Blogs Perk Sales for High-Tech Coffee Mug

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Following a startup year that brimmed with dynamic results from viral marketing to bloggers, Jolex Inc.'s Brugo coffee mugs are ready to get a fill of direct response television.

Jolex, with its patented temperature-moderating travel mug, has been wrapping up a pilot in Minnesota to prepare for a campaign that might roll out nationwide in July if not as early as this week.

"The direct response television campaign is about both raising brand awareness and giving us another sales channel," said Spero Pavlopoulos, president of Jolex, Oak Lawn, IL.

"We think it will introduce the Brugo brand to potential customers in both the BTB and BTC markets," he said. "It's a win-win situation. Who watches these [spots]? People like you and me. It's all-inclusive exposure."

Jolex recently has seen a 50/50 split in business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales for the mugs. In either case, Mr. Pavlopoulos said the company has been in a growth spurt since the latter part of 2005's final quarter.

"We only had $7,000 in revenue going into the month of December," he said. "But now we are sitting at $300,000 halfway through the calendar year of 2006 and expect to hit $1 million by the end of the holidays. The response has been absolutely phenomenal."

When the company launched last summer, Mr. Pavlopoulos was searching for an affordable method of getting the word out on his high-tech mugs. He discovered marketing services firm The Pepper Group, and the two agreed to try a low-budget, yet innovative campaign for Brugo.

"Since Spero was an entrepreneur, we didn't have millions of dollars to spend on advertising," said George Couris, principal at Pepper, Palatine, IL. "So we went the guerilla route."

Sip to Buzz

Around early fall, Mr. Couris and his staff began targeting bloggers at sites like http://morningcoffee.wordpress.com, www.coffeegeek.com, www.dailygadget.com and www.gizmodo.com. The bloggers running or contributing to those destinations were mailed complimentary mugs for written product reviews to be posted at the sites.

Merchandisers, who were tapped into the coffee or techie online world community, began reading about Brugo and started calling or e-mailing Jolex about reselling the mugs in their country. But that was just the beginning of the viral campaign's effect.

Evidently, the bloggers were cyberspace tastemakers. Within weeks, Jolex began seeing the Brugo mug popping up on "Best of" lists and even on national television -- and right in time for the holidays.

"On December 5, Brugo was on 'Good Morning America,'" Mr. Pavlopoulos said. "We had no clue they were going to have it on the show. They put it on without telling us. And we didn't know that Men's Health magazine in November was going to pick it as one of its best new tech products.

"From that exposure, in almost no time, we were getting even more orders and inquiries from everywhere," he said. "The product's [reputation] spread from blogs and into magazines and onto TV. At one time in the surge, we were getting 10,000 requests when we only had 1,000 mugs available."

And the good news for the firm seems to have carried over into 2006. Jolex was invited to contribute Brugos for celebrity "goody bags" at the Grammys, the Emmys and the Oscars.

The mugs also have appeared in well-circulated catalogs such as Herrington and Sky Mall as well as in highly trafficked retail chains like Hallmark, Costco and Sam's Club. Mr. Pavlopoulos said his firm recently struck deals with retail powerhouses Federated Department Stores Inc. and QVC Inc., though he didn't disclose specifics.

A Cool Hot Mug

The Brugo is designed to cool scalding coffee quickly to a favorable temperature of 150 degrees to 170 degrees and keep it there due to its thermodynamic features.

Appearing on the lid are the drinking options -- "sip," "lock" and "tip and cool" -- on how to use the product. The lid also is constructed to help keep on-the-go coffee drinkers from spilling on their clothes and skin.

Mr. Couris said that the product name, mug design, logo and the slogan, "A Perfect Degree of Taste," together strike a strong chord with prospective buyers.

He credits the mug's early popularity to "bringing the product to market fully dressed. Retailers look at the mug and think, 'This is a real product and not some guy's crazy idea that needs more development.'"

The mugs come in 12 colors. They retail at www.brugomug.com for $19.95 apiece and are priced lower for bulk orders. Retail orders at the site average just under $60: three mugs per shopping cart.

Mr. Pavlopoulos said that his firm will try to intertwine the Web site with the DRTV spots just as the firm has made constant mention of its online destination in the word-of-mouth blog campaigns.

"I promise you'll be able to see the Web site URL on the television screen for all 60 seconds," he said.

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