Category Archives: Product Development

Skeeter Defeater: My Newest Project

Skeeter Defeater kills mosquitoes on contact

Since starting my new job with NCH Corp. back in July, I’ve primarily had one major responsibility: The Skeeter Defeater Mosquito Defense Unit. I haven’t been able to fill any of you readers in on it until now, so I wanted to take the first opportunity I had to introduce you to the best mosquito killer on the market (yes, I’m biased).

The launch has had more obstacles than the Eliminator on American Gladiator, and there have been more lessons learned than Bill Nye the Science Guy could’ve ever conjured up. And there’s still a lot more to go. For one, I’ve never done much work with retail before, so interacting with buyers and manufacturer’s reps has been amazingly tedious and occasionally difficult. But we’re getting there.

Quickly, here are the main points about the Skeeter Defeater:

  1. It’s a mosquito killer, not a mosquito repellent. There’s a big difference there, as you can read here at SkeeterDefeater.com.
  2. It sprays automatically at dusk and dawn. The Dispenser incorporates a DUSK/DAWN sensor to actually measure the sunlight every day, spraying when mosquitoes are the most exposed – at dusk and dawn.
  3. It kills mosquitoes on contact using pyrethrin, a botanical insecticide.
  4. It covers up to 300 square feet, perfect for porches, patios, decks, etc.
  5. It’s portable and battery-powered. You can take it just about anywhere – can’t say that about the big systems.

Obviously, you can read all about it on the website, and contact me or leave a comment with any questions. This year will be a limited launch, with most of our focus being in Texas, learning what we can so we can really launch nationwide next year. However, you’ll find it in random hardware stores all over the country currently, and in SkyMall magazine (if you ride American, you’ll see it on the cover for another month).

While I’m definitely proud of the work that’s been done on it so far, there’s still a long way to go. If you’ve got feedback or ideas, you know I’d love to get it. Drop me a line, tell me what you like, what you hate, and what you don’t understand.

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Ron Paul: Can He Digg Out of This Hole?

Jason Tanz wrote an excellent column in this month’s Wired magazine summarizing the great job the Ron Paul campaign is doing leveraging social media to raise money, and, more important, votes. In his words . . . .,

All that buzz might be easy to dismiss but for the fact that Paul — unlike mostRon Paul other Web 2.0 phenoms — has managed to convert eyeballs into dollars. On Guy Fawkes Day, he set a record for one-day fundraising by a Republican, pulling in $4.2 million in online contributions. He outdid himself just six weeks later, tapping the Internet for more than $6 million in a single day.

The Ron Paul candidacy is a lot like the first wave of Facebook apps: thrilling as a notion, disappointing as content.

Tanz captures an idea that’s as relevant to marketing and business as it is to politics. Flawless execution of marketing tactics is hugely important. Leveraging new communication tools is hugely important. Raising venture capital is hugely important. But if the product itself fails to deliver, fails to be remarkable, then everything else can only take you so far.

I’m not completely anti-Paul; I think some of his ideas are really good, and I think it would be wise for the next President to give him a cabinet position for both his support and the support of his supporters. My problem with him, similar to Tanz’, is he just doesn’t seem presidential, and some of his ideas are simply too far out there to be practical.

The lesson? Buzz is crucial, fans/evangelists are a product’s lifeblood, but if what you’re selling has issues, it will catch up to you.

Est vs. Er

Cheapest is better than cheaper.

Fastest is better than faster.

Prettiest is better than prettier.

Most expensive is better than more expensive.

Highest is better than higher. 

Lowest is better than lower. 

Cleanest is better than cleaner. 

Easiest is better than easier.

Best is better than better.

Figure out what the “er” things are that you do and figure out how to make them “est” things. If you can’t get to “est,” then maybe you should consider not doing it at all. Otherwise, the only position you have is determined by how you compare to the competition. And that’s always going to change.

AOL Keyword?

I found myself shocked today as I looked on the back of a book and noticed a call to action for an AOL Keyword.

AOL Keywords used to be pretty dang important. But is it even relevant now? In a world where Google dominates and Yahoo, Ask.com, AOL and many others continue to nip at their heels, what makes your keyword so special?

Click here for an interactive version of the AOL Page View graph below at Alexa.com

AOL Web Stats

I’m not dogging AOL – they pretty much invented the web culture in the very beginning, and their marketing tactics of free minutes and CDs in the mail was extremely successful. But there time has come and gone, and I really don’t see how they could ever make a significant comeback.

Do you think the same thing will ever happen to Google? Do you see a time in the next 25 years where there’s a bigger player than Google?

What Size Is Your Cup?

New CokeI am in the middle of reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink. I’ll save the review for when I finish the book, but one little part of it got me thinking.

