Eight (8) Reasons Products Sit on the Retail Shelf

July 21, 2010 2 comments

Grills like this were on the shelf for nearly 20 years before communication made a breakthrough

Grills nearly identical to George Foreman’s lingered on store shelves for nearly 20 years. Then, the Foreman infomercial blew the doors off driving over $100M in sales in two years. And we learned that while the Grill delivered tremendous value to consumers, no one had known of those benefits or believed it would deliver them.

Not all Shelf Potatoes have potential like the Foreman Grill. Some sit on the shelf because they should. Contributor Ben Smith has noted that the Microsoft Kin was released with massive communication, failed to show unique value, then lingered on the shelf only to be cancelled leaving a black spot on Microsoft’s reputation. Read more…

Snuggie was A Shelf Potato

July 12, 2010 1 comment

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.) Read more…

Shelf potato alert – Microsoft Kin mobile phone

July 1, 2010 1 comment

By Ben Smith

“From half baked spud to dud in 2 months is no way to go through a life-cycle son.”

Article: “Death of the Microsoft Kin: A Look at the Evidence”

Article: “Microsoft’s Kin smartphone: No, it kin’t”

If you saw the commercials or talked to a rep in store, you probably couldn’t figure out what problems Kin solved or unmet needs it satisfied. The fact that it was pulled from the market so soon by a company with so deep of pockets leaves only a few conclusions and bigger questions. Read more…

Failure to “Cross the Chasm” Leads To Shelf Potatoes

June 22, 2010 2 comments

Literature about crossing the chasm in technology is filled with reasons products should have been re-engineered, re-thought, or simply never attempted.

But this literature rarely mentions communication. Too bad. Because in my experience, communication may be the single biggest reason for failing to make the jump.

Take DirecTV. I had the good fortune to do some strategic work early in DirecTV’s lifecycle. Their initial marketing was all about technology. Digital picture quality and 250 channels dominated the discussion.

Our work focused on later consumers – not the earliest adopters. And what we found surprised DirecTV. Because we found that these later adopters didn’t care in the least about the values DirecTV was using to sell their product. Read more…

Welcome Ben Smith

Ben Smith, co-author of the RetailLeverage.com blog, is going to be commenting on the topic of Shelf Potatoes. Ben has a superb background dealing with the retail channel from the manufacturer side. He has also been deeply involved with creating advertising to solve retail problems.

His twitter feed can be found at @RetailLeverage and there’s great related content at RetailLeverage.com

WebTV’s Shelf Potato Story

June 18, 2010 3 comments

WebTV is a great example of a Shelf Potato success.

WebTV has been around for more than a decade. And while it hasn’t found a broad enough mass audience to dominate tech conversation, it has sold quite well to a niche consumer electronic audience.

But WebTV sold poorly at the start. The Philips version hit the shelf late 1996 supported by around $10 million in sexy :30 television spots. And, it sat on the shelf…and sat and sat. I have been told that it only sold when the regional specialists from Philips were in the store.

In the beginning, it took a specialist because consumers needed a massive information fix at retail. Unfortunately, in the same 45 minutes it took a salesman to make one WebTV sale, that salesman could sell 3 DVD players of equal value. So retailers didn’t drive sales because selling WebTVs lost them money.

Then, in October 1997, Philips released a half hour infomercial for the product. And by mid November, with only a few million in ad dollars, they had to take the infomercial off-air because they had sold out at retail. (And, of course, they put it back on-air as soon as the stores were re-stocked.)

Why did a few million dollars in infomercial time dramatically outperform over $10M in :30 second spot time? The infomercial solved the communication problem that kept units on the shelf. With the infomercial on-air average sell time dropped from 45 minutes to 5 minutes and it no longer required the regional specialist.

What lesson do we learn from this? WebTV was a perfectly good product with a strong market potential. So lackluster sales don’t necessarily say anything about the value of the product. And sometimes it’s a matter of putting out the right communication for the product to fly off the shelves.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

Suggest Your Shelf Potatoes

June 15, 2010 2 comments

This blog is dedicated to the retail challenge we call the Shelf Potato. And, to the opportunity reflected in shelf potatoes.

Because marketing experience shows that products don’t necessarily languish on the shelves because they’re bad products. Quite often they lack the communication support needed to connect consumers with the reasons they should care about the product.

So use the comment space below to post your shelf potato stories and let’s discuss this serious challenge to retail success.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett