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Snuggie was A Shelf Potato

Why would a shelf potato this cozy want to race out the door?

For years, a blanket with sleeves called the Slanket sat on shelves. And it wasn’t alone as Gizmodo tells us. These blankets with sleeves sold okay. And when you read reviews by people who owned them, they liked them.

But they never sold in the volume that the Snuggie has. So what turned Snuggie into a super-hit? Communication.

Yup, those cheesy ads. Love them, hate them, or merely put up with them (because what choice is there?), Snuggie’s advertising drives sales. I guess we needed to see the entire family cheering on their team while dressed in Snuggies (and with their backs uncovered). And without their ads we’d still look at a Slanket on the shelves (if they ever got there) and decide they looked just like … well … a blanket. If you’d run into the Slanket at retail, would you have known why you might want one? (And did they have them in leopard print? Oops. That came later.)

Snuggie took advantage of a specific type of direct response television (DRTV) campaign. The overwhelming presence of the advertising was made possible because the DRTV campaign made money on TV. (Although, despite their on-air profit the vast majority of Snuggie profits happen at retail.)

Brands can leverage DRTV to drive similar retail sales. But I wouldn’t recommend following the Snuggie model. The Snuggie is a kitsch product with a short lifetime as a mass product (although it may live on at low volume like the ChiaPet). The AllStar marketing team has taken steps that would be suicide for a brand. But that’s okay for them. As part of the traditional DRTV business, Allstar will take the money and run – without building a brand.

The good news is that brands can leverage DRTV to achieve dramatic sales impact with a different style of campaign. This campaign exerts more control over the advertising content, steps back from the blow-out media spending, and controls other campaign factors so that the campaign and brand have a long life.

Brands also face constraints from existing retail relationship that can make it tough to be profitable through direct sales. That’s okay because for established brands being profitable on direct sales isn’t most critical. For a brand, the biggest DRTV driven profit potential is always at retail. (In fact, in the 1990′s I helped brands like Wella-Balsam, IBM and P&G evaluate DRTV profits if used as a sales channel. This direct profit simply wasn’t big enough to be pursued for its own sake.)

Away from the Snuggie model there’s a much more exciting model based on DRTV’s retail profit. And a well constructed and sales oriented DRTV campaign can drive this profit for very low cost – saving ad dollars or stretching ad budgets. (A well constructed sales-oriented brand DRTV campaign can sell enough product that the profits from direct sales cover half to three quarters of the media cost leading to an 8x to 10x reduction in ad cost.)

But take care. Despite the chutzpah in their sales presentations, some of the largest brand DRTV providers don’t know how sell effectively on TV. They make plenty of money creating ads that simply make sure their clients get the reduced direct response media rates. But in that case you’ll reap only a part of DRTV’s value. When you add profit from sales on top of media savings, then the equation gets most interesting.

Enough about those stuffy old brands. Snuggie’s brand tonality is clearly a TV version of the ads in the back of the National Enquirer. Despite this, as a Shelf Potato enthusiast, it’s great to see yet one more potato get up off the shelf and race out the door – in this case millions of units at a time.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

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