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Archive for July 27th, 2009

How Products Evolve From Merely Functional To Super Successful By Luck and Re-Marketing

Monday, July 27th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

An Australian industrial manufacturing Company began producing wooden rings in 1957 for use in sealing containers. The hoops were of no particular import, displayed no obvious breakthrough commercial potential and possessed no apparent use much beyond their original intended application. The wooden hoops, however, had an amazing future once they were transformed from a packaging component into an exercise toy.

The original Australian produced wooden rings were introduced to business partners Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin, partners in a fledgling toy company. Knerr and Melin had founded Wham-O Toy Co. in California after World War II. They gutted out the growth of the business, typically underfunded, always seeking the one “silver bullet” toy that would propel them to success and riches. They had enjoyed modest success with a $.75 sling shot, but not much else seemed to make waves in the toy product universe.

The wooden rings would not seem to offer much in the way of a toy application. But Knerr and Melin were driven and curious. They decided to make prototypes out of hollow plastic and in an array of bright colors. The newly designed plastic hoops were very light and the toy impresarios quickly discovered that their children found an innovative use for the product. They would put the hoops around their waists and move circularly, like a hula dancer. The result was that the Hula Hoop was born and became a fun, exercise fad nationally and ultimately internationally.

Well, fad is really not an apt description of what the Hula Hoop became. There had never been anything like the Hula Hoop. Knerr and Melin began taking the Hula Hoops to Southern California playgrounds and demonstrating the toy for children. They were hooked. This was a colorful, safe, light weight, inexpensive way to have children and families exercise, and not think of it as exercise. To kids it was a fun action toy. To parents it was heaven, too good to be true.

Wham-O sold over 100 million Hula Hoops in the first 12 months the product was on the market. Mr. Melin and Mr. Knerr became fabulously wealthy. The Hula Hoop is one of those classic toys that experiences a revival every few years as a new generation of families discover its simple wonders.

There are products in many industries that enjoy success when repositioned in a completely different way than originally intended. Preparation H, originally a hemorrhoid cream, has been repackaged and used as a base in numerous anti-aging skin care products. Other toys such as Slinky and Silly Putty were morphed from industrial uses. There are many other examples that the creative entrepreneur can use for a tutorial in bridging the span between intended and unintended product use.

Most will never enjoy the success of the Hulas Hoop or the Slinky. However, there is gold to be mined in old products, dormant ideas and home remedies that can be repositioned, repackaged, re-marketed. The key is to find a unique selling proposition and apply it to an element that exists within your personal universe. It rarely will be obvious or readily available. However, if you are curious, stubborn, or passionate you may stumble upon the next Pet Rock or Chia Pet.

Kaston Group Engaged to Create Point of Purchase Retail Display for MakeUpMiser® Cosmetic Accessories

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Geoff Ficke

859-567-1609

Kaston Group Engaged to Create Point of Purchase Retail Display for MakeUpMiser® Cosmetic Accessories

Upcoming Launch to Offer Beauty Product Consumers Breakthrough Tools To Extend Product Usage and Anti-Bacterial Protection

Dallas, TX John Steger, President of The Kaston Group, specialists in retail display and point of purchase engineering, today announced that his Company has been engaged to produce custom designed counter display units for the launch of MakeUpMiser®.

“Nancy and Geoff Ficke from Duquesa Marketing presented the MakeUpMiser® to us recently in Dallas”, said Mr. Steger. “The products have so much utility and there is simply nothing in the marketplace that performs these simple, but essential tasks. We are thrilled to be involved in such a novel project”.

“John Steger is widely recognized as a premiere point of sale specialist”, said Geoff Ficke, President of Duquesa Marketing. “His experience in total store design, department store fixtures and counter display is vast and we are excited to be working with his team again to present MakeUpMiser® to cosmetic consumers”.

“I reviewed a number of potential candidates for our display needs with my marketing consultant Duquesa Marketing”, said Michelle Phillips, President of MakeUpMiser®. “I feel fortunate that we have been able to retain professionals like Kaston Group to display MakeUpMiser®.

MakeUpMiser® expects to present the full line of cosmetic accessories to international retailers this fall and be on store counters in spring 2010. Retail pricing will be announced shortly.

MakeUpMiser® Appoints Award Winning Graphics Art Firm to Design New Packaging Updates

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Geoff Ficke

859-567-1609

MakeUpMiser® Appoints Award Winning Graphics Art Firm to Design New Packaging Updates

Diana Puppin of dp Design to Create New Display and Packaging Branding Art For Cosmetic Accessory Display and Line Extensions

Lancaster, PA Michelle Phillips, President of MakeUpMiser®, announced today that her cosmetic product Company has appointed Cincinnati, OH based Diana Puppin of dp Design to design new graphics art for the upcoming launch of her firms cosmetic accessory products.

