EP55 - Rick Cesari - Billion Dollar Branding with Direct Response Marketing Techniques
|Awesomers Origin - We'll talk to an Awesomer about where they came from, the triumphs and tribulations they have faced and how they are doing today. An Awesomer Origin story is the chance to hear the backstory about the journey our guest took on their road to become awesomer. These stories are incredibly varied and the takeaway is that awesomers come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, creeds, colors and every other variation possible. On your awesomer road you will face adversity. That’s just part of life. The question as always is how YOU choose to deal with it.|
Rick Cesari (sis-zary) has helped major brands from GoPro to George Forement build billion dollar brands through Brand Response advertising and strategi video marketing. His upcoming book Building Billion Dollar Brands aims to put valuable knowledge of the big brands into the hands of inventors, small business owners, entrepreneurs, Amazon Sellers, and others to help create innovative, successful marketing campaigns.
A bestselling author, speaker, consultant, and marketing & brand strategy guru, Rick is bringing his expertise to us today to talk branding, video marketing and more.
Billion Dollar Branding with Direct Response Marketing Techniques
Direct response marketing is a great tool for any business to engage with their target customers and drive immediate action to buy.
On today’s part one of a two-part episode series, we are introduced to Rick Cesari, a pioneer in the Direct Response advertising industry. Rick has helped take companies like GoPro from a start-up to over a billion dollars in sales in just a few short years. Rick is also a best-selling author, speaker and consultant and a brand strategy guru. Here are more key points on today’s episode:
His new book called Building Billion Dollar Brands.
How he learned marketing firsthand.
How you can download The Five Keys to Building a Great Brand from Rick’s website.
His marketing experience with big names such as Juiceman, Sonicare and George Foreman Grill.
So listen to today’s episode and learn valuable insights about Direct Response Marketing and how it can help your business.
1:36 (Steve introduces today’s guest, Rick Cesari.)
4:07 (Rick talks about his origin story.)
21:42 (How Rick learned marketing by actually doing it.)
27:17 (How to download The Five Keys to Building a Great Brand from Rick’s website.)
39:26 (Rick talks about George Foreman Grill.)
55:30 (Steve shares a story about a time he launched a product with a huge apparent value.)
Welcome to the Awesomers.com podcast. If you love to learn and if you're motivated to expand your mind and heck if you desire to break through those traditional paradigms and find your own version of success, you are in the right place. Awesomers around the world are on a journey to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. We believe in paying it forward and we fundamentally try to live up to the great Zig Ziglar quote where he said, "You can have everything in your life you want if you help enough other people get what they want." It doesn't matter where you came from. It only matters where you're going. My name is Steve Simonson and I hope that you will join me on this Awesomer journey.
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1:36 (Steve introduces today’s guest, Rick Cesari.)
Steve: You are listening to the Awesomers.com podcast episode number 55. And as the tradition has been well-established, now all you have to do is go over to Awesomers.com/55 to find all the relevant show notes, details, links and in this case a link to the very special book that is being released today by our special guest Rick Cesari. Now Rick has helped major brands including brands you've heard of GoPro, George Foreman Grill and others. Put together these billion dollar brands all through Direct Response Advertising as we like to call it. His current book that he's just released and now available is called Building Billion Dollar Brands and it aims to put valuable knowledge of the big brands in the hands of inventors, small business owners, entrepreneurs of any kind Amazon sellers, E-commerce guys and others to create innovative successful marketing campaigns. Now Rick is a best-selling author, speaker and consultant and he's a brand strategy guru for sure. And we're lucky that Rick today is bringing us his expertise to talk about branding and video marketing and so much more. Today is a very special episode because we're going to do a part 1 episode out of a two part series with Rick and these are both long-form interviews. And we talk about Rick's origin story mostly today and two of the brands which include a little discussion about the Juice Man, which was one of Rick's first brands. As well as the Sonicare toothbrush which he participated in building that brand and the George Foreman Grill. These are powerhouse brand names. And then in our series tomorrow we're going to talk further about even more. So this is the first in a two-part series, buckle up it's going to be exciting, tell a friend this is primetime stuff. Let's giddyup. Hello Awesomers, Steve Simonson and today I'm joined by my very special guest Rick Cesari. Rick how are you buddy?
Rick: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me on. I'm really looking forward to it.
Steve: Good as a matter of... just housekeeping, we need to establish for the audience if I pronounced your name right or wrong. Cause my records not great.
Rick: No sorry. Don’t worry about it.
Steve: The fact is, full disclosure by the audience, Rick just said his last name in the last 30 seconds probably to me and that's the lack of retention I have. So my apologies. But you're a good company because majority of the time I get it wrong. So first of all Rick I've already read in the bio. The people already kind of have a general big picture sense of you. But in your own words kind of tell us where you live today and what takes up your time day to day right now?
4:07 (Rick talks about his origin story.)
Rick: Okay. So right now I live in Seattle Washington. I ran a Direct Response Marketing Agency for over 25 years based in Seattle here. And we'll talk about that a little bit as we go on and some of the different projects and brand to help bill. Sorry, I have a cuckoo clock in the back.
Steve: No problem. That's a new sound effect we've added in Awesomers. Anytime Rick says something that we want to question you'll hear that cuckoo sound. So keep your eyes open. Go ahead Rick.
Rick: Alright. So it's worst right now but just because it's a top of the hour but anyway, so I am wound down the agency about a year ago and am more focused on doing writing, consulting and helping companies that are looking to launch a product or want to grow their business. Help them do strategy and mainly from the standpoint of doing direct to consumer marketing.
