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Marketer of the Year

Marketer of the Year: Hearthware Cooks Up a Big Victory

1 Oct, 2011 By: Thomas Haire Response

The marketers of the NuWave Oven walk away with the third annual DRMA Marketer of the Year Award, while finalists BJ Global Direct and Hampton Direct also gain industry support for their successful products.

Hearthware Inc. is so humbled by this recognition from the Direct Response Marketing Alliance (DRMA),” says David Choi, manager of sales and marketing for Libertyville, Ill.-based Hearthware Inc., the winner of the third annual DRMA Marketer of the Year Award. “We are grateful to our retail partners, vendors and peers for their continued support and thoughtful consideration in selecting our company as Marketer of the Year.”

Due to the continued success of the NuWave Oven product (which launched originally in 2002 before enjoying a renaissance in the past two years), Hearthware earned a decisive margin of victory among the nearly 1,000 votes cast by DR industry marketers and vendors, while the other two finalists — BJ Global Direct (marketers of the successful Kymaro line of beauty products) and Hampton Direct (marketers of such products as PajamaJeans, Furniture Fix and Total Pillow) were neck-and-neck in the battle for second place. Choi accepted the award in front of an overflow crowd at a ceremony and cocktail event on Sept. 14 at Las Vegas’ Chateau nightclub, located in the Paris Las Vegas resort.

Hearthware, which has sold more than 2 million units of the NuWave Oven (via DRTV, online and retail), also offers such products as the i-Roast coffee bean roaster, the Whiptide dual-deck skateboard, and the Foot Claw anti-skid footwear attachment. Choi believes that Hearthware’s commitment to “develop products that promote convenience and value while enhancing the customer’s quality of life” has been crucial to the company’s success.

Creating high-quality, affordable products has also been a major part of BJ Global Direct’s success. In earning its third consecutive nomination (and finishing second in the voting in consecutive years), BJ Global’s team earned industry support mainly due to its extensive Kymaro line of products — including the Kymaro New Body Shaper and Kymaro Curve Control Jeans. Meanwhile, the third finalist, Hampton Direct, has burst onto the DR scene in the past half-decade and seen its success ramp up in the past year with hit products like PajamaJeans, Furniture Fix and Total Pillow.

These three standouts earned finalist status in an industry vote among the top 11 nominees for the DRMA Marketer of the Year Award. During the coming months, each of the 11 nominees will be profiled in the pages of Response. However, these three finalists — and the winner — have truly set themselves apart.

Hearthware’s Consumer Focus Is Undeniable

Choi believes Hearthware’s professionalism was a key to industry voters’ response. “We are so flattered by the response from voters and believe it can be attributed to our commitment to dealing with our customers and partners in a consistently professional manner,” he says. “Hearthware brings a fresh and open angle to the marketplace, and we believe that is reflected by our A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.”

That said, Choi also says consumer feedback on Hearthware’s products is consistent. “Our consumers don’t merely love our products — they love doing business with us,” he says.

With a show that has earned top ranking for its offer from DR industry research firm Jordan Whitney Inc., the NuWave Oven helped Hearthware prosper in a tough economy.

“The Great Recession has brought tremendous hardship upon American families and businesses. Yet Hearthware is continually growing and creating jobs in the United States,” Choi contends. “We are consistently monitoring our pricing and looking for ways to add value to our already superior products. For example, we have recently added a two-year warranty at no additional cost.”

Choi also contends retail expansion has been crucial. “We have also introduced and strengthened relationships with major retail chains so that the NuWave Oven can be purchased at standard brick-and-mortar outlets, in addition to online and telephone shopping options, giving choices that allow them to flex their purchasing power in whatever way is most convenient for them,” he says.

That focus on customers is apparent in any conversation with Choi or the Hearthware team. He says, “We stand behind every oven we sell, and a key to our success is that our customers recognize this. Customer service is our No. 1 priority, and we are absolutely dedicated to ensuring that everyone who comes to Hearthware enjoys a positive experience.”

And whether the company’s new product rollouts see immediate success or need tweaking, Hearthware maintains the same focus for each product. “Hearthware is driven by the pursuit of safe, environmentally-friendly products that can improve the quality of life and eating patterns of our customers. We don’t believe in the bare minimum when it comes to reliability and quality,” Choi says. “It is not by accident that the NuWave Oven has been reviewed so positively online and in the media — of those that tried the NuWave Oven, nearly 99 percent decided to keep it.”

While Choi believes that Hearthware is capable of success outside of its core areas of expertise, he also believes the housewares vertical is one of the direct response industry’s evergreen areas.

“Housewares and home products tend to be recession-proof industries, but in a tough economic climate, living well for less has never been more important to the consumer,” he says.

