Good Brothers Create Fun with a Purpose

The Plain Dealer Friday, December 30, 2005 Good brothers create fun with a purpose By Janet H. Cho The Plain If toys are only for children, somebody forgot to tell Sid and Bruce Good. The Cleveland-area brothers, a cross between inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright and “Fever Pitch” filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, have built a business out of their love of play, street-savvy marketing and the endless pursuit of the next big idea. Sid Good, 49, is president of Good Marketing Inc. He’s the brilliant, detail-oriented, practical-minded sibling, as befits someone who earned his MBA from the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business. Younger brother Bruce, 42, vice president of the outfit, is the charming, spontaneous, quick-witted one, the zany comedian to Sid’s straight man. Together, they have given the world a slew of new toys, gadgets and playthings for children of all ages. They took the children’s game Duck Duck Goose and turned it into an Oppenheimer Platinum Award-winning board game for preschoolers. They thought up the best-selling Royal Potty, a throne-shaped training toilet that blares a fanfare when the child goes. “Overall, our goal is to create new markets and new categories, ultimately making it more fun, more convenient or more useful,” Sid said. “We call it ‘innovation with a purpose.’ There has to be a reason for being, a target audience that wants it and needs it.” “It’s needs-based innovation,” Bruce added. They’ve entered the grown-up market with the Shark Grab ‘N Bag Powered Scooper, a motorized hand-held invention designed to deposit Fido’s calling cards – as well as other messes too icky to pick up with your bare hands – straight into biodegradable bags. Sid was inspired by one too many weekends pooch-sitting Bruce’s Bernese mountain dog, Winnie. “We can send people into outer space, so there had to be a better way to pick up dog mess,” Sid said. The brothers took their idea to inventor/designer and engineer Jersy Perkitny of Per-Art Design studio in Cleveland, who created the first prototypes – complete with a pop-up onboard flashlight for nighttime walks – that they shopped around to manufacturers. Perkitny was the one who discovered other uses for the Scooper. “He came into the office and poured motor oil, house paint, eggs, yogurt and ketchup all over the table. He was dropping things on the table and started cleaning them up,” Sid said. Perkitny and Good Marketing have applied for a worldwide patent, “because dogs are everywhere, and the problem is the same everywhere,” Perkitny said. The Scooper retails for $29.99. Diane Lankford, a product designer for the toy and giftware industry and owner of Jumping Cow Studio in Rocky River, said the Good brothers are known for being seriously devoted to their clients and incredibly fun to work with. She was co-inventor of the Duck Duck Goose game. “In our business, there’s a lot of snake-oil salesmen posing as agents,” she said. The Good brothers, in contrast, are well-regarded for their credibility and contacts. “And because they’re brothers, they have this kind of yin-yang thing going on,” she said. “Bruce is really high-energy. He’s got this manic creativity, kind of like Steve Martin. “Sid’s more grounded – you can tell he’s the older brother. He’s the voice of reason. I kid them about Bruce being Tigger and Sid being Eeyore,” she said. Good Marketing’s headquarters is a child’s fantasyland crammed into a loft apartment in Cleveland’s Little Italy. Furnished with oversized plastic chairs and a comfy couch piled high with stuffed animals, the office is filled with toys and products they’ve helped create, as well as other playthings they’ve collected over the years. Over the sofa is a 9-foot-long mounted swordfish their grandfather caught. An enormous candy bowl is constantly replenished. “Everyone has toys in their office,” Bruce said. “It’s just that toys for adults are called ‘collectibles.’ With a straight face, an adult will say to you, ‘I’m into collectibles.’ No, you’re not! You play with die-cast toys!” Innovative ideas intended to last The first item that bore their name was Gross Out bandages, which make it look like you’ve got safety pins, oozing sores and worms coming out of your skin. “If you were over the age of 4, you wouldn’t be caught with a Disney or Barney bandage,” Sid said. But Good Marketing built its reputation with award-winning innovations like the Royal Potty, which has an electric eye and sound chip to reward the child for his efforts. “Everyone we presented this to turned it down,” Bruce said. “But times change and people change, and since it was introduced in 2001, it’s become the No. 1-selling training potty in the market worldwide.” Another “Why didn’t I think of that?” idea was Halloween Candy Catchers, costumes with giant pouches built into the tummy so toddlers can hold Mom or Dad’s hand when they go trick-or-treating. They’ve also made forays into kids food, with Jelly Bean Jelly, made by Robert Rothschild Farm, and Crayola Crafty Cooking Kits, a line of baked goods that children can decorate like art projects. “We want products that will last in the market, or have a greater chance to last in the market,” Sid said. “If it’s not fun if it’s a toy, or if it doesn’t taste good if it’s a food item, kids are not going to be interested in buying it.” When asked to name his favorite toy, Sid says, without hesitation, “Tonka trucks, with U.S.-made steel.” Bruce throws up his hands and howls, “Oh, I was going to say Tonka trucks if he didn’t say Tonka trucks.” Work experience led to own business One of Sid’s first jobs was at M&M/Mars, as brand supervisor for M&Ms plain and peanut candy. “My whole file cabinet was filled with M&Ms,” he said. “I gained 15 pounds in three months.” Other jobs followed, at Frito-Lay Inc. in Dallas, as brand manager for Doritos and Fritos, and at Hasbro Corp., as head of promotions and director of marketing. “I loved the whole notion of new product development,” he said, but because 80 percent of new products fail, most companies try to avoid all but the sure-fire winners. The toy industry, on the other hand, is all about new, bigger and better, and products change all the time. After five years at Hasbro, he left to start his own business. Bruce went to Washington, D.C., after college and got a job on Capitol Hill, intending to be a lawyer. His career includes working as a store manager for Banana Republic, account executive with DDB Needham and Young & Rubicam, and running the field office for the Clinton-Gore campaign in Santa Clara, Calif. Sid started Good Marketing in late 1989 as a consulting company specializing in the children’s market. “Cleveland actually is a great place to start a business, because it’s the land of affordable housing and affordable office space,” Sid said. “The resources we have here are extraordinary. We’ve been blessed by working with a very creative group of people. There’s also the Cleveland Institute of Art and other Cleveland businesses.” Bruce joined the business four years later, moving from San Francisco. “I’d gone to the toy fair with Sid, got a taste of the toy industry and loved it,” he said. When Bruce came on board, the business changed focus from primarily consulting to half consulting, half new product development. Only 20 percent of ideas make it “This was an extraordinary opportunity, because everyone tends to hold back on new categories,” Sid said. “You have to do your homework. You always make mistakes. If 80 percent of your ideas are going to fail, you have to ensure that the 20 percent that do succeed are really good.” Among the ideas that never quite caught on are the Giggle Brush, a kids’ toothbrush that giggles when you shake the handle, and Tasty Fish Heads Candy, a lollipop that looks like a fish skeleton. But the ideas keep coming. Good Marketing is bringing at least six new products to market in 2006, none of which the brothers will discuss in advance. “Manufacturers turn down the things we do all the time, and we just resubmit them the next year,” Bruce said. Amy Good, Bruce’s wife of nearly nine years and an attorney for the U.S. Justice Department, said of her husband, “In some ways he’s just a big kid.” “Bruce has this amazing ability to come up with creative ways to play with the kids. Sometimes I’ve come home and found stuffed animals lined up all over the room, wall to wall, because they’re having a toy parade.” And because he’s so passionate about his work, “The kids are always saying, ‘Hey, Dad, I have a new invention. Let’s make a prototype.’ ”