INFOMERCIAL CONSULTING – Success from Start-Up to Retail

April 6th, 2009

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We’re the guys who launched the  Little Giant Ladder’s Infomercial Campaign.  For select companies and the right products . . . we implement effective:

  • Product Evaluations
  • Intellectual Property Protection
  • Branding Strategies
  • Government Agency Relations – FTC, FDA and etc.
  • Manufacturing and Packaging
  • Merchant Accounts
  • Fulfillment Services
  • Call Center Strategies
  • Real-World Marketing and Advertising Strategies
  • Media Buying
  • Shopping Channel Appearances
  • Internet Campaigns
  • Retail Distribution – National, International
  • Trade Show Strategies
  • “Knock-Off” Protection
  • National and International Public Relations
  • Guerilla Marketing Strategies
  • Employee Performance Evaluations
  • Long-Term Business Strategies

Infomercial Consulting is Bill Kittel – President of Barry Marketing Group, and Art Wing President of Wing Industries (Little Giant Ladders).

Over the years, we have had so many people ask us for help with their infomercials and direct response campaigns, that we have decided to begin sharing, on these pages, some of the lessons we have learned since 1986, in both general advertising and direct response marketing and advertising.

Hopefully our thoughts will help others to avoid some of the mistakes (often nightmares) we have heard about when companies jump into an infomercial campaign without extensive experience. Maybe eventually the reputation of the entire industry will improve with fewer people being taken advantage of and more success stories.

In these pages, we will be discussing many of the myths and pitfalls of doing an infomercial campaign, and giving you a “fly on the wall” view of the direct response industry.In addition to outlining many of the secrets (see our Infomercial 101 tab) to DR success, we will also be sharing things to avoid in doing an infomercial.

Feel free to call. We’re happy to honestly answer any question about this industry or successfully selling your product.

 

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Five Infomercial Production Awards In a Row!

December 30th, 2013

The US Commerce Association has chosen Barry Marketing Group (our production division) for the Best of Television and Film Production Award of 2013 in Salt Lake City Awards. Nationally, less than one-tenth of 1% (1 in 1000) of the 2013 Awards were certified as Five-Time awardees.

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FTC, POM Wonderful Battle Continues

February 6th, 2013

Actual ruling available upon request -Bill

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a final opinion and order affirming in large part the previous ruling by an administrative law judge after trial, that POM Wonderful LLC and other related parties violated the FTC Act by making false or misleading claims to promote their pomegranate products, POM Wonderful Juice, POMx Pills and POMx Liquid.

 

POM Wonderful and the other named parties now have the right to petition for review of this decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

The Commission’s order prohibits the parties from making any advertising claim in the future that any food, drug or dietary supplement is effective in diagnosing, curing, mitigating, treating or preventing any disease including heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction unless they can substantiate such advertising claims by having two randomized, well-controlled, human clinical studies. (Although the Commission’s vote was unanimous, 5-0, one of the commissioners filed a concurring statement stating that she would have insisted only upon one clinical study.)

 

POM argued that a two-clinical study standard would be a retroactive application of a new legal standard by the FTC, and that this would violate POM’s constitutional due process rights. The Commission rejected this argument, however, stating that the level of substantiation required by the FTC Act in a particular case is always a fact-based determination to be made on a case-by-case basis. In this specific case, in deciding what the substantiation standard should be, the FTC relied on advice from scientific experts in the field. Thus, in the agency’s view, the pre-existing legal standard has not changed at all – it simply is going to depend on the particular case, as it always has.

 

There is insufficient room here to summarize the entire 53-page decision, but some of the elements that DRMA Voice readers might find of interest include the following:

 

• That in determining what claims have been conveyed by a challenged ad, the FTC is entitled to rely on its own analysis. The FTC does not need to conduct a professional survey of consumers’ perceptions of the ad, so long as the advertising claims, including implied claims, are “reasonably clear” from the face of the ad.

• That, in this instance, the FTC concluded that POM did convey efficacy claims about its products’ ability to treat or reduce the risk of certain diseases – even though POM’s ads had not expressly contained such claims – because such claims were conveyed indirectly through references to blood pressure, plaque, blood flow, heart disease, PSA-doubling time, prostate cancer, erectile functioning and other medical language and imagery which contributed to the overall “net impression” of the POM advertising campaign.

• That, in the FTC’s opinion, POM conveyed that clinical study proof existed for the alleged disease prevention, treatment or risk reduction claims and that POM thereby made establishment claims – even though the POM advertisements had used tentative-sounding adjectives such as “preliminary,” “promising” or “encouraging” – to describe the nature of the scientific testing that existed. The FTC came to this conclusion due to statements in some of the ads that discussed the millions of dollars that had been spent on the medical research which “reinforce[d] the impression that the research supporting [the] product claims is established and not merely preliminary.”