Steve: Yes and that is such an important part of the equation. A lot of people they get confused about different marketing techniques. Well I'm on the internet so I just do internet marketing. Well at the end of the day, Direct Response Marketing whether you do it on TV or the internet when you're trying to get their audience to actually make an immediate action like a buy, that's Direct Response Marketing. Would you agree with that?
Rick: Right. Absolutely. And what I tell everybody, I like to talk to about omni-channel marketing and multi-channel marketing but all of it is done just like you mentioned. Under the umbrella of direct response, direct marketing. I'm always trying to, you know, you've built some successful businesses, I'm always trying if you spend a dollar on advertising, you want to get two or three or four dollars in return. And that's really how you can build a big successful business. By having that mentality and always thinking from a Direct Response standpoint.
Steve: Without a doubt. It's just as a contrast to the Awesomers out there listening. Another type of marketing that would be a contrast in my mind to this would be just general awareness marketing, right? When you see that the big toothbrush company who's like, “Hey, we got the best toothbrush just know about us.” That's a different thing. Then go here and buy my toothbrush right now.
Rick: Yes and basically if you had to really break it down to the basic fundamentals of the difference between when you call awareness that's also called brand marketing. Basically they try to entertain people. They aren't trying to get the viewer to take a specific action. Whenever we do some type of Direct Response Advertising, we always have some type of offer or reason for people to either go to the website, call an 800 number, download what lead gen piece of information. So there's always some type of offer involved in direct response.
Steve: Yes and I think that's a very good break down kind of the contrast between the two. Both could be important but for me as a small business guy and even my biggest stuff would only be modestly considered medium. Even at a hundred million bucks that's still a Scooby Snack compared to the big brands. I'm all about trying to figure out the ROI on my spend, right? I don't have the luxury of saying you know I'm just going to put this million bucks into branding and I'm hoping people will know my name more as a result of that million dollars. No I put whatever man, I want the money back.
Rick: Yes, absolutely and really that's the secret to a lot of the brands and products. We're going to talk about today is none of them started out with big budgets. They all started out as small businesses and we were able to find some type of advertising channel where they could get a return on their investment. And then what they would do is take that money, put it back into advertising and that's how they would grow the business. And there's very few companies I mean if you're already have enough money to spend a million dollars a year, a month, whatever on brand advertising. Then you've already reached a level of success where you're kind of beyond. They don't need my help really.
Steve: Yes, I understand that. Well listen you have such an amazing background that we're going to dive into some of that origin story. Kind of right from the beginning and carry on through to some of the amazing accomplishments you had. But we're going to do it right after this break.
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Steve: Okay guys we're back again. Steve Simonson here with Rick Cesari?
Rick: Rick Cesari.
Steve: I did it again. Cesari. That would be easier Rick Cesari.
Steve: Alright, good lord I'm going to have to go to the editing bay and get this one fixed. Thank you again Rick for joining us. I really respect a lot of the accomplishments you had. And I love just kind of your general nature of how you are trying to kind of work with and help entrepreneurs get better. And that's something I really respect. So thank you for doing that on behalf of all the entrepreneurs out there.
Rick: I feel like after all of the successes I've had over the last 25 years, I really get a lot of gratification of working with people who are starting a business or have a business. And are just looking for some answers and any knowledge. I can share it just feels great. Good.
Steve: It does feel good. I have a similar feeling what I'm able to impart a little lesson learned or maybe even wisdom and the best part is it doesn't really require a lot of calories burnt on my part, right? It's kind of like hey here's a story, it happened to me. I don't know if it's applicable to you but hopefully it helps.
Rick: And usually what I find it you probably find the same thing. And I don't do it for this reason but as you do that more and more I don't know it just creates a snowball effect and things come back to you onyx in unexpected ways. And it's just a nice situation when you're able to do that.
Steve: So this is again, I repeat this often it's always mentioned at the top of the show Zig Ziglar says, “You can have everything you want in your life, if you help enough other people get what they want in their life.” And that's what a guy like Rick does is. He spends his time helping other people get what they want and then that little magic law of reciprocity whatever just kind of does its job and opportunities show up. So Rick let's go back to the very beginning where we aboard.