“We reviewed a number of creative options for our packaging, sales collateral, branding and retail display needs”, said Mrs. Phillips. “Diana Puppin was an easy choice based on her immediate grasp of the diverse features and benefits of MakeUpMiser® and her extensive body of work in the cosmetic industry“.

“We work extensively in all categories of consumer products”, said Diana Puppin. “We really enjoy cosmetics, the whole beauty category. The MakeUpMiser® is an amazing product line that presents interesting creative challenges and we are excited to have the confidence of Michelle Phillips and her team”.

MakeUpMiser® previously engaged Duquesa Marketing of Florence, KY to handle all aspects of the product development, marketing and launch of the products. “MakeUpMiser® offers cosmetic product consumers two unique benefits that are not currently addressed in the marketplace, safety and economy”, said Geoff Ficke, President of Duquesa Marketing. “We have worked with Diana Puppin in the past and her creativity will be an important piece of the MakeUpMiser® success”.

The patent pending MakeUpMiser® three product line of cosmetic accessories will be introduced to retailers in the fall of 2009 and begin shipping internationally in the spring of 2010.

More on Bootstrap Marketing One More Way to Launch Your Product in a Tight Market

Monday, July 27th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

Every business, organization and individual I know has been impacted in some way, almost always negatively, by the current economic downturn. The ripple effects of slow sales, shrinking home equity, foreclosures and job downsizing has been pervasive. Governments are experiencing record dips in tax revenues. Church and charity donations are logically imploding as citizens attempt to shore up their personal finances and survive the fiscal carnage taking place all around them.

As job losses occur, and I believe more startling, many of these jobs will not be replaced when the economy returns to a more normal footing, my marketing consulting firm is approached with a slew of new business opportunities being presented by fired and laid off workers. Many are former middle managers who have been terminated and received some type of severance package. Their goal is often to leverage this small purse into a business opportunity.

Some have panic in their eyes as they try to find an alternative way to make a living. Some are simply unrealistic. Many think they will need to fund their start-up with an investment round from angel investors. Most have never tried to launch a product before so the process is obviously daunting. The advice we seem to provide most regularly is this: slow down, vet your business plan again and be realistic in the assumptions you are constructing your enterprise around.

The universal issue that confronts entrepreneurs, and always has, is funding. If you have no available funds, cannot put any sweat in the game, or expect to use OPM (Other Peoples Money) in lieu of your own, stop now. There are Angel Investors who invest in early stage startups, however, they are rare, highly targeted and exceedingly choosy as they have a virtually unlimited supply of opportunities available. Most investors use the old three F adage for launch funds: “this type of start up money comes from Friends, Family or Fools”.

So what can the newly driven entrepreneur do to launch a product in a competitive market with only a small amount of working capital on hand.

We typically attempt to customize a strategy including guerrilla and bootstrapping marketing. There is no single definition or road map for this type of market penetration strategy. Much like guerrilla warfare, which is free flowing and conducted based on terrain, climate, force size and enemy disposition, new products should take the approach that there is a chink in market armor, discover it and fill the niche.

Almost always a bootstrap marketing campaign starts at the local level. Every entrepreneur wants to see their product on every store shelf in America from the get go. However, the capital requirements required to support national distribution is huge. By working the home turf the product can be nurtured, tested, seasoned and most importantly proven. The most important day in any new businesses life is the day a re-order is placed. This confirms the first stage of market acceptance.

Here is a simple example of bootstrapping a product that we have utilized numerous times to successfully get a line of product in front of consumers:

Let’s assume you have a gourmet food product that you are keen to get to market. Utilize the services of local private packer and build a minimal inventory.

Be sure to make sure that the packer signs a secrecy agreement that protects your recipe. Make sure that the label meets all government requirements.

Produce a short film production (DVD) with voice over, music optional. Modern recording equipment makes this process virtually zero cost. Shoot the piece (video loop) at home, or on a picnic table and in the lab/commissary of the private packer. Detail the product, how you developed the product, have on air quotes for attribution from friends and others that love the product and possibly show the lab work being done to safely produce the item in a government licensed facility.

If you live in a town that has five malls or lifestyle shopping centers, choose the property that has demographics most likely to appeal to consumers of the type of product you are selling. Then negotiate with property management to rent a cart or kiosk on a monthly basis. January through September you will pay a basic rent. October through December, the holiday season, your rate will soar, but so will sales.