• That the same was true with regard to POM having used words such as “may” or “can.” The FTC did not view those words as eliminating the basic product efficacy message that POM was conveying to the public.

• That the company’s COO, whom the FTC found to be responsible for managing the operations of its marketing team, would be held individually responsible and subject to the order the same as POM, as a result of the Commission’s finding that he had participated in or had the authority to control the advertising.

By: Gregory J. Sater

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Little Giant Ladder’s Climb to the Top

March 2nd, 2011

BY RICK PETRY

Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo may not be the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of ladders. Yet, this very call provided the breakthrough that Hal Wing needed to sell his Little Giant Ladder. Wing relates, “At the first trade show I did 28 years ago, I was really discouraged because people would come down the aisle and the first word they would say is ‘No!’” But Wing, an avowed Germanophile who had discovered the invention of painting contractor Walter Kümmerlin on a trip to Deutschland and licensed the rights to sell it in America, would not take “nein” for an answer. He strapped on lederhosen, doffed a Bavarian cap and climbed to the top of his tallest ladder where he proceeded to…yodel. While gawking passersby were still in a state of shock, Wing began demonstrating his ladder “whiz-bang” style. The ladders began to sell. It was a lesson in bold showmanship that would serve his company, Wing Enterprises, well.

Road Warriors
Wing continued to refine the “Swiss Army Knife” of ladders out of his carport when he wasn’t honing his sales pitch by spending over 300 days a year at trade shows and fairs and sleeping in his car. One of his more memorable pitches came after he was pulled over by a pair of skeptical highway patrolmen, who didn’t believe the ladders stuffed into the back of his van belonged to him. Wing pulled out a ladder and began his frenetic demo. While the officers were convinced in short order, the road to success took longer and was paved with a few potholes.

“My dad says, the harder you work, the luckier you get,” says Art Wing, the company president and one of two of Hal’s sons who work with Wing Enterprises. He should know. Art has had a front-row seat since his adolescence doing virtually every job within the operation—from sweeping the floor to becoming a certified welder, to customer service. “I went to Ladder U,” he remarks, “and by the time I was 18, I was traveling 75,000 miles a year selling ladders beside my dad.”

Perhaps the business’ biggest rut came when Hal, whose family had now grown to a total of seven biological and adopted children, sold a stake in the company in 1981 to two partners. While the company had been humming along with modest seven-figure annual sales, Hal’s partners eventually sold a controlling interest to a conglomerate, Technical Equities. It raided the company’s credit line, eventually forcing it into bankruptcy.

After building their company through tireless roadwork, it seemed as if the Wings had walked beneath the wrong end of a ladder. But a year later, the assets of the company were put on the auction block and they took advantage of an opportunity to buy them back. “The ladder business was very fragmented; really a regional business,” Art says. And while they developed a steady business over the next decade and a half, grossing around $20 million annually, they had a new challenge: the patents on the original ladder were running out. “Our company was like a pyramid standing on a point,” Hal remembers. “We needed to flip that model upside down and have our top-of-the line ladder be the point.” It was the fall of 2002 when CEO Ryan Moss suggested a tactic that would help the Little Giant Ladder leapfrog the competition: an infomercial.

Articulating Features and Benefits
The company called DRTV expert and Barry Marketing Group President Bill Kittel to seek his advice about selling a $400 ladder over the television airwaves. “I thought they were crazy and tried to talk them out of it,” Kittel admits. After all, most ladders sold in hardware stores and big-box retailers were treated like a commodity, selling for around $100 to $200. But Kittel laughs, “Fortunately, I was wrong.” In the first infomercial to introduce the Little Giant Ladder, Dean Johnson and Robin Hartl of the popular home improvement show “Hometime” paired up with Hal, the whirling-dervish of a demonstrator who had honed his sales technique over the course of thousands of live presentations. The show was a hit and Little Giant Ladder sales began to grow exponentially.

The success of that first infomercial led to a second one in 2004 featuring Richard Karn, the character actor who played Tim Allen’s “Tool Time” sidekick on the wildly popular primetime hit “Home Improvement.” While Karn may have helped serve as a celebrity channel stopper, it was Art and his exuberant display of passion that made the product the real star. The success of the company’s infomercials caught the eye of the buying public, who now understood the difference between the Little Giant Ladder and pedestrian competitors. Consumer demand for the product helped grease the skids at retail, where the company has been able to maintain remarkable pricing consistency, and grow to become a category leader.

