In the adult video realm, Zero Tolerance is applying the same point-of sale promotional approach as mainstream companies.
The brainchild of Director of Marketing Scott Stein, Zero Tolerance's M-2-M (manufacturer to merchant) program has been going for 18 months, with one staffer driving an RV from store to store across the U.S.
"Basically what we're doing is like any other manufacturer," Stein told XBIZ. "Famous Amos, Lay's potato chips — they'll send people to the stores that are selling their product. They'll make sure the section is set up and help them with any needs they might have. We're just applying that same sensibility to the adult marketplace."
"We spent a lot of money on marketing and materials and a lot of times they never got to the stores," Zero Tolerance President Greg Alves told XBIZ. "Stores are understaffed, they have too much work going on, and no one is going to take time to sit and build a mobile to hang from the ceiling.
"The nice thing about doing this is that a lot of these stores are creatures of habit and once you put something in there it's going to be there until it completely falls apart. We wanted to do something to get our brand more directly into our stores. Instead of running ads and doing other things, we're actually marketing to where our customers are."
The marketing tools are simple: a mobile that can be placed under a light fixture that captures the light and shines it through a colorful logo; door stickers; shelf talkers, small plastic signs that promote the Zero Tolerance, Black Ice and 3rd Degree labels; and stand-up point-of-purchase displays.
"We're not manufacturers of marketing materials or promotional products," Stein said, "but we get them made exclusively for us."
Rudy, the company representative on the road, makes it a point to get the best placement in each store for the promo materials.
"We try and go for the prime real estate, so that when the customers come in they see our brand," Rudy told XBIZ. "I work in conjunction with the managers and the owners. I ask them if it's OK before I put anything in. I try and make it so it doesn't get in anybody's way, it doesn't block any cameras, and they themselves don't do any of the physical work. I do the labor end of it and I get their feedback. If they like it I leave it; if they don't like it we try and maneuver it so that it's something that they're comfortable with in their store."
In each weekly Zero Tolerance sales email, there is a mention of where Rudy is currently traveling. Stores can book appointments with Rudy through Zero Tolerance's AdultM2M.com website, and he also works with distributors and chains. The plan is that he visits a given store every nine months. Last year, Rudy visited "800-something stores," according to Alves.
The Personal Touch
I've formed relationships with the clerks, managers and store owners so that they help us to push our product to the consumer," Rudy said. "We do seasonal swag: T-shirts, hats, beanies, lighters, flashlights, yo-yos, lollipops. We have high-end office supplies we give to owners and managers. It varies by region and by season. During the spring and summer, we do white T-shirts and white hats. During the wintertime, in the northeast, beanies and the black long-sleeved T-shirts work well. It varies.
"A lot of people light their candles and they need a lighter, so we pass out many, many lighters … our logo and our website is branded on our lighter. If they happen to use it or somebody happens to borrow it from them and take possession of it, the brand is being spread out."
The goal of the M-2-M program is brand awareness.
"A lot of people talk about it but on a retail level we know we're getting proper exposure," Stein said. "We know our marketing materials are going up in the store, whether they're shelf talkers or mobiles or point-of-purchase displays. And we're there. We're on the front lines. The clerk behind the counter is our biggest ally. When someone comes in and says 'Hey, what do you recommend?' we were just in there and it goes a long way."
Rudy pointed out that the company is pushing for brand recognition, much like Coca-Cola and Pepsi products. "If they're going to think of purchasing adult, we want them to say 'Hey, how about that Zero Tolerance? How about that 3rd Degree?'" Rudy said. "If they walk into a store and they see the poster in a frame - very classy looking - so far they've noticed that we spend a lot of money on our marketing, so it's likely that our product is worthy of that marketing. And it is."
Sometimes Rudy's store visit will include an informal personal appearance and signing with an adult performer.
"In a lot of the major markets, I fly a girl in for a few days and she just rides along with him," Alves said. "It's not a signing per se, but the girl goes in the store and they sign whatever's in the store, they take pictures with the manager, clerks, anyone who's working, and then they go to the next store. It's just an added little kicker."
"We do a lot of in-store signings when I come in and I place our product," Rudy said. "We have had our contract girl, Courtney Cummz, or a handful of the other girls that we work with. The store signings have been phenomenal; [they are] going really well with the customers. They really dig the fact that we do in-store signings. Some of these stores have never had an adult performer.
The small tours go really, really well." The effort and expense are paying off, according to Alves. When asked if he is seeing success with the program, he responded, "Absolutely."
"Business is up when most people are in a declining market," Alves said. "Right now our business is up. When I look at certain chains where we've gone in and done it for the chain and I see the results and the sales numbers following - let's take General Video Cleveland, and their stores. When we do all this and I see that our business is climbing with them, I see it works. We get tons of emails … from customers: 'Wow. I saw your stuff in a store. This is great.' We get a lot of feedback from end consumers. We get thank-you letters from store managers and chain owners. It's going really well. It's a very positive thing for us.
"We're spending a lot of money doing it. It's very expensive having somebody on the road full-time. And we spend a lot of money on these displays, but it comes out really good. I've cut back on other advertising, although we still have to get the new release information and some other stuff out."