Zucker’s first move was to
reach out to his retailers, many
of whom were confused about
whether they could legally sell the
products. Zucker assured them that they
could. “it’s a well-designed product,” says
alan ceppos, owner of the New york city
chain Pylones. “it’s too bad to see the
government trying to squash them.”
Zucker knew his company would need a
strong legal defense, but he also recognized
the importance of public opinion. With the
help of a Pr agency, Zucker and his market-
ing team began crafting a campaign. their
slogan: “Save our balls.”
on July 27, the company posted a video
explaining the situation on its website.
customers were urged to contact the
cPSc and to support the company by
leaving comments on Facebook and twitter.
on august 2, Zucker ran an open letter to
President obama in The Washington Post.
“We do not understand why our products
have suddenly been raised to the very top
of the cPSc’s action list,” the letter said. “it
feels unfair, unjust, and, well, un-american.”
more than 1,000 let-
ters, calls, and
more people voiced
on Fox News and
also weighed in. representative charles ran-
gel of New york sent a letter to the cPSc in
support of maxfield & oberton, and represen-
tative marsha blackburn of tennessee ques-
tioned the suit during a subcommittee hearing.
his team began
crafting a PR
“Save Our Balls.”
THe af TerMa TH
the cPSc has yet to set a date for a
hearing. eleven other marketers of
rare-earth magnets agreed to the recall.
“We’re just as concerned with public
safety as they are,” says tim Szeto,
co-founder of toronto-based Nano
magnetics. “We are trying to save
our industry.” meanwhile, australian
regulators have proposed a ban, and
canada is investigating the products.
In the four weeks after the
suit was filed, online sales
soared 2,700 percent.
maxfield & oberton’s Pr campaign
appears to have been successful.
in the four weeks after the suit was
filed, online sales soared 2,700 percent
over the same period in 2011. and
Zucker says history may be on his
side. Daisy manufacturing, a bb-gun
maker that was the last company sued
by the cPSc, 11 years ago, ultimately
settled by pledging to fund a safety
education campaign—the same
approach Zucker advocates.
cHange THe produc T, quickly
If the word gets out that a product, even if
it’s not intended for kids, has resulted in a
bunch of surgeries...you don’t come back
from that very easily. Even if the product
is basically safe and is just getting a bad
rap, the company needs to fix the cosmet-
ics of the issue by finding a way to make
Buckyballs impossible, or at least vastly
more difficult, to swallow. I also would
rename the product; call it Buckyballs 2
or something. But Buckyballs without a
fix? Maybe Zucker will win the legal bat-
tle, but they’ll wind up on the bottom shelf
of the stupid adult-toys section.
James MacGregor | vIcE chaIrMan
Abernathy MacGregor Group, New York City
a se TTleMen T is unlikely
There’s no graceful way to resolve this
issue right now. You never make points
by poking a stick in the eye of the person
you’re approaching, and the consumer
Product Safety commission gets pissy if
you badmouth it in the press. It’s highly
unlikely that the agency will offer to
settle the case in any way that lets the
company stay in business—at least if
Maxfield & Oberton continues to make
Buckyballs the same way it always has.
If Zucker doesn’t somehow change the
product or go out of business, the company will have to litigate this to the end.
Michael J. Gidding | PrIncIPal
Gidding Law, Bethesda, Maryland
you can’T figHT ci Ty Hall
We spent more than $1 million suing
the cPSc when it fined us. In the end,
the government did what the government felt was best. Zucker would be
well advised to spend his money working
with the government. Get together with
competitors and start an organization
to develop safety standards. Get your
congressman involved. In the end, regulators don’t want the public questioning
why they didn’t take action if something
bad happens. You need to develop a