ERA1 Mar, 2004 By: Response Contributor Response
New Product Program: The Inventors' Showcase
At the heart of every great direct response advertising campaign lay a solid and inventive product, full of creativity and overflowing with potential. These products are often the culmination of years of hard work from an inventor who had a vision and realized an actual, tangible solution.
These inventors often take huge risks to reach their dreams, sometimes mortgaging their homes and emptying their bank accounts. And, occasionally, a product is so exceptional that a "rags to riches" story begins.
Often, however, the inventor does not have a full awareness of the marketplace or exposure to the right players to ensure an opportunity for success. This is where the Electronic Retailing Association's (ERA) New Product Program comes in - to help educate, protect and introduce today's best inventors to the proven industry leaders of direct response advertising.
One of the Showcase's products, the EZ-Find, promoted by Don Pucci from Basix Inc., piqued great interest during the show in Las Vegas.
ERA's Role - Education and ExposureIn 2000, ERA began hosting one-day seminars in strategic cities across the United States to bring together some of the country's newest inventors. The Inventors' Showcase, as it came to be known, provides a forum for up-and-coming inventors to learn how to successfully market their products, while hearing from industry experts on the ins-and-outs of the business.
After a morning educational session on the effective components of a product pitch, each inventor is given the opportunity to go before a panel of DR experts and present a five-minute pitch on the actual product. Based on the success of this presentation and the ingenuity of the invention, the panel then selects a core group of inventors to attend ERA's Annual Conference & Exposition, which provides them with the opportunity to showcase these winning products to home shopping powerhouses like QVC, HSN and other major industry players.
The products are selected based on five major industry categories: DRTV short form, DRTV long form, DR radio, live shopping and DR print (catalog). Because of this chance to showcase these products in front of a dream marketing audience, the Inventors' Showcase has exploded in popularity and participation. Consequently in 2004, ERA expects to have more than 75 inventors in attendance at the Annual Conference in Las Vegas.
Steve Gates of Gates Enterprises & Concepts Inc., displays his CleanR PaintR SystemTM product that makes the chore of painting easier.
"What makes the New Product Program & Showcase so successful is that it offers entrepreneurs a safe and effective way to become educated about the direct response industry," says ERA President & CEO Barbara Tulipane. "When bringing a new product to market, understanding how the industry works is a critical factor for success, and we provide inventors with an opportunity to market their product to the top players in the industry without fear of being taken advantage of or exploited."
Fear of exploitation is precisely why ERA requires all inventors who participate in the seminars to have a registered patent, patent-pending or registered trademark on their actual product idea for their protection. Additionally, all inventors who attend the Inventors' Showcase must maintain no current product marketing contracts for that particular item.
In other words, almost all inventors come to the ERA show for the first time with their invention. And often, through the advice of the showcase's panel of experts, they realize that their particular product will not make it in the direct response industry.
Wendi Cooper, president of C Spot Run Entertainment and former chair of ERA's New Product Program Committee, notes, "The inventors walk away from this panel with one of three things: a knowledge that they have a product that will work for direct response; information on how to alter their product to work; or a trip back to the drawing board."
The Body Buggy is proudly showcased by its promoters, Mike Rovere and Eliot Geeting of Eliot James Enterprises.
Despite the fact that it may not always be the most pleasant response, the committee strives to be honest and protect the best interest of the inventor. "By pre-qualifying their invention through the New Product Program, inventors gain entry into a safe forum offering a bright future for their products and their wallets," Cooper adds.
The Secret to SuccessSometimes an inventor will come to the New Product Showcase with a product so perfect that success seems imminent. These particular inventions, once chosen to be showcased in Las Vegas, are often picked up by live shopping channels for future programs. In 2003 alone, HSN expressed interest in five products on display in the New Product Showcase. These products ranged from press-on nail polish to pet brushes to designer shoe covers.
Bob Rosenblatt, former president of HSN, says the network looks for a few specific characteristics in an invention when he is making a decision on what to air live on the network. "A product has to be original and demonstrable for it to be a considered a good investment for live TV Shopping," he contends. "It needs to not only 'wow' the audience but drive the consumer to make a purchase at that time. Although very few products I come across have these characteristics, when I see one I think will work, it's intriguing to see if my instincts are correct."
Steve Gates, inventor of the CleanR PaintR System™, a retail package for his patent pending roller handle and brush clip that also functions as a handheld paint tray and a fast paint-roller cleaner, is one of the Showcase's participants who received interest in his product from major direct response companies. "It is amazing to me that because I came here, I not only received education on how to improve my product's marketability, but I also got the opportunity to speak with successful entrepreneurs who actually have their products on TV or in retail stores," he says.
To Gates, the experience was invaluable. "I left the Showcase knowing key people in the industry, while also being armed with the right information to make my product successful," he adds.