In one of his chapters, Gladwell uses the age-old marketing story of the birth of New Coke back in the mid-80s. In summary, Pepsi was gaining market share, they were running taste tests showing how Pepsi was preferred over Coke, and Coke knew they had to do something fast. In fact, they even ran their own taste tests only to discover the same results.

So New Coke was born. I think it lasted something like 87 days before Coca-Cola Classic was born/reborn. It also soon became a marketing classic of almost limitless reference for just about anything you want to illustrate. But I digress . . . .

Gladwell points out that, in the midst of wondering what in the world went wrong with New Coke, marketers and researchers overlooked one simple fact: when you drink a soft drink, you don’t sip it out of a Dixie cup like you do in a taste test. You gulp it, slam it, enjoy it with a meal . . . you get the picture.

If you just sip something, most of us favor the sweeter taste (which in this case was Pepsi). But if you drink a glass of something, most of us think the sweetness becomes overbearing, and the less sweet drink becomes favorable in “real life situations.”

And that became a glaring idea behind why New Coke soon became Old Coke – it never really was an issue with taste, just with taste tests.

The point here is a specific one: if you do taste tests, do a full test, not a sample. In my days at AdvoCare, I feel like I made this mistake on two very specific occasions. Over a year’s span, the company launched two drink mixes that packed more vitamins and minerals in them than you could find at a farmer’s market on a Saturday morning. They were nutrient-rich, convenient and great for people who don’t like pills. (By the way, it appears they’ve already discontinued one of them – SORRY!)

And, according to our taste tests from little Dixie cups, they tasted pretty good.

However, my taste buds told me another story the first time I had a complete serving of the products. It was great that they had so many minerals in them, but minerals are hard to make taste good. And the distinct flavor of them overpowered the rest of the drink to where it was a real chore for me to get them down. I found myself opting for the pills over the drink.

So did a lot of people, and sales never really took off for either product. It’s been a regret of mine for some time now to be so nonchalant about the testing.

Learn from on this one – sample at a real size, or over a normal time frame, or in a realistic situation. Bite-size feedback ends up biting back.

p.s. You’ve gotta read Sergio Zyman’s The End of Marketing as We Know It for the full scoop on the New Coke story (and for a great marketing read)

Regulatory Affairs and Marketing

The small print means nothing.

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that no one reads the small print.FDA Cartoon

But when they do, they still don’t really care what it says. Because we have grown numb to the warnings that so many government agencies have made mandatory.

Think about it: when you see that a product contains an ingredient that the state of California deems as harmful or causes birth defects, don’t you normally just make fun of the granolas in California rather than think much of the warning?

When you hear a commercial on TV for a pharmaceutical, don’t you just laugh when they start rolling through all the possible side effects?

And yet, we as marketers often fight tooth and nail for certain claims, cussing the institution that ever said a supplement can’t treat a disease, or that an insecticide can be “botanical” but not “natural.”

Keep fighting, but don’t fret the ones you lose. Thanks to the over-saturation of governmental warnings on products today, nobody really thinks much higher of them than you do.

Weekend Reading, Sept. 14-16

Great links that found me over the weekend –

  1. On Caffeine and Writing: A fun read on how much caffeine it takes to kill you and where a good writing spot can be found. Of his list of caffeinated drinks, Starbucks Grande Coffee scaringly can kill you the fastest (although it would still take you a lot).
  2. More on Caffeine: I couldn’t help but follow the links from the post above and try it myself. The site is called ‘Death by Caffeine,’ and it allows you to choose your favorite caffeinated drink, enter your weight, and then it will tell you how many servings have to be in your body at one time to kill you. I tried Spark Energy Drink (my personal favorite – I’m drinking one right now), and I would need to chug 113 cups in one setting to go bottoms up.
  3. Marketing requires problems: A steady favorite of mine, the UberEye himself, shares an enlightening chart on the two kinds of problem solvers/starters in marketing.
  4. US Government now owes $9 trillion: Great random post to remind of us how messed up our government is.
  5. eHow: Came across this awesome site while refreshing my memory on how to change a bike tire. Great website! No comments allowed on me having to look this up.
  6. Kentucky Beats Louisville: To say “UK football” and “3-0” in the same sentence is unheard of, as is “Kentucky beats a top 10 team.” But it happened – can the Cats keep it up?
  7. 13 Tricks to Motivate Yourself: Good common sense ways to stay motivated, and a great statement on what’s wrong if you are never motivated (get a new job!).
  8. Unmarried America: Here’s a great summary from Church Relevance on the later ages that we’re all getting married at. He has some nice insight on what this means for singles’ ministry and the church. Maybe the singles pastor is going to have to come up with studies different from “finding the love of your life. . . . .”
  9. Someday it’ll all be worth it: Another excellent cartoon over at Indexed.
  10. Greatest Prank Ever: This is outstanding – enjoy!