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Direct Response Marketing

Retail Outlet

1 Sep, 2004 By: Donald L. Potter Response

Learning From Those Who Aren't Afraid To Be Leaders


Going from DRTV to retail is not a new concept, nor is it a strategy best suited for the little guy with a pay-as-you-go marketing budget. In fact, variations of the model have been used successfully by major retailer Sears, the leading branded products marketer, Procter & Gamble, and, frequently, by motion picture giant Universal Studios.

Studying these successes provides insight regarding how flexible and useful the DR/retail approach can be. Recent observations suggest that more marketers are employing their own version of the model as a practical and profitable way to build and extend their business. Take a look at what some of the marketing powerhouses are doing.

Sears 'Crafts' a Winner

The Craftsman line of tools has been a strong Sears house brand for many years. Despite the emergence of lower-priced national competition, the reputation of the brand has not diminished. Presumably, Craftsman has been one of the reasons men continue to shop at Sears.

Along the way, Sears' marketing team — obviously remembering the company's mail-order roots — began promoting specialty tools and accessories via DRTV. These products were advertised for $19.95, using one-minute spots featuring a well-known home improvement personality.

Sears' commercials conformed to the traditional DR format. However, there was an added benefit. Consumers knew they could also get the advertised product, as well as other Craftsman items by simply making a trip to the nearest Sears store. If DRTV didn't make the sale, it certainly helped underwrite a major portion of the additional retail volume.

P&G Dusts the Competition

Swiffer, a new cleaning system from Procter & Gamble, debuted last year using DRTV. The system consisted of a simple handle with disposable dust-attracting mop covers. Short-form television spots demonstrated how fast and easy it was to keep floors, walls and ceilings dust-free. The starter kit, with several refills, sold for $19.99.

Soon after the DR launch, Swiffer was in stores everywhere. The starter kit shelf price has since dropped to $14.99, with refills selling separately for $3.99.

Now, the next generation of product is on the shelves, Swiffer Wet Jet, at $19.99 for the starter kit and $6.99 for refills. Both S.C. Johnson's "Grab It" and Clorox's "Ready Mop" sit side by side on the shelf, along with private label entries that appeared as the business rapidly matured. Still, Swiffer holds the commanding share of this growing category because of the brand's continuing advertising activities.

'Seabiscuit' Races Away

The Academy Award-nominated film "Seabiscuit" was a big hit in theatres last summer, and serves as an example of how Hollywood utilizes elements of the DR model to take its products to consumers. The initial marketing thrust, while not a DR effort, relied heavily on TV to move consumers to big-screen venues.

An examination of Universal's second marketing phase reveals an important point about timing when going to retail. Instead of observing the customary waiting period before taking the product into other distribution channels, "Seabiscuit" was quickly released in DVD and VHS for rental and retail sales nationwide.

Since the film was completed and the cost of producing the movie was already amortized, there were few additional expenses required to produce and distribute the home video versions. DVDs could be sold at stores for only about $20. Also, by collapsing the time between theatre showings and having the movie appear in stores, interest in the film was still high. As a result, millions of consumers responded — "Seabiscuit" became a double winner, paying off at both the box office and at retail.

Consider these three distinctly different marketers in unrelated categories and the out-of-the-box thinking they applied to produce positive results for their respective businesses. It doesn't matter if your core business is DR, retail or some combination thereof — the DRTV model has plenty of applications.


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