Rick: So I was born in White Plains, New York which is about 30 miles north of New York City. And I grew up there until I was 15 years old kind of had an idyllic childhood. We had an acre property with a little pond on it. I had seven brothers and sisters and everything was just great. But then when I was 12 years old my dad who was only 46 at the time passed away from a heart attack. So you can imagine a single mom with eight kids and it all of a sudden life changed pretty dramatically overnight and she tried. We had a little grocery store that my dad ran and it's interesting because there's a lot of parallels. Some parallels with what Amazon is doing today with grocery delivery. You always hear there's no new ideas, one of the things that we did at our grocery store was we would do free deliveries. And that's one of the things I helped out with as a teenager is I would people who call in their order. We would box up the groceries and we had a panel van and we would deliver it out to people's houses. And so this is a concept that's been around for a long time. Just nobody was really able to take advantage of it like they do now, And this morning my wife was just ordering from instacart. It made me remember about how I used to do that when I was a young teenager. So I learned business. My father was always entrepreneurial I learned I guess to be entrepreneurial. But life really did change it when he passed away. We stayed in New York for another couple years but then my family moved down to Daytona Beach Florida. We knew some people that were down there kind of a big change. I stayed there in high school and again when I was a senior I had a really good friend. And he and I decided that we would become dentists. And so when I went to college I went back up north to a small school in Pennsylvania called Westminster College and studied biology. So I actually have a BS degree in biology. I never studied marketing. So they definitely in a school and my friend went on to become a dentist and he's a dentist today in Ormond Beach Florida. And I kind of took after college, I moved back to Daytona Beach and I was a little bit tired of school. So I became a bum for a year and I was a bartender and a lifeguard but I was motivated to be successful and make money. And I knew that both of those things while fun when you're young really weren't long-term careers. And I started reading a lot of books. Two types of books motivational books and also books on how people became successful or made money. And one of the things that I always kept stumbling across is a lot of people or wealth had been built through real estate. And so I started reading a lot of books about that going to seminars. And I went to a seminar time just to give your listeners a time frame. And also it'll show them kind of how old I am. This was 1985 and I went to a seminar. Did what the person told me. Went out, bought a house, sold it in two weeks and made about twelve thousand dollars. And at the time that was like a million dollars. I think a minimum wage back then was three dollars an hour or something. So that was a huge amount and I was hooked and I wanted to just keep going out and doing that. But the person who was running the seminars I was very grateful for what happened. So on my own I just called up a local business magazine called Florida trended. I don't even know if it's still around basically told him the story of this person. They ran an article about him and that free PR helped him gain credibility but also helped him in the seminar business. So he asked me if I wanted to help him with marketing and that's how my marketing career got launched. And at the time again this is going to sounds funny to some your listeners. The main way we were promoting the real estate seminars was using newspaper ads and we would go from city to city. And basically I call this category of marketing. We're going to talk about lots of different products for lack of a better word get-rich-quick. And don't take it the wrong way that's kind of not what we're doing. It's just kind of a category I call. There's lots of information type seminars out there. And so one of the things we did there was another real estate seminar based in California called Robert Allen nothing down. And he was one of the first people to start using television to drive people into these free seminars. And we were seeing maybe a hundred people at our seminars. He was seeing five, six, seven hundred people at his. So we said we're going to make a half-hour TV show and this is the very cutting edge of infomercials direct response. The reason it came about not to go up into too much detail is president Reagan Deregulated Television before you could only have eight minutes of advertising in every hour. He would deregulated it opened up to the half-hour advertising. So it's really through the real estate business that I learned how to do Direct Response Marketing, Director Consumer Marketing. Because if you do any type of Direct Marketing or run any type of business at the end of the day there's a set of numbers that you follow that can run the business. And when we were using newspaper ads, we had a formula if we could get people in the room for $10 per head. We knew that when we spoke to them we could convert a certain number and then we know it could be profitable. Well TV took that metric and really turned it upside down because it was the early days of Direct Response TV. Just like the early days of the internet or early days of Amazon. It was a lot easier to make money before those areas matured a little bit and we were seeing people in the room for five dollars a head, a dollar a head. And seeing literally thousands of people in one week. And we were able to build up to summon our business to one of the largest in the country in about two and a half years. And let's just say I didn't agree with the guy who was running to seminars approach, it was a little dishonest. And so I left and actually that's when I moved out to Seattle and I did a couple projects. I was a partner. And feel free to ask any questions along the way.
Steve: Yes I do have one question. So as you as I mean it's a remarkable amount of growth you know over the course of just two years, to kind of take that newspaper Direct Response by the way for those listing at home. What Rick described it's just a simple funnel, right? You put an ad in there, somebody comes in, you try to convert them and get them to the seminar and by the whatever the seminar sell. This a normal funnel, this is nothing new. I could actually imagine my daughter listening to this podcast and going, “Dad, what's a newspaper?” That's a story for another time. But it is fun to reflect back on this idea of the very beginning days of infomercials. When probably the leads were cheap and the airtime was plentiful, right? It's probably a lot easier is that how you found it to be at that time.
Rick: Yes. Absolutely. And whenever there's a way that's easy for people to make money, it attracts honest ethical people but it also attracts the opposite. And usually that's what ends up I guess killing the goose that lays the golden egg. There's a lot of people that would take advantage of being able... they over promise, under deliver and some are just outright crooks. And so that always happens in every industry when it's new and before things sort out. And this was a time that I would say was the golden age of television Direct Response from. And we'll talk about some of the projects that our products that we helped launch that way. But I moved out after doing the real estate seminars. I moved out to Seattle here and a friend was in the fishing business and we did a project together. One of the things again this is a little thing people say, well how do you find products or projects and things? And again this is a little outdated but I used to always go in the library and look around in different sections. And in this case, it was I would looked in the how to make money section. And I knew I had been successful doing real estate and I said well why don't I try that in the stock market. And I found a book called How To Make A Million in the Stock Market. Called up the author and we basically made a half-hour TV show but used them... and this is important lesson because you'll see some lessons that I did way back in 1985. When we started marketing GoPro in 2011-12-13 and healthy because you said a funnels of funnel. And the distribution channels have changed somewhat but the basic marketing principles have stayed the same. And that's really an important point that I try to convey to a lot of people.
Steve: Let me just pop in there for a second Rick because I think that is such a really relevant point. It doesn't matter if this is the dawn of infomercials today. You might consider Facebook a very similar concept, right? Facebook still at the very early stages where relatively speaking the inventories cheap now. It was cheap five years ago. It was less expensive five years ago but you know it still has reasonable availability. And as the big brands come in and as some of the the hucksters come in. We've recently... there's a story about somebody selling kind of Amazon seminars in kind of that instead of the business opportunity space which is respectable. There's a lot of good people doing stuff. The guys who are just scam artists and slimy. I just despise those people and this idea of there's a way to make money in this opportunity. It does attract that negative space or those negative people saw. It really doesn't matter if it's infomercials or Facebook. It’s all the same stuff whether it's funnels or scam artists. They're as old as time enough continue on. It's our mission to kind of figure out how we can tell the good guys from the bad guys. So tell me tell me more about the Seattle stuff I started to interrupt you there.
