: Magazine : Back
Issues : May/June
Killing the Competition
by Holly Bornstein
Could a new, environmentally
safer insecticide reinvent the way the market views its sometimes-dangerous mainstream
Is a passionate and brilliant business owner with a unique, useful
and safe product enough to reinvent a category? The answer might very well
be yes, but after 10 years and a lot of headway, there is still more to be
The product category is insecticides, and the product is Bugs ‘R’ Done™.
Environmental engineer Robert L. Rod invented this product 10 years ago and brought
it to market following a long and successful career in the aerospace industry.
Because the product doesn’t poison bugs, it doesn’t poison people.
Bugs ‘R’ Done dissolves the lining that waterproofs an insect’s
breathing passages. Clogging the passageways quickly leads to the insect’s
death. The key ingredients are all named by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration
as “GRAS”—Generally Regarded as Safe in human foods—and
the product bears a warning-free Environmental Protection Agency-approved label
in the EPA’s least hazardous category IV. “We’re the only one
that is patented and EPA-registered,” Rod explained.
Through a number of distribution relationships Rod has achieved national distribution
among natural-food stores, including Whole Foods. The product is also available
online, sold through hometrendscatalog.com. Licensing is another distribution
tool employed by the company. One targets the allergy/asthma sufferer; another
is a major licensee who privately labels the formulation.
This product is a green marketer’s dream—there’s enormous market
potential: agriculture, restaurants/food preparation, schools, doctor and veterinarian
offices and hospitals, as well as inside and outside homes. In classic product-adoption
fashion, Bugs ‘R’ Done has a few early adopter user groups: people
who seek out healthy products for their home (environmentalists), pet owners
and allergy sufferers. The company currently markets the product primarily through
public relations and search engines—the firm directs traffic to their site
via three different URLs: safeinsecticide.com, safinsecticides.com and bugsrdone.com.
Going to market
There are several ways the company can use marketing to grow market share and
move beyond its core constituency. Allow me to present some ideas:
1. Educate through mainstream publicity.
With publicity in mainstream publications, Bugs ‘R’ Done can begin
to raise awareness that current insecticide products should be replaced—and
of course, introduce the alternative. As mainstream media continue to devote
much coverage to green building, there could be a natural segue to indoor air
quality and the insecticide issue.
In the past six months, the product has already been featured in a few mainstream
publications, with pet-safety articles in the New York Daily News and the New
York Post. Bugs ‘R’ Done should build on this momentum and expand
the story beyond the pet owner. Families with a baby and/or pregnant women would
be a natural next step.
2. Step up search-engine activity (for example, on sites like Google and Yahoo).
A strong search-engine strategy is vital. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, 92
percent of the online population visits a search engine, portal or community
site every month.
Pay-per-click—also called paid-for search engine placements. Today, virtually
all search engines offer a paid-for option that guarantees almost instantaneous
visibility on their search results pages.
Search Engine Optimization—the process of consistently fine-tuning a Web
site’s components in order to improve its search engine rankings.
3. Create Evangelists: Loyal customers can convince others there is an alternative
Empower loyal users to be your spokespeople. For example, include a sample shipped
with online orders that can be given to a friend. A well-worded message in the
package can remind them of the product's virtues and increase the chance they
will pass it along to a friend rather than keeping it for themselves.
4. Explore a redesign of the label
Catching a customer’s eye as he or she passes the product on the shelf
can be a make-or-break proposition. Research would help determine whether the
current label effectively appeals to the mainstream customer—or can be
made to appeal even more.
5. Communicate directly to key influencers.
Start by targeting a particular group (for example, school administrators). Create
an information package and a way to sample the product. In addition to converting
the schools, the spillover effect will bring parents, lunchroom workers and others
into contact with the product. In the mid-nineties I worked on a very successful
program for Levi Strauss and Co. that helped to accelerate the casual business
trend through a marketing and education program that was mailed to human resource
managers. This is the same concept—just a different product.
Take this a step further by launching this program around a new distribution
channel—Costco, for example—and negotiate a product sales test with
Ideas such as these could make Bugs ‘R’ Done a product of choice
for the growing market of environment-conscious consumers. This would, in
turn, force bigger companies to offer safe and effective products—and it
may not be long before the Orkin Man is as benign as the ice cream man.
Author’s note: It is interesting to note that there is an increase in lymphoma
incidence in communities in which farming is prevalent. Studies point to specific
ingredients in herbicides and pesticides as being associated with lymphoma occurrence,
but the quantitative contribution of such exposures to the frequency of lymphoma
has not been defined. (Source: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society). This article
is dedicated to my brother-in-law, who is bravely battling lymphoma.
Holly Bornstein is the founder and principal partner of Propel Marketing,
LLC, a direct-marketing firm that specializes in green products and services.
A common thread through her marketing practice and articles is accelerating the
adoption of green products and services among mainstream consumers and businesses.
can be reached at email@example.com.