Another passion of the Wings is clearly people. While Hal is the charismatic leader on a first-name basis with everyone on the shop floor, Art, with his eye ever on the operations of Wing Enterprises, values his partners too, albeit in his own reserved way. He counts Kittel as a key strategic partner commenting, “I can’t imagine doing this without him. We’re a really good collaborative team—from writing to producing, to rollout to backend, etc.” Another key relationship is with Peter Koeppel and his namesake media-buying agency Koeppel Direct. “Koeppel has been an invaluable partner for us, easily accessible and very results oriented,” Art observes.

Innovation Is the Foundation
As their business matured, the Wings moved into a 250,000-square-foot facility in Springville, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. It is there that over 80 different Little Giant Ladder SKUs—aimed at every segment of the marketplace from do-it-yourselfers to professional contractors—are assembled and shipped. A new studio replete with a living room and kitchen set is part of the mix so that ladder demonstrations can be filmed in a real-world setting. But perhaps most intriguing is The Innovation Room, a kind of skunk works where new ideas are incubated and hatched. As Art explains, “We’ve developed a gate system that ideas must pass through” (see chart above). The first step is a back-of-the-napkin test—and ideas are welcome from any quarter of the company. If the concept relates to a ladder innovation, its relevance is sized against the market and evaluated in terms of its cost relative to what it will fetch at retail. Next, a CAD drawing is developed that can be turned into an actual mock up of a part inside of 24 hours using a special tooling machine on the premises. From there, the new idea is beta tested before it enters the production phase and is rolled out to the consumer. But the concept of innovation isn’t just relegated to ladder features—it can also be a best practice along the production line or a way of conducting outbound business.

The result of such commitment to ingenuity is the latest product to be rolled out in the Little Giant Ladder’s new infomercial, the Select Step. The Select Step was developed in response to condo and apartment dwellers that wanted a versatile ladder that would be nimble to use and store easily. The Select Step is the first articulating step ladder that configures into five-, six-, seven- and eight-foot heights that are secured by adjustable fasteners called Rock Locks. The ladder is built with broad, flat rungs and a mini platform-like Comfort Step that allows users to stand securely while perched at the higher end of the ladder. A patented Air Deck is magnetized and holds tools in place, but it can also be used as a snap-in handle when the Comfort Deck is being used. In all, the Comfort Step, which can be easily wheeled, assumes 13 different configurations and, like its predecessor, can be used on stairs and uneven surfaces.

Its debut on TV is intended to educate consumers about the one-of-a-kind invention, and it will be followed by broad distribution of the product at retail. As Art explains, “For every ladder we sell on TV, we sell another six or seven at retail,” making retailers the ultimate beneficiary of such marketing efforts.

Wing Men
Now in his 70s, Hal is clearly enjoying the fruits of his success that include a magnificent car collection housed on the premises of Wing Enterprises’ plant. In a Clint Eastwood-as-mayor-of-Carmel type move, Hal took matters into his own capable hands, serving as the mayor of Springville and eliminating the city’s debt. He is unabashedly patriotic and looking into his piercing blue eyes, one gets the feeling that he’ll race over any obstacle with the same velocity and relative ease with which he drives one his many roadsters.

With his own eyes on the future, Art sees marketing as a multi-pronged endeavor involving viral, online, press, print and television among other tactics. But as they return to the DRTV airwaves after a hiatus of a few years, the Wings’ awareness of what they do best remains as steadfast as their confidence. As Art puts it, “We’re a ladder company doing an infomercial, not an infomercial company selling ladders.”

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INFOMERCIALS – DO NOT DO ONE!

February 1st, 2011

While we have worked on many Direct Response (Infomercial) products over the years, I more often than not advised those with new products who come to us . . . “DON’T DO AN INFOMERCIAL!” To some (especially many companies in the “DR industry”) this seems like very strange advice, coming from someone who earns his living helping people create infomercial campaigns.

First of all, most people new to the Infomercial industry are not aware (or worse, don’t believe) that a Direct Response (DR) campaign is an expensive, high-risk and if managed properly, a very long-term process. The days of cheap air time and very inexpensive productions are long past. Years ago the stations and networks realized how valuable their “off peak” airtime was, and because of increased demand, dramatically raised their prices. Also, the viewers have come to equate high production values with high quality, credible products and services, so production costs have risen as well.

Secondly, even with a great Infomercial, there are many “back-end” elements that are equally critical to the success of a DR campaign. In addition to the obvious manufacturing issues, these include merchant accounts, credit card processing, fulfillment, media buying, call center selection and management, to name a few.