21:42 (How Rick learned marketing by actually doing it.)
Rick: No, no. I think that's a really good point. I think again to show when I was learning marketing again, I learned it by doing it. But also I read books that the people before me used to be successful. And back then it was direct mail. And how other people did it. And so I think that for anybody wanting to know how to do marketing there's kind of two phase into that. It's understanding that the fundamentals that always work regardless of the distribution channel. Then understanding the technology that you're using today to distribute the message. Like you said Facebook is an absolute parallel to TV direct response, the same type of thing. And the important point to take away from that is the things that help make a TV infomercial successful would help make a Facebook ad successful too. And that's that's why I've been able to be successful in marketing for over 30 years. So anyway let's keep it on with a story I came out to Seattle, we made this show just a real quick aside my friend was in the commercial fishing business. I like fishing he said hey let's go up to Alaska and do some long lining. We did that at a Kodiak, the boat we were in you've seen the Deadliest Catch on TV. We ran into a storm, our boat sank, we had to be rescued by the Coast Guard and we came back in, I remember making a phone call when we got in. We're at a Coast Guard Station in Kodiak and I called up and we were testing our stock show that weekend. And I called up and we had spent like 4,000 on TV media on a national cable station. It doesn't even exist today and I remember calling into the telemarketing company and they had received 12,000 in orders. So it was kind of like one of the worst days coupled with one of the best days because one of the things that from being a business and running advertising. If you have an initial success then you can take that and ride it. And make it much bigger. So that was became the first kind of success in Seattle. And then this is where it ties together. I'd done a couple other little projects, weight loss and things like that. But I told you two story about my dad passing away from a heart attack. So I was always interested in nutrition and you've heard people say it's important to file your passion. And so I was very passionate about how you could stay healthy, prevent heart disease through what you ate. And I actually got into juicing and this was in 1989. And my brother and I started a company called Trillium Health Products but our main product was the Juiceman Juicer and the Breadman bread machine. And basically we were teaching people to eat more of a plant-based diet as a way to good health. Not not telling him to be vegetarian or anything and juicing was a way an easy way to get get people there. So we talked about the success. We were in the right time at the right place with the right product. And that business grew from zero to 75 million in three and a half years and we sold it in 1993 to a company in Chicago called Salton Housewares. And I took a year off just wanted to rest and recuperate because it was like riding a bucking bronco with that fast growth. And at one time we had 160 employees and you own businesses and you know everything that comes with a fast growing business.
Steve: You're delighted, I'm sure. Appear delight believe me the year off was well-earned. I've been there, done that. I get it. Yes.
Rick: Yes. So I got a call from my former business partner in the juice business and he said there's a small company here called Activa corporation. They have a consumer product and they're interested in doing the type of marketing that you did. And it turns out Activa corporation was the makers of the Sonicare toothbrush. And I went over and spoke with them and I ended up investing some money in the company and actually making a half-hour infomercial. And the problem with Sonicare toothbrush was it was a hundred and fifty dollar product and nobody knew what sonic technology was. And if they would have put this on the retail shelf nobody would buy it because the cheap, most expensive toothbrush out there were two-three dollars. Maybe an inner plaque cost twenty nine dollars or something. So they had a really educational fence that they had to get over.
Steve: Let me just jump in there Rick because I think that is a point that a lot of entrepreneurs especially those brand builders out there don't fully recognize. Just getting your product in the big box or just getting it on a retail shelf or just putting it online doesn't mean it's going to sell. Especially when you have this education issue, right? If your comparison item is three dollars and your item is $150 and the person doesn't really have any clarity as to why, what's the difference, you got a problem. And so from my standpoint I think is a big point to say that product that we all now know. Everybody knows Sonicare now, right? Super famous it's in every... it's in Costco, it's in all these big boxes. It's only because of the pioneering that you guys did at that time. So I asked the listeners just to go back in time before anybody knew what Sonicare was. And try to imagine that because that was a different time. And go ahead take us through that journey Rick.
27:17 (How to download The Five Keys to Building a Great Brand from Rick’s website.)
Rick: Yes and let me backup for one second because there's another common thread between the juicer business and Sonicare. And one of the things I have for anybody listening today, if they go to my website RickCesari.com they can download something that I call the five keys to building a great brand. And number one on there and this isn't going to be news to you Steve, is you have to identify a unique selling proposition. And it is about your product that makes it unique compared to every other product out there. And in the case of the juicer, now we wait we didn't invent juice and we didn't invent a juicer that there were two giant companies called Brawn and Crops out there making juicers. But they focused on the features of the product. They had a half horsepower motor stainless steel parts dishwashers say things like that. And when what made us successful in the juicing business is that we said, what can we do to make our juicer different. So we focused on the benefits of drinking the juice. And we said, if you buy this machine and drink the juice, you'll have more energy, your cholesterol will be lower. And it was really just a differentiator between our product and what was out there and that message is what made all the difference. Now take that over into the Sonicare toothbrush which we were talking about. What did Sonicare do different. Sonicare had something called sonic technology. Well what was the benefit of that. They could clean beyond the bristles. So basically we had the ability to reach the nooks and crannies between the teeth that other toothbrushes and the market couldn't. And so in our advertising we could talk about how that using this product could really help you reverse gum disease. And that was the basis when we started doing our direct response advertising. How we got people to respond to the message. And so again unique selling proposition and positioning or two of the first things you should always think about when you're trying to build a brand.
Steve: Now we're going to be sure we get those links to your website in the show notes and so forth. And you call this the five steps.
