Jason Kates needed a creative way to market his combination thermometer/pacifier, a small item that would be competing against big-name products with snazzy packaging. Tapping into his background as a video producer, Kates persuaded a friend to star with her baby in a short video show-casing his product. A hundred stores aired the video; before long, the product was flying off shelves.
Kates, 40, eventually sold the thermometer business. But he kept the lessons he learned from it. And to overcome the compliance challenges he encountered using individual VCRs, he launched his own in-store network, RMS Networks. The business transmits original programming from its Fort Lauderdale, Florida, headquarters via broadband satellite networks to more than 4,000 retail locations in 49 states, developing industry-specific vignettes and features for each of its retail partners in categories ranging from the automotive aftermarket to wine and spirits.
"We're not just talking to consumers all day," says Kates. "The [retail] employees are hearing and seeing this programming, so it's an important education and training tool [to help them sell products]."
The short features broadcast on the RMS networks are usually sponsored by manufacturers. For instance, a segment on mountain biking might be sponsored by a brand name in bicycles or biking accessories. But these advertising opportunities are also open to companies not featured in the retailer's stock-Internet access company NetZero, for one, advertises on a number of RMS networks.
Cost per thousand impressions (CPM) ranges from $6 to $40, depending on the industry. However, because this medium resembles direct marketing, Kates cautions against using CPM numbers exclusively. Rather, he cites some of RMS' success stories. "We average a 70 percent lift on the products we feature," he says. "We once increased the sales of a type of automotive oil over 500 percent."
Gwen Moran is president of Moran Marketing Associates, a public relations and marketing communications agency in Ocean, New Jersey. She is currently compiling a marketing workbook titled Promote Your Business. E-mail her at email@example.com.