The holidays are swinging into full gear, what better time to… reminisce? Every year, it seems there is a new “hot” item on the shelves that our children, family, and friends have on the top of their wish lists to Santa. I will never forget the Ty® Beanie Babies phenomenon, the holiday season when people of all ages were frantically hunting for Tickle Me Elmos, or those Tamagotchi keychain games that flew off the shelves faster than you could say “Tamagotchi.”
All of these hot-ticket items were wildfire brands – they launched onto market and became overnight hits with consumers.
And though product makers are thrilled with such rapid-fire consumer hits, there are a number of brand protection concerns that they must work to address while the sales ratchet up in order to protect the brand’s increasing value.
The Way I See It
- I see new and innovative wildfire products and brands continuing to be launched onto the market through a variety of marketing channels, but especially through viral videos and social media marketing. As in the past, many of these wildfire brands will become a symbol of a generation and instant pop culture hits.
- When the products begin flying off the shelves, I see brands working to protect their product and intellectually property from counterfeiters, and other potential threats to the brand – those trying to take advantage of the hit item by trying to produce something similar at a lower cost in order to benefit from the brand’s increasing value, or trying to pass off their goods by using similar trade dress or marks.
- I see marketers working to launch creative ads and campaigns to continue the sales momentum of the initial brand proliferation period, ensuring the product’s long-term sales growth in addition to its short-term sales spike.
The perfect recent example of a wildfire brand is the Snuggie®, which sold over four million units in three months. Its launch to market was an interesting one, with a single TV ad, launching the Snuggie® to become an instant pop culture phenomenon.
The Way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Scott Boilen, President of Allstar Marketing Group, the company behind many high-profile consumer brands, to discuss brand proliferation and protection.
You’ve seen wildfire success with a few leading consumer brands. In your experience, what is the most critical precaution to take before launching a product to market in order to ensure brand protection?
As a company, the single most important thing we can do to protect our brand is to make sure all trademarks are applied for and all materials are copyrighted prior to debuting a product. We also seek patent protection when feasible. When launching brands with an aggressive “As seen on TV” campaign we build mass awareness in a very short period of time. If all pre-launch legal items are not buttoned up, we are leaving ourselves open to companies trying to piggyback off our success with similar marks, logos or other materials in an attempt to create brand confusion. Right after launch, we also begin to monitor the market and aggressively do what we can to stop the marketing of any infringing product as well as halting counterfeits from coming to the United States from overseas.
The Snuggie® was launched in October 2008, right at the height of the economic downturn, yet sold over four million units in three months. With a brand as popular as Snuggie®, are there particular obstacles and challenges that arise during the initial time period of the few months during which the brand is skyrocketing?
The launch of the Snuggie® blanket created tremendous consumer awareness. It was critical that we ensured we were using our marks in a way that was consistent and protectable. We had many companies attempting to bring out similar products with marks or logos in an attempt to confuse the consumer. We were successful in shutting down every violator. This was made possible as our marks were registered and used in a consistent way as to make them defensible. Ensuring that our own employees, agents and representatives used the marks correctly was integral to the education we also provided to folks in the media when the brand was discussed. While there is a fine line between getting as much exposure for the brand as possible and making sure the marks are not diluted when not used properly, we did a great job of maintaining a strong brand along with a great product in the United States and abroad.
With consumer brands that see so much success early on, counterfeiting is a concern. What steps are taken to protect each brand’s intellectual property before launch? Is the initial period after the product is launched on the market particularly challenging from an intellectual property standpoint?
The initial period after launch is the biggest challenge as there are many companies out there just waiting for a product they can exploit. Many of these bad actors are in China, so registering our marks in China and with customs is critical in trying to stop the flow of products violating our intellectual property. We have also hired investigative teams to shop the China fairs and locate the source of counterfeit goods with some degree of success. In the United States, we monitor China importer sites such as “Alibaba” and “DHgate” and participate in their intellectual property owners programs to have infringing offers taken down. For every product we consider launching, we do our due diligence by checking to make sure we would not be infringing against anyone else’s patent as we not only aggressively protect our intellectual property, but we also respect the valid intellectual property of others.
For consumer products like Snuggie® and the others that Allstar has launched, what marketing and advertising platforms are typically most successful? Have you found particular success in mobile and social media, or are traditional avenues still the champions for consumer brands?
At Allstar Products Group, we focus over 80% of our budget on direct response television and internet advertising. That is our specialty and every hit we have had in the company’s history has been driven by a direct response campaign. The balance of our advertising budget is used on social media and other brand building – awareness strategies.
Snuggie® was a hit on social media since its launch, with over 200 parody videos on YouTube in the first few months and a Facebook fan club with over 4,000 fans. How did the company manage this? Do you think its online success was a vital part of the brand’s overall success?
The social media component was a vital part of the overall success of the Snuggie® brand. Most of the social media was grass roots. Things started popping up everywhere, which we had nothing to do with. We didn’t start the fire, but we did do a good job fanning the flames. We have seen with social media that the last thing you want to do as a company, when things go viral, is to completely take over the process. The best thing to do is interject yourself into the process and do what you can to help it along. Our Facebook page gave people a way to communicate with each other. A fashion show sponsored by the Snuggie® brand garnered millions of media impressions and kept our fans engaged in Snuggie®. We didn’t take over the process or ignore it, but came up with many ways to engage our fans and let them create their own fun around Snuggie®.
What is the coolest object in your office right now?
A Wayne Chrebet signed helmet. It’s my daily reminder that hard work can take you very far.