Rick: Five keys to building a great brand. And I'll go through them as we go through and talk about some of the products and how they apply.
Steve: How did the next step at Sonic here, once you got it introduced, Activa and so forth. What was the steps?
Rick: Yes, so what we did is I've always been a big believer. Here's another lesson your listeners can take away. I've always been a big believer in selling through education, in other words, not hard sell. You have to buy this, it hit people over the head with price. I've always positioned my products in most cases as the top end from a pricing standpoint. Because just a mentality you can always go down in price and then try to build the marketing story to support that higher price. So with the Sonicare toothbrush one of the things we did is we basically interviewed. We went to the dental show, a dental showdown in the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Sonicare
had a booth there, this is a something that works to this day if you are at a tradeshow and you have a booth. If you go down there and take a video camera and video people that come up to your booth and just talk to them and ask questions. You'll find out more about your product and what people like and what they don't like. We were able to go down there and interview some of the top dentists and periodontist in the world and we use that as the basis for the the marketing message with Sonicare. And really it was really also about building up credibility. That's another key thing. People want to believe you have a good product but you need to really establish the credibility. So if you hear the Dean of the Harvard Business Arbor dental school saying I really like this product.It's different, it works. That's a much more believable message than you as the product owner saying hey this is a great product, it really works. So we went down there got a lot of great testimonials from third party experts, consumers, we turned it into a half-hour infomercial that was very educational. It was basically talked about where gum disease came from, how you could fix it and how Sonicare could help you do that. And again it was educating the consumer. Once they saw that they basically called up and and bought the product and again just to put this in perspective at the time frame. Time frame we're talking about this was before any E-commerce and Sonicare using the Direct Response Marketing grew from zero to about a hundred twenty million in the first probably three or four years I was working with them. It's a combination of two things, a great product you can't do this if your product doesn't live up to everything you say. So it's always helps to have a great product and then we're being able to use a successful marketing method.
Steve: And it's that combination of the two but that it's just a great reminder that different marketing methods can lead to substantial scale. So many people are in this mindset of well if it's not on the internet it has no value. But still to this day you know internet as I'm about right now. It's still only around 10% of retail sales that's 90 percent of stuff is done in other marketing channels, big-box. Even still today people order stuff on the telephone everyone, it happens. And there's a variety of different techniques as you were talking, one of the things that I reflected on as today's infomercial is just a webinar, right? It's just there really is no difference between a well produced and organized webinar. Assuming that is put out there and a really nice infomercial which obviously still exists today.
Rick: I agree, it's basically a sales presentation and if people want my magic formula for creating a successful infomercial and we can go into a lot more detail but I learned this at Dale Carnegie when I was a teenager. I don't know again, you might have heard of Dale Carnegie how it influenced people. And they had a formula for when you give a speech. It's like, “Tell them what you're going to say. Say it and tell them what you said.” And it's a simple formula but I followed that. And there's other things that obviously make it successful but that's a basic format. And you talk about a webinar. Well let's just tie it back to something you mentioned before some of these brand TV spots. You have no idea what the heck they're talking about and even when it's over it's like what was that an advertisement for. And if you look at the advertising we did for GoPro. We started every GoPro out with a brand logo. So we're telling them what we're going to say it's about GoPro there was user-generated footage in the middle and we ended it with the GoPro brand logo. But also then an offer for the people to do something. I'll get into that story in more detail in a few minutes.
Steve: Yes well. And this is the great part each of these stories has a common thread. And for those Awesomers out there listening and the really expert marketeers you should be paying close attention because Rick is a guy, through his influence and kind of his systems and understanding he's been able to build significant brands. Brands we've all heard of Sonicare, George Foreman Grill, GoPro, OxiClean. These types of brands which are just the fact that you could say one of those and have pretty much everybody know what they are, is extraordinary. But the fact that it's happened again and again shows there's a systemic process that Rick brings to the table. So I'm super excited. So as Sonicare grew you know zero to 120 million it's just the a few years, several years whatever was. What was it? What was the tipping point for Sonicare to kind of just completely blow up and become ubiquitous?
Rick: Actually that's kind of a funny story and you can relate to this. They basically and again I'm a big believer in multi-channel marketing. And again I want to basically build on something you said before. I'm also a big believer in making a product available anywhere the consumer wants to buy it and make it. So we were selling things on TV, right? Now it needs to be on TV, online, Amazon, and if it makes sense in retail. And again we can talk about that in a minute. You want to basically let consumers buy a product where they're comfortable but really the tipping point believe it or not sometimes things happen unexpectedly. And Oprah basically had a Sonicare, she had somehow got one from a friend or purchased it. She actually brought it out on her show and she said this will make your gums hum. And basically something as simple as that it wasn't planned basically is kind of exploded into kind of mainstream America. And then the conclusion to the Sonicare story is that they continued to have high growth. And Phillips Electric bought the company for five hundred million dollars about eight or nine years after they started up. So yes from startup to sale that quickly.
Steve: Well if you can't make a half a billion inside of ten years, you're just not doing the job, right? That's my opinion. Well done. So I love that story and and we've got a couple other stories we're going to stack into here for the Awesomers out there listen. But we're going to take another quick break and we'll be right back after this.
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Steve: Ok game guys. Steve Simonson we're back again on Awesomers.com and today we are getting schooled by a brand expert Rick Cesari.
Rick: Correct. Good job.
