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Direct Response Marketing

The Impact of Sir Issac Newton on DRTV

7 May, 2010 By: Dick Wechsler Response

How the classic ‘Scientific Method’ can be applied to a direct response campaign with stunning success.

How is it that certain companies seem to turn out DRTV hit after DRTV hit? Consider Fairfield, N.J.-based IdeaVillage Products Corp.’s Finishing Touch, MicroTouch, Listen Up, Smooth Away, Prayer Cross — these products represent a seemingly endless continuum of successful campaigns. Or how does Guthy-Renker Corp. keep Proactiv Solution alive and vital year after year? The same holds true for Product Partners’ campaigns, such as P90X, or Tristar Products’ Jack LaLanne Juicer.

In reality, very few DRTV campaigns roll out without undergoing a rigorous process of testing and analysis designed to achieve optimal efficiency and scale. The Scientific Method — first developed by Roger Bacon in the 1600s and advanced by the likes of Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo and Copernicus — is the very foundation upon which DRTV companies develop and sustain their successful campaigns.

There are six basic steps to the Scientific Method.

1. Ask a question.

2. Do background research.

3. Construct a hypothesis.

4. Test the hypothesis.

5. Analyze the data.

6. Communicate the results.

By applying these steps to DRTV specifically, you begin to uncover the process by which campaign efficiencies can be improved and greater scale achieved.

Improving the Call-to-Action

Jordan Pine, founder and president of SciMark Corp., a DRTV consultancy, and a monthly contributor to Response, takes this a step further. “I advise my clients to think like scientists,” he says. “It’s why I called my firm SciMark — DRTV is scientific marketing. In practice, this means identifying the variables in a campaign, determining which ones will have the greatest impact on performance, and then methodically testing changes one variable at a time.”

Andy Khubani, president and founder of IdeaVillage, emphasizes the importance of a classic call-to-action. “The first test of Smooth Away, a hair removal product, was extremely positive,” says Khubani. “We then asked ourselves how even greater efficiencies could be achieved.” IdeaVillage’s process of discovery followed the Scientific Method almost to the letter.

This question prompted research, which revealed that the commercial’s call-to-action was shorter than usual. The hypothesis — that a 15-second end slate would improve response — was formed and tested.

Data from the test was analyzed and revealed that the commercial with the static end slate was 40-percent more responsive than the original. The resulting campaign achieved a scale that was far greater and more profitable than the original campaign would have been. The visibility achieved drove retail sales of greater than 800,000 units per month. The lesson here, Khubani says, is to “never cheat your end tag. Give yourself time to repeat the offer, read the phone number and restate the guarantee. If the viewer doesn’t have time to write down the number or remember the URL, the commercial is going to underperform.”

Khubani adds that this same method is applied to every campaign IdeaVillage rolls out. “Creative, offer, telemarketing and Internet are all tested and re-tested,” he says. “Sometimes improvements are dramatic, sometimes less so. But every incremental improvement makes a difference to our bottom line.”

Finding the Right Price Point

Allstar Marketing of Hawthorne, N.Y., employs an equally rigorous testing method. Their list of successes — Snuggie, Aqua Globes and Topsy-Turvy among them — weren’t all big hits in the beginning. Garden Groom, an electric hedge trimmer with a built-in compartment to hold clippings, is an excellent example.

Ron Steblea, executive vice president of marketing, recalls initial testing of the Garden Groom infomercial in 2008. “Price point really made the difference,” Steblea says. “We went back and forth between a three-pay of $49 ($149 total) and a three-pay of $33 ($99). In 2009, we rolled out with the $149 offer and hit some snags with consumer response. We retested the $99 offer and realized nearly a 300-percent improvement in MER (media efficiency ratio). We plowed through five months worth of inventory in about six weeks. There were two variables at play here. The first was timing. Consumer response for the show was low in 2008. The second was price, or offer. That’s what really turned Garden Groom from a loser to a winner.”

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