Field Reports1 Apr, 2006 By: Thomas Haire, Nicole Urso Reed Response
Barlow, Janura Push for Brand-Building DR at Famous Discoveries
In December 2004, DRTV industry veteran Bill Barlow teamed with inventor and TV pitchman Akos Janura to form Famous Discoveries, a full-service marketing and product development agency that uses DR to launch products into mainstream retail. In just over one year, the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based company has debuted a number of new products, including the successful Stainz-R-Out line, invented by Janura. Recently, Response sat down with Barlow to discuss how the company is doing.
Akos Janura (seated) and Bill Barlow formed Famous Discoveries in late 2004.
Q. Can you talk about your professional background and how you came to your current position with your company?
A. Bill Barlow: I got into this business as a TV producer, but in DR, you have to be a product expert to be a producer. A DR producer must know more than anyone else about the product — research, brand, brand positioning. During my experience at Reliant (Barlow was vice president of brand management for Thane Intl.'s Tampa office during its teaming with once-again independent Reliant Intl.), I positioned myself over time to become a product/brand expert.
Q. Can you briefly describe forming Famous Discoveries? How did the idea come to fruition?
A. Barlow: Akos came to me with a product — the Stainz-R-Out brand. He formulated and developed the product. His original background is as a chemist, but he sold the products he created through tradeshows and that translated into TV shopping network sales. With my background in finding distribution and brand management, our skill sets blended nicely. I was in a very significant transition period after leaving Reliant and Thane, and many companies were pursuing me. But, with the concepts Akos brought, I reached a point where I decided it was time to go to work for myself rather than for another company again.
Q. What makes your DR-to-retail model unique?
A. Barlow: It's the difference between products and brands. Almost all DR companies have a product that they pump and sell on TV and then run through other channels. We understand that the endgame is a brand that lives on a retail shelf. Retailers don't one-off products for a plan-o-grammed shelf. For instance, we have 20 SKUs within the Stainz-R-Out brand. A store like Target wants at least three strong SKUs before they allow you on their shelves. We have the options they need, once we demonstrate our SKUs sell on TV. And we will continue to support those brands once they are on the shelf.
Q. Stainz-R-Out has sold more than 1 million bottles, which has been crucial to the company's early success. What other products are moving through your pipeline?
A. Barlow: Akos is also a professional musician, and he's come up with two educational music products — the Roll Up Piano and MySheetMusic.com — that make learning to play music and accessing sheet music for hundreds of songs and dozens of instruments as simple as a mouse-click. We have had some success in live shopping with both and are moving aggressively into the keyboard and music spaces.
Q. What are your plans for Famous Discoveries' future?
A. Barlow: Akos and I want to expand our existing brands and build them on products that deliver what they promise. Brand building is much more sensitive to products delivering what they promise. We will aggressively move into other categories, though music, cleaning, do-it-yourself (DIY) and fitness are our areas of expertise. We will continue seeking products that fit in a brand that can launch and then be expanded.
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