Steve: I'll have to tell you it was it was a 50-50 run there. It was my name recognition is getting worse. Maybe it has to do with my age. I don't know but Rick you've just I I think shared an extraordinary story about the Sonicare kind of zero to eight or nine years five hundred million dollar exit. And extraordinary success along with some serendipity along the way, right? If Oprah was a tipping point, cool. A lot of people go oh well they got lucky but luck is a matter of the preparation, right? It's all the preparation. It's all the energies, all that the fact that however Oprah got our hands on that thing. It was a great product like you said the beginning and it did in fact get to her. That whatever method obviously was related to some of the other sales channels you were doing and she loved it enough on her own. So it wasn't a paid campaign to just endorse it and kind of make that pronouncement on the air and boom from there is history. I love that story and I'm hoping you'll share now a little bit about the George Foreman Grill. Because that is one of my favorites. I've owned at least one of those probably more than one over in my time. And to me it's another fascinating example of how these brands kind of come to life.
39:26 (Rick talks about George Foreman Grill.)
Rick: Yes so that's a great story and actually the timings perfect because the company that bought our juicer business Trillium Health profits called Salton Housewares. One of the reasons they bought our business was that they had retail distribution, that was their main business and they dealt with all the brick-and-mortar stores. But they also wanted to know how we did the marketing for the juice man and they brought me two products one was a slanted grill and the other one was a homemade bagel maker. So the story behind the George Foreman Grill is really interesting because when it was first developed it was designed as a taco maker. And the reason that it was slanted was that the idea was you cook hamburger meat on it. It was at the edge of the table, they had a little spatula, you'd put your taco shell down below the lip of the Machine and you put the taco meat in there and that's how it was being marketed before we started working with Salton and obviously they weren't doing very good sales wise. It just was a non-starter.
Steve: Yes sir none of us have ever heard of the slanted grill taco maker. So that's a pretty good indicator. Yes cavion.
Rick: So is interesting at the time. So we started working with them and there was also a really good marketing person in place at Salton named Barb Westfield. And she's a co-author of my new book which we'll talk about called Building Billion Dollar Brands, she's been the CMO at Salton and HoMedics at Wolfgang Puck and she knows more about brick-and-mortar distribution than just about anybody I've ever met. Anyway she was a CMO there her and I put her head together and George Foreman had just won the heavyweight championship. And he was the oldest person to regain the championship. I think he was 46 years old he knocked out Michael Moore and his agent was looking for a product for George to endorse. And Barb had mentioned this to me and I said, well I think that would be good with the grill. And because George’s cut was very big and his famous for eating hamburgers. So we made the connection, came up with changed the name for whatever it was. For the taco maker, to people know it as the George Foreman Grill. But it was the lean mean fat reducing grilling machine which you talked about a mouthful for a name. That was the name of the product and that's why people started referring to it as to George Foreman Grill.
Steve: I wondered that domain of it is still available. The lean mean grill and fat making machine.
Rick: The lean mean grill and fat making machine. And we also came up with a tagline knocks out the fat to tie in with George Foreman. And really that was a unique selling proposition of that product. We mentioned unique selling proposition before you could grill your favorite foods, hamburgers, bacon and you can see the grease and fat channel away from the food. And so people thought or believed that they could eat their favorite foods and it was a little bit healthier than if it was to sit in a pan with all the fat. And we basically visually showed that we showed the fat channeling away. We showed cooking hamburgers in a frying pan and then sitting in the fat and really just making that comparison. And George was just an awesome, I love first of all I love the name of your podcast or even mentioned awesome..
Rick: Awesomers. I use awesome all the time. George was just an awesome spokesperson and basically the combination of really showing what this product could do. Not only removing the fat it was the first grill that grilled on both sides at the same time. So you could cook a hamburger in twice the speed and so when we made our half-hour TV show which could be a half-hour webinar or an ad on Facebook. The two things we showed were removing the fat and cooking more quickly. And those were the differences in our product versus the other grills out there at time and then George was a way to basically open doors and kind of trying a spokesperson to a product.
Steve: It's not a direct logical Association, right? It's not like there's very few people I think today that would say hey I'm thinking of a grilling item and I'm going to go find the heavyweight champion or the mixed martial arts champion. That's just not a logical thing, that's a genius and an extraordinary kind of reach to put those two things together.
Rick: Yes and George turned out to be just an amazing spokesperson. People really loved him because when he regained you see heavyweight boxing champions or whatever and they had these giant entourage is and our mixed martial arts champion George who used to travel around with one person. And he you know his back story was really interesting. When he lost part of his fame came because he lost a famous fight to Muhammad Ali in Zaire Africa. And he basically went into retirement for ten years and then when he came out and and won again that got him quite a bit of notoriety. But in that time he really he became a minister and every Sunday he would be teaching a sermon in downtown Houston. And he had a very good story that was to promote and people. He was a very likable guy and just kind of a funny thing. In addition to doing the television we also did a lot of QVC and one of the things you get again at the time. This was our instant feedback. You would get instant feedback when certain sales message or something happened. So every time George took a bite of a hamburger the phones would light up and for whatever reason when he was eating it would help generate more sales. And I don't know the psychological reason behind that but it really did. So every commercial we made from that point on, we had showed more of George eating and we basically used what worked and used it in our advertising.
Steve: That is a fascinating detail and again one of those counterintuitive ideas, if we're writing marketing scripts or writing commercial scripts or webinar scripts or infomercial scripts, very few of us are going to go. Let's make sure we get the subject to eat a certain number of times, right? That's probably the least attractive idea we can come up with. But George Foreman because he was such a big person, a big guy and he just made things look... I remember these commercials. I remember you thinking to myself George Foreman has no idea how that grill is made. Yes it's got his name on it, he's sitting there and he's as happy as a guy can be and he's showing us how to cook a hamburger. This is a crazy thing and yet sure enough on my countertop, there's at least one George Foreman Grill there for at least ten years. I don't know, it's a really amazing and we felt perfectly fine about it. So my memory of the George Foreman Grill, it dates back you know I don't even know what year were they sold. The heavy time of George Foreman Grill.