The DR Industry over the years has attracted many “sharks” – some are even “household” names in the industry who only knock-off other people’s products. There are others who provide funding for a (usually very large) “piece” of the sales or equity in the company. Some even claim to be responsible for the success of campaigns that they had little or nothing to do with.

While everyone has heard of the Infomercial “hits” over the years (Ronco Products, Ginsu® Knives, HealthRider, Bowflex®, Little Giant® Ladders, Cash4Gold and etc.) many have not heard of the hundreds of failures.

My advice to most companies who, despite all warnings, are still thinking of embarking on an Infomercial campaign: be cautious. Be very cautious.

About Infomercial Consulting
Infomercial Consulting provides full service consulting on all aspects of national and international direct response marketing, manufacturing and sales. For more information visit http://www.infomercialconsulting.com.

Infomercial Consulting, Uncategorized

Infomercial Consulting Campaign Wins Four Telly Awards

July 17th, 2010

Salt Lake City, UT — Infomercial Consulting, a leading full service direct response consulting company, today announced that the television production of an infomercial, produced in cooperation with The Barry Marketing Group, has been awarded four Telly Awards. The production, for the CarMD direct response campaign, won two awards for Videography and Cinematography, and one each in the automotive and miscellaneous products categories.

The 30th Annual Telly Awards, honoring the very best television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, received over 11,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents.
For the CarMD infomercial, Infomercial Consulting coordinated the writing, directing and producing of the half-hour infomercial, and consulted on the web site development, internet marketing, shopping show exposure and retail distribution.

About Infomercial Consulting
Infomercial Consulting provides full service consulting on all aspects of national and international direct response marketing, manufacturing and sales. For more information visit http://www.infomercialconsulting.com.

Barry Maketing Group, Infomercial Consulting

Infomercial Consulting Drives CarMD Success

April 4th, 2010

Salt Lake City, Utah, April 4, 2010 – - Launched in October of 2009, the CarMD Infomercial campaign created by Infomercial Consulting, in partnership with The Barry Marketing Group, is generating a positive media efficiency ratio (MER) of “more than 2:1 and, at times even more than 3:1,” according to a Corporate Case Study article in the March, 2010 issue of Response Magazine.

“Our consulting service, together with The Barry Marketing Group who produced the infomercial, spearheaded the initial product evaluation, creative concept and infomercial scripting,” said Bill Kittel, co-founder. “We are also assisting CarMD with media strategies, public relations, Web site development, shopping channel exposure, their retail launch and international sales.”

Infomercial Consulting provides full service consulting on all aspects of national and international direct response marketing, manufacturing and sales.

Barry Maketing Group, Infomercial Consulting

Billy Mays: To Pitch or Not To Pitch . . .

July 22nd, 2009

There is no doubt (as I stated in my recent interview with Sinead Carew of Reuters news service) that television infomercial “pitchman” Billy Mays, who recently passed away, was an enthusiastic, and very effective “pitchman”. He will be greatly missed.

However, the continuous airing of the spots hosted by Billy has become an ongoing controversy. The controversy seems to center around whether or not it is appropriate to continue airing his infomercials (mostly the short form spots).

Some feel that it is wrong and even unethical to continue airing his commercials. Also it casts yet another negative light on an industry which continues to have a questionable reputation. Many are asking; Are his clients (or his estate) simply trying to take advantage of the media awareness generated by his death? Do they really need to make sales that badly? If not, why are they running his commercials at such high frequency levels?

Others wonder if there might be a backlash. Will viewers be turned-off by what may be perceived as trying to “squeeze” yet one more sale out of Billy’s pitches? Will a lower MER cause his commercials to be pulled off the air?

A case could be made that we are still selling Michael Jacksons songs and (last time I looked) DVDs of Charlie’s Angles (Farrah Fawcett) are still being sold, but somehow those seem different.

Maybe the answer to the question about whether or not Billy should continue pitching (or not) will ultimately be determined by the viewers – as is always the case in Direct Response.

Infomercial Consulting provides full service consulting on all aspects of national and international direct response marketing, manufacturing and sales.

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“The Locator” Signs-On with Infomercial Consulting

April 12th, 2009

Salt Lake City, Utah – - – Troy Dunn, star of the hit Television series, The Locator, has just signed a representation agreement with Bill Kittel who also consults on infomercials and direct response marketing and advertising campaigns.
“Troy is a best selling author, talk radio host, dynamic public speaker and a rising star with The Locator – WE’s highest rated program”, said Bill. “I am excited to be working with Troy. Not only is he a great personality, but The Locator is a very exciting, entertaining show, and one of the few family-friendly programs on television.”
Bill will coordinate Troy’s personal appearances, product endorsements and product placements in The Locator.

Barry Maketing Group, Infomercial Consulting