Typically shopping centers are open about 70 hours per week. The cart can be manned by you, family members or hired students with a minimal salary and a commission incentive. The stand can be inexpensively merchandised with point of purchase display, signs and a television running the dvd video loop. Demonstration of the product will enable consumers to experience the features and benefits of your product. If the product is a food product, you will want to sample the product, for instance.

Once sales commence, and proof of product performance is confirmed, the kiosk can be replicated in nearby malls and ultimately in proximate cities. Typically, we plan sales models to enable the expansion of the cart or mall kiosk to additional locations utilizing the profit from the alpha location.

The bootstrap path described above is just one way to launch a consumer product without the benefit of a funding round or a rich Aunt Bertha available to write a big check. Most people do not have rich friends or family to reach out too for investment. The venture capital process is slow, daunting and fraught with tons of competition chasing precious few dollars. Nevertheless, successful entrepreneurs find a way and bootstrapping is often the most available method of getting a product to market.

We have used variants of bootstrapping many times to benefit clients seeking to overcome launch hurdles. Flea markets, consignment, advertorial, local management of national chains, targeted direct response and many more avenues can be crafted to fit the bootstrap model. Most new entrepreneurs have been lead to believe that a heavy capital investment is essential to insure marketing success. Experienced entrepreneurs know otherwise. They know that there are many other, usually more attainable, ways to achieve their goals.

Paranoia Is a Near Necessity For Successful Inventors and Entrepreneurs

Monday, July 27th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

The great Technology entrepreneur Andy Grove was once asked what dictum he used as a basis for running his Company, Intel. His response was simple: “only the paranoid survive”. Mr. Grove grew Intel from a garage business in Silicon Valley into the world’s largest computer chip manufacturer and a lynchpin in the fabulous spread of technology into virtually every home and business in the world.

The tech world of the 1970’s and 1980’s was the center of the greatest entrepreneurial explosion in history. Whole industries were born and the nature of human existence was radically changed, and improved, as new applications were discovered and commercialized by these ambitious pioneers. The competitive nature of commerce has always provided the greatest rewards to the first to market mover. Being paranoid is a worthy and necessary trait that all successful innovators possess and control in their push to get their idea to the market before competitors.

I have known paranoid individuals for most of my life. Usually their paranoia is self-destructive, not a pleasant thing to experience. Some people are paranoid that others are trying to take their wealth, or their wife, or their glory, or that they will be contaminated and made ill. The gamut of fears that paranoid individuals believe they confront is endless. These insecurities can become severe handicaps that can handicap one as life unfolds.

On the other hand, paranoia for an entrepreneur or an inventor is usually a healthy mindset, as far as their work product is concerned. We counsel clients to assume that somewhere, someone is working on an idea that can beat or surpass their idea in the marketplace. Another piece of oft provided advice is this:”time is not an entrepreneur’s friend”.

Paranoia and urgency are first cousins when seeking to launch a new product, service or idea. The fear of getting beat to store shelves by a competitor insures that driven entrepreneurs move expeditiously to perfect and launch their enterprise as quickly as reasonably possible. This is positive paranoia.

Once the product hits store shelves, in order to secure longer term success, a new form of paranoia needs to come in to play. At this time, the inventor must confront the possibility, actually the probability if the product achieves initial success, that competitors will immediately begin the process of knocking off, or duplicating the product. Duplication can be the best form of flattery. However, if a well healed competitor decides that the opportunity is ripe they can flood the market with cheaper versions of the product. You must anticipate and be prepared for this probability.

The key to insure continued success is the speed which the innovator uses to penetrate the market. The first to market mover has the advantage of being recognized by the trade as the “real innovator”. They have introduced the product which defines the category. While knock off products can be cheaper, or come in a variety of styles, they will be seen as followers, not leaders, if the entrepreneur moves aggressively to distribute the item to the widest sales universe.

A second key to cementing a first to market mover advantage is: quickly follow-up the launch item/s with line extensions. Here is another absolute marketing reality: Your product is never the greatest, only the latest”. Buyers will watch sales trends. As soon as your launch item starts to gain traction, they will want to know what new items you have coming to stoke the pipeline.

Retailers always assume the stance of what have you done for me lately!

I cannot overstate the importance of paranoia and urgency as being essential arrows in the successful entrepreneurs quiver. We have seen the unsettling despair that engulfs inventors that see their work, dream and investment scuttled by overconfidence and delay. It is not pretty to experience, but happens far more often than you can imagine. The real waste is that it can almost always be averted if prudent steps are taken to move and be aggressive.