January 2008 - The Finishing Touch

Selling even a “sure-fire” product requires both insight and instinct. For IdeaVillage, making a product line for facial hair removal a success meant retooling the marketing message and appealing to the genuine needs of the female consumer.

By David Lustig

Success in the DRTV world is usually a combination of a good product, smart planning, proper positioning and the skillful use of language. A sprinkling of good luck doesn’t hurt, either. The exact degree that each part plays in the success varies every time, but when it all comes together, fireworks can be sure to follow.

Case in point: the IdeaVillage line of Finishing Touch Products designed to remove unwanted body hair. Andy Khubani, president and CEO of IdeaVillage Products Corp., headquartered in Fairfield, N.J., says that since his firm first began marketing the many models of Finishing Touch, several million pieces have been sold-and there doesn’t seem to be any indication the public’s appetite for them is abating.

Long a believer in the DRTV concept, Khubani began his career as the vice president of sales for TeleBrands in 1990, helping to bring “As Seen On TV” products from television to retail stores.

“We paved the way for this transition,” says Khubani, adding that “retailers were not very interested at the time. They thought that TV products were of questionable quality, the companies were mostly fly-by-night operations and in general, they were very skeptical. TeleBrands was the trailblazer.”

In 1999, Khubani started IdeaVillage.

“I felt I had reached my plateau [at TeleBrands] for some time and wanted to start my own show,” he says.

The packaging and marketing message needed to convey that the product was gentle, yet strong.

Under the IdeaVillage banner, Khubani brought forth a variety of different products, most centered on the average person being able to do a better job at maintaining his or her home or personal lifestyle.
Successful IdeaVillage products have included the Edge Master paint roller, the Grip Wrench and a handheld sewing machine called the Handy Stitch. The original Finishing Touch, notes Khubani, hit the market at the start of 2003.

“The category already existed,” he says. “There were products like this out there, but nobody was successful in marketing them.

“They were positioning it from a marketing standpoint as a hair trimmer, and we positioned it as a personal hair remover. No woman wants to trim the hair on her face; she wants to remove it. For us, that was a huge insight.

“Forty million women have unwanted hair on their face,” he says. “Finishing Touch was positioned as an instant and painless way to remove it.”

Khubani says he sourced the product from the company that was originally manufacturing it in Asia, adding that the innovative part of the product was not the physical item but in the marketing.

“I had a couple of raving fans in my company who loved the product,” he says about the hair trimmer soon to become a hair remover. “One of my employees, Joanne Grassa, pointed out to me that there was no other good solution on the market to what she described to be a little peach fuzz. She also said that some of the women she knew were using a traditional man’s razor, but wouldn’t admit it.”

Taking over the importing of the device, Khubani says that it was wonderful as it was, of great quality and he didn’t change a thing. Even the name, Finishing Touch, he says, came from one of his employees.

For Khubani, initially marketing the product via national cable DRTV was a natural. He also decided that for the initial test, he didn’t want to spend more than $20,000 on media.

Khubani went to Collette Liantonio, president of Concepts TV Productions Inc. in Boonton, N.J., to create the script and produce the DRTV infomercial.
Collaborating closely with the production company, the result was a pair of short-form infomercials-a two-minute version and a one-minute version.
“Andy wanted an amazing demonstration that would emphasize that the product was very gentle, yet very strong,” says Liantonio, adding that it would have to be a strong statement.

“And it was,” she says. “We shaved a balloon.

“Andy’s genius is in developing the offer,” Liantonio recalls. “What makes the difference in DRTV is the offer. Not only did Andy offer the hair remover, but a host of other accessories including a magnifying mirror and a towel rack, all for $14.95.” The original DRTV infomercial ran for more than two years.

“DRTV was the only way to communicate to the mass market the features and benefits of the product,” says Khubani.

Despite the fact that he had great faith in Finishing Touch, Khubani was “cautiously optimistic” and originally ordered fewer than 1,000 pieces to start. “I had no idea how it would sell,” he recalls, adding that if it didn’t do well, being stuck with 1,000 pieces would not be that terrible.

When the DRTV infomercial aired, almost instantly Khubani knew he had hit the bull’s eye. The initial order sold out so quickly, he put out a second order for more than 500,000 pieces.

But why national cable and not specific targets such as New York or Los Angeles? Or Peoria?

“It’s a mass-market product,” he explains. “While there are individual stations that are more responsive than others, national cable tends to be more responsive overall. Your cost per thousand on national cable versus regional broadcast is much more efficient.”

His instincts were right on the money. A few weeks after the first order for 500,000 pieces, Khubani ordered the same amount again. Then he began ordering lots of 1 million pieces at a time.

Even today, Khubani says he never expected the Finishing Touch line of products to be the blockbuster it has become.

“Not in a million years. About five months into it, we had such a big hit on our hands, I looked into seeing if there was an opportunity to sell this to a big company,” he says. “But after first having some internal discussions, and then later external discussions, we decided to hold on to it. We also realized we needed to expand the product line.” Shortly afterward, a men’s version debuted.

IdeaVillage’s Andy Khubani realized that he needed to expand the product line, and debuted new models, including a men’s version.

Today, Khubani’s IdeaVillage Finishing Touch products have spawned a variety of offspring, including Micro Touch, Bikini Touch, Finishing Touch Pro with a pivoting head to help keep the hair remover flush with the skin and the Micro Touch Turbo with what he says has 50 percent more power.

The first two years, according to Khubani, the product was purely on DRTV before pushing out to various print formats. Today, the numerous Finishing Touch models have been featured in advertisements in beauty magazines, men’s magazines and full-page ads in Parade and USA Weekend.

Even the greatest-selling products will reach a saturation point sooner or later, and Khubani says that 2004 was the hair remover’s highest sales year. Although today sales have steadied out to what he admits is a “few million a year,” he says there is no indication the product is going to decline.

“We are in our third generation now,” says Khubani. “Many people who have purchased one of the Finishing Touch models four or five years ago are ready for a new one.” He is obliging them with the Finishing Touch Lumina with a built-in LED light.

What’s next for Andy Khubani and IdeaVillage?

“Typically, we try to have five new items every year,” he says. “There’s always something new out there.”

“He assembles the right people,” says Liantonio. “And he knows a good product when he sees one.”

David Lustig has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has written for such well-known publications as the Los Angeles Times and People magazine.


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