says Meloni. “We will also reach out to TV stations for their ‘Deal or Dud’ segments.”

The Toku television spot with the helicopter demonstration can be viewed online at

About the Author: Nicole Urso Reed

Nicole Urso Reed

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