Aura Sound Cushion: an expensive mistake

chris-payne-aura-sound-cushion

A number of years ago I was approached by a man who was involved in the closing down of the business he ran. His business had been selling a device called the Aura Sound Cushion for £99 (US$150), which you plugged into games machines and put behind your back, and all the explosive games sounds would reverberate through your back, adding to the excitement of the gameplay.

We had been selling a unit called the Somatron Music Cushion for about US$1,000 which looked like a massage table without legs and had big speakers inside. You played ‘psycho-acoustic’ music [music that affected your mental and physical state] through it and the unit massaged your body with sound.

Well the vibrations from the Aura Sound Cushion were as good or better than the Somatron – but for a fraction of the price.

So I could sell this device to my tens of thousands of customers, saying the relaxation effect was better than a $1,000 device – and I could sell some as games machine accessories too via mail order ads in the national press, using my reasonable skills as a marketeer.

My visitor was willing to sell me the last 10,000 of them for £5 ($7.50) each. If I could sell them all for the full price using my direct mail skills I’d pull in £1 million ($1.5m), and most of that would be profit!

I met up with some other business owners at a Mastermind Group I was in at the time, and they all thought the deal was a great one. So I bought all 10,000! I offered the Cushions to my customers at £99 and sold hundreds of them. Great! I put an advert in 2 national newspaper with a ‘Send no money now’ offer, which worked brilliantly for other advertisers in the paper selling shoes etc – but my adverts bombed.

The adverts featured a photo of me holding the Cushion. I spoke with a guy who was considered to be one of the top UK copywriters and asked him what I could do to improve the advert so it pulled in a big response. He suggested I change the photo to feature a busty young woman. I followed his advice, and put the ad again in the Daily Express. I got some editorial to go above the advert…

Aura-Sound-Cushion-Daily-Express-ad

…but the ad bombed again.

I struck a deal with Sky TV (a satellite TV company in the UK): we’d create a one-minute TV advert, and they would show the ad 36 times over Christmas, at no cost to us, but we’d give them a percentage of the revenue, as long as we used their call centre to take all the orders to ensure we paid them properly. All we got was a handful of orders.

I managed to get a meeting with QVC, the shopping channel. They were interested in selling the Cushions but insisted that we’d have to supply 20,000 units, and take back any unsold units at the end of the campaign. There was no way I was going to have more manufactured, so I walked away from that deal.

I tried various other ideas, including giving a Cushion away free with every MindLab relaxtion device we sold; and inviting LifeTools customers to an Open Day at our premises, with the offer of a free Cushion for everyone who turned up. Hundreds came and spent a lot of money on other products – but I was still left with almost all my stock! And every month I was paying a storage fee for these unsold units. They were like a noose around my neck!

It took nearly 2 years to finally sell every one: my operations manager struck a deal to sell our remaining stock on at a loss. Altogether the healthy profits in the early days of selling the device matched the losses at the end, so we ended up making a small profit or loss when all was said and done. And I learned a great lesson about the dangers of being over confident in my ability to sell devices which weren’t directly in line with my expertise! Big risks can lead to big profits or big challenges. So I learned some valuable lessons from this situation which helped me in future business dealings.

Do you have a similar story? If so, drop me a line. And if you want support to avoid making mistakes like this, you’ll find it in some of my products and through my coaching.