CNBC’s The Profit is one of my favorites on TV. The show’s principal – Marcus Lemonis – is a brilliant businessman who invests in and saves failing businesses (and in the process, amasses a growing empire for himself).
Aside from his business acumen, Lemonis comes across as a “mensch” – principled, thoughtful, even empathetic…an amateur psychologist who mends the broken relationships and mental blocks of his business partners.
In short, I respect the guy, love the show.
But in this week’s episode, Marcus blew it.
Here’s the scenario: Chris Pegula is the owner of Diaper Dude – a company that markets diaper bags that won’t embarrass guys when they take their babies out and about – no flowers, no pretty colors, etc. They’re messenger-style bags with storage for bottles, diapers, wipes…everything needed to care of a baby.
Chris initially created the Diaper Dude bags for himself…he’d balked at using his wife’s frilly, femmy bag. Then he discovered that there were other dudes out there who had the same issue. He turned his manly bags into a successful business. In its best year, sales topped $2 million.
But in recent years, Chris lost his mojo. He dropped successful products just because of a little negative feedback from some buyers. He engaged in ill-considered brand extensions with little connection to the core business. He spent too much on a marketing campaign that totally missed the point.
Sales plummeted, profits became losses, and now Diaper Dude is thisclose to oblivion.
Enter The Profit. Marcus offers $200K for 60% of the business. Chris doesn’t even counter…he’s so grateful for the lifeline. Then Marcus does the good stuff he always does, like slashing overhead and upgrading the product.
Then he totally loses the thread. He learns that Chris had been bullied in his youth. (He’s still sometimes bullied by his wife.)
Suddenly, it’s no longer Diaper Dude bags…it’s No Bull bags, and it’s all about bullying. The sales pitch is Chris’s story and the No Bullying movement.
The product is an afterthought.
To show how far off the rails this has gone, check in to diaperdude.com. You’ll be redirected to thenobullmovement.com –“committed to empowering a kinder world.” (Only at the bottom of the home page we see Coming Soon: No Bull Merchandise.)
Of course, we need a kinder world…bullying is a serious problem! And I’m certainly in favor of what’s known as cause marketing. A great example is Bombas, which donates a pair of socks to the homeless for every pair they sell. But check out bombas.com…more than anything, it sells the benefits of the socks.
Are you going to buy a product only because it donates to a worthwhile charity? I don’t think so… it has to serve a need for you. Marketing 101. A charitable donation is a bonus, not a focus!
And now, as my added bonus, I’m going to give Diaper Dude a much better marketing strategy…
First, keep the Diaper Dude name! It’s memorable and established. Yeah, it’s a niche, and that’s a good thing. There are tons of bags out there…set yours apart!
Next, position Diaper Dude as a product for Real Men. Because Real Men Take Care of Their Babies.
No charge for that good advice, Marcus, because I’ve gained so much information and inspiration from The Profit over the past five years.
And during that time, I’ve learned over and over again your “three P’s” for business success – People, Product and Process. Not Philanthropy – as important as that is.