He also uses the success of one of the world’s largest product marketers as an example of what Hearthware is trying to achieve. “Take Apple as another example,” Choi says. “That organization has been noteworthy for the ability to think on its feet, to evolve and develop products that consumers desire. The business graveyard is littered with companies that failed to move with the times.”

While Hearthware has seen the bulk of its success in long-form DRTV, Choi says the company has expanded its arsenal as other media have become available. “We have found long-form DRTV to be very effective when used in conjunction with our other marketing platforms, such as social media and a high-profile Web presence,” he contends. “Word-of-mouth is every bit as critical to the success of the Nu-Wave Oven as the advertising dollars spent.”

Looking ahead, Choi becomes coy when discussing what’s in Hearthware’s plans for 2012. “We can’t reveal too much, but we do have several exciting products in the pipeline,” he says. “We have a very strong research-and-development team invested with a powerful sense of invention and entrepreneurship. The goal is not simply to source products.”

BJ Global Earns Another Second-Place Finish

With 22 years in the DR business, BJ Fazeli, CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based BJ Global Direct, has seen plenty of hits and misses. But, in recent years, Fazeli and his team have found a formula for success in its Kymaro line of beauty products. Fazeli’s team shares a strong work ethic and great camaraderie.

“This is our third consecutive nomination and, once again, it is a great honor,” Fazeli says. “To be consistently recognized by our peers means a lot not just to me, but to the entire BJ Global team. There are so many creative and successful marketers in this industry.”

In the past year, the BJ Global team successfully drove its Kymaro line, including the New Body Shaper, Curve Control Jeans and Shaping Tank among others, into retail. The company also saw success putting its items into the home shopping arena, and introduced two new products — Magnetize IT, a clothing accessory, and Rhythm Rocker, a fitness product.

Fazeli also mentions another big change. “We have just moved into a new building, more than doubling the size of our last facility,” he says. “Our entire operation is now under one roof, which enables more streamlined operations.”

But it was the success of the Kymaro brand in recent years that has really changed the focus at BJ Global. Fazeli says, “The Kymaro brand offers a line of figure-fixing products at affordable prices. Our customers know that they can look good and feel better about themselves without breaking the bank. Also, our emphasis on great customer service keeps clients happy and coming back.”

The company is expanding beyond long-form DRTV into other media opportunities. Fazeli says, “Our core business is still long-form. However, it really does depend on the product. Short-form is useful for brand awareness and product placement into retail. It is also the form best supported by alternative media.”

Looking forward, Fazeli believes the time is near for the company’s Rhythm Rocker product to make a U.S. breakthrough. He says, “The Rhythm Rocker is doing well internationally, and we are expanding our media domestically to be ready to enter retail.”

Hampton Direct Rides Hit Wave

“Our newest products — PajamaJeans, Furniture Fix, Total Pillow and InstaHang — are all great solutions to every day problems,” says Steve Heroux, founder and CEO of Williston, Vt.-based Hampton Direct. “Total Pillow replaces the use of five pillows, and hanging pictures is a breeze. PajamaJeans was a game changer and opened up a whole new category in short-form DRTV.”

But it was not only the products that Heroux believes were the reason Marketer of the Year voters responded to Hampton Direct’s candidacy. “This nomination validates all of the hard work from everyone at Hampton Direct,” he says. “We have made some great business decisions and created many good relationships with people and businesses in the industry, and inventors as well.”

Still, it’s those products that have put up the giant sales results. PajamaJeans, introduced in November 2010, sold more than 600,000 units from TV and online and is projected to sell more than 2 million units at retail by the end of 2011. Not to be outdone, Total Pillow is projecting to 3 million in retail sales by the end of the year (and 3.6 million in total units sold).

But Heroux calls PajamaJeans the big story. “The successful launch of PajamaJeans was the most significant accomplishment — successfully creating a campaign for a $40 short-form fashion product with eight sizes was no easy task,” he says.

That work likely stemmed from a focus on products that would reach consumers during tough economic times. “With cost-cutting on the minds of millions of Americans, we have focused on building brands that provide money-saving solutions to everyday problems,” Heroux contends.

Heroux also believes both short-form and long-form DRTV are effective in a muddled media landscape. “The consumer responds equally well to both, but the price point and intricate nature of the product often dictates whether a product should be marketed in a spot or an infomercial,” he says. “Neither type of campaign can survive without successful media buying and great online, mobile and print advertising.”

Heroux adds, “Well-managed PR, social media and a customer-centric environment will continue to thrive in 2012.”

Looking ahead, Heroux believes Hampton Direct remains well positioned in a difficult economy. “As the economy continues to be soft, people will continue to look for money savers, time savers and problem solvers at affordable prices,” he says. “We are getting ready to launch InstaHang at retail in early 2012. We are also preparing to produce three new long-form infomercials, as well as a variety of short-form spots.” ■

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