Rick: Well we launched it in 1996 and so from probably 97 through 99 were the big growth years for that product. Or probably 97 through 2001 to be honest with you.
Steve: It was such a powerful commercial and again it's counterintuitive to think of coaching up the star to go hey make sure you eat a bite. Here we're going to do close up. So right that the opposite way that you would script something is what actually ended up working and this is this is one of those marketing lessons. Rick already said he doesn't know the psychological reason. I certainly don't but when you find and this is the ultimate lesson. When you find something that works regardless of why it works, that the why is quite irrelevant, so you keep using it, right? And that's ultimately what you guys decide to do. And every subsequent commercial, every subsequent infomercial. you made sure George was chop it down on a big bite.
Rick: Yes absolutely and that goes back to something again. It's relevant back then but relevant today even more relevant is being able to test your commercials and finding out what works and what doesn't work. And when you do find that one thing that works I've always found in all of these projects and that we've been talking about. And the ones we're still going to talk about. You kind of find the key that people respond to. And once you find that key you can then take that and build a really really big business leveraging that one idea are the one thing to gets people excited and gets them to respond. It's not always obvious what that is but once you find that and you do that through trial-and-error. I mean nobody's an overnight success. You test shows I mean one of the things interesting things about George's show is a perfect example. The very first infomercial we tested didn't work and we started. We thought it'd be really cool again and it is an important lesson. We thought it'd be really cool to start the infomercial out. We called up HBO and bought 15 seconds where George was knocking out Michael Moore and we started out the show with a boxing sequence. And that was not really understanding who our target demographic was which was primarily women. And women, I'm making generalizations here but a lot of women do not like boxing or violence. So we were turning off our primary target at the very beginning of the show. So we came in re-edited to show took out the boxing and we actually raised the price from $59.99. And we did those two things and the product took off and again it's a function of testing.
Steve: First of all the lesson of testing you've heard Rick who's built these massive brands and we're going to talk to more about his book here in a minute. But these brands that have such extraordinary power and have the potential to be billion dollar brands. And he still is talking about testing and talking about making mistakes by the way, right? This idea I'm sure that HBO wasn't like oh yes you could have this footage for free, right? How much do they charge?
Steve: So they had to pay a big amount of money. They put that lead in it turned off their viewers which obviously they figured out subsequent to that first ad running. And was there any point after that first commercial you guys like, cool I guess this isn't going to work. Let's roll it out and forget about it.
Rick: There's always that thought process when you're testing a new product because again this is the very beginning. There weren't a lot of success, the product that evolved into the George Foreman Grill wasn't successful. And that's really where perseverance pays off. And the CEO of the company could have said, we tested it didn't work and we just said well you know let's give it another try. And fortunately when we made the changes and brought it back out, it worked well. So again it's another lesson of not giving up and basically following through and look at where it could lead you.
Steve: Just imagine if the CEO or Rick himself or anybody on the team at the time had said you know what, I thought this is a good idea. But it turns out people don't like boxing and cooking after all. And that whole thing that this whole genre that we all now know very well. The George Foreman Grill that could have been done, it could have never existed yet by simply sticking to it and then having the maybe they I don't know that being humble enough to say what do we do wrong. What can we do better. How can we improve this. That is enough to be able to persevere and I think that's a big lesson. You guys weren't caught up in the ego of no. This thing is perfect, we just need to get those stupid customers to pay better attention. You guys retooled the thing, right?
Rick: No absolutely and that's an important point you bring up right there is. And one of that's number three on my list of five keys to building the brand. We talked about USP unique selling proposition positioning number three is always listen to the customer. And basically you'll find out more and we'll talk about how that plays a role in all the different products. But their customer is the best source of feedback that tell you what they like about the product what they don't like and how you can make improvements. And really the customers were sending us a message saying that they didn't like what we were doing. And we were able to talk to some of them and really identify what our target market was and make changes and then make the project work.
Steve: So this again and just trying to tie parallels in the modern day or relevant things for the Awesomers out there listening. When you are thinking about developing a product and you start your research typically on Amazon because that's the easiest and most likely place to begin a search. The first thing you're going to do is you're going to look at the reviews, right? And that is listening to customer. So you get in there and you look at the good reviews and you see what's positive about this thing and then you also go look at the negative. Is how's this thing falling down and if you can enhance the positives or at least retain the positives and eliminate the negatives, you've already incrementally made an improvement in the product that now has a potential to live a fundamental. I couldn't agree more with Rick's assertion that if you ask customers they will tell you it's so often we are running around. And we don't know why this doesn't work, we don't know why this doesn't work. But you started your process with asking customers, you talked about this at the trade show with the cameras and talking to the dentist. If you engage your audience the earlier on the better. I think you're going to be really surprised that some of the things they tell you.
Rick: Yes and to this day whenever we start working with a company for the first time or a new product for the first time, the very first thing I ask them is I want to speak to some of your customers. Do you have a database? Some people are just a hundred percent on Amazon they might not have a database but as many companies do. And the very first thing I'll do is basically my team will call up/set up where we talked, to 10, to 15 people, we'll bring them to a house and I'll sit down and interview these people. And really it tells me a lot of the things I need to know about the product. And again you meant what people like, what they don't like and I really pay attention to in this case negative reviews on Amazon. But the things people don't like and how can we overcome those objections or the things that the reasons why they might not buy the product.
55:30 (Steve shares a story about a time he launched a product with a huge apparent value.)
Steve: Yes, it's so often a surprise in what is really motivating and pushing these customers to make decisions. I remember a quick story and because of Rick's extraordinary experience we're probably getting them doing it back-to-back episode or a subsequent episode to talk about GoPro and OxiClean. But just a quick little tiny story for my background. One time we launched a product, is actually provided by manufacturer and it had huge apparent value. I mean it was just really big and thick and luxurious and it seemed very clear that this was had high apparent value. And at the time I was still learning and my weak mind says I want to sell a ton of this. So let's really lower the price. Let's get it a low price. So we had this really huge big beautiful high apparent value item at a very very low price. And it would not sell and after a month or two and by the way with considerable focus and marketing energy. And all the direct marketing and things that we didn't try to support it still would not sell. And so finally we just put it up to kind of not just a regular price but probably a regular price plus 30 or 40 percent. Because we were mad at the product as if it was responsible somehow and believe it or not. And of course Rick already knows or you can infer the end of the story. The sales blew up, that the product started selling and it reminded me of that story because of what you said not only did you retool the episode you changed the price from fifty nine to 79. And I think most marketers would have said let's change it from fifty nine to twenty nine and see if that helps. And that is not always what the customer needs to see and that's not what makes them happy.
Rick: Yes. So that's a great story and again it further endorses one of the things whenever I bring a product to market I always... and again this comes from research, talking to people, whatever but I always try to launch it at the highest reasonable price. Because it's very easy to come down but it's hard to go back up and then you're testing really what the marketplace would be willing to pay for the product. And there's again another element of human psychology here where there's a certain price point. Where people think well it must be cheap, are not a good product if it's a certain price. But by putting it up it'll more of a luxury price point they feel better about buying the product and it doesn't work. I'm not saying this works across the board go and raise their prices on all your products but it's something you should when you're launching a new product. Absolutely test different price points and including the higher one's.
Steve: And the other thing it helps you do is it helps you pay for marketing and it helps you pay for high customer service.
Rick: That's absolutely true.
Steve: Right. And because you become embittered when a customers like, hey I have a problem with this, okay man you paid such a low price why you bothering me for, right? But if they pay a fair reasonable price that you should be able to offer that support, you should be able to support the marketing.
Rick: So that's a hugely important point almost every product we talk about is in order for them to be a success they had to be at a high enough price point. So there were enough margin dollars to pay for the advertising to provide a great customer service, all the things that you need to do. And you look at companies that are very successful and I'll just pull one out of the air Starbucks, underneath of everything else there's huge margins when they sell you an espresso with milk in it. And that huge margin is what facilitates them being able to be a global brand. And that's one of the very first thing when I'm looking at a product and kind of doing a financial analysis and the numbers have to work. Because sometimes you might have the best product in the world but there isn't enough margin dollars between your costs of manufacturing. And what you can sell it for that you could. That's going to enable you to use to have advertising dollars and marketing dollars and customer service dollars and we can eliminate a lot of products that way. And so every once in awhile you find the right product with the right margins and that the consumer likes or a mass consumer will like and those are the one you can usually turn into big businesses.
Steve: I couldn't have said it better myself. Rick we're against the clock so I want to have you back and get part two of this extraordinary journey. I love it I know Awesomers out there love it. Will you join me again and and do a part two with me?
Rick: Yes I'd love to. We've still got a lot of great things to talk about.
Steve: We're going to get into the book, we're going to go and all the links and Awesomers you'll be able to go onto the show notes and get the details we've already covered so far. There's so much here. This is really exciting stuff and I thank you again for your time today Rick. It is really a great pleasure to kind of recount these historic moments in marketing and branding with you.
Rick: Great, thanks Steve. You've been really easy to talk to and I really appreciate being able to share experience and knowledge with your listeners.
Steve: Of course it's our pleasure. Awesomers we'll be right back after this.
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Steve: Well I tell you what. We have delivered yet again I think something very special. And Rick has what a great sport to come on for a second time. So this is just part one by the way of our two-part series with Rick Cesari. I know I mispronounce the name about every two seconds so my apologies to Rick. But his experience and his knowledge of just a sense of humor and his just kind of a fun guy to be around really really amazing fella. And we're sure glad he joined us, today was just the first half of that two-part series. So don't forget to join us tomorrow where we go into the next bit as well. And today we covered again Juiceman, Sonicare and George Foreman Grill but tomorrow we're going to dive deep into the other two really cool brands that you've probably heard of. With your GoPro and OxiClean all of these names are such amazing brands and your chance to kind of talk to one of the the key architects and engineers of these billion dollar brands is something that I think is quite special. And I feel privileged to just be on the the other line with him. And I was lucky enough to have him come to the Catalyst 88 mastermind group recently and talked to the team there in Seattle at length. And it was just a really great experience. So anyway this has been a great episode I can't wait to have you join us tomorrow as well. Don't forget this is episode number 55 of the Awesomers.com podcast series and all you have to do is go to Awesomers.com/55 to get all the show notes, details and bonus links or things like that.
Well we've done it again everybody. We have another episode of the Awesomers podcast ready for the world. Thank you for joining us and we hope that you've enjoyed our program today. Now is a good time to take a moment to subscribe, like and share this podcast. Heck you can even leave a review if you wanted. Awesomers around you will appreciate your help. It's only with your participation and sharing that we'll be able to achieve our goals. Our success is literally in your hands. Thank you again for joining us. We are at your service. Find out more about me, Steve Simonson, our guest, team and all the other Awesomers involved at Awesomers.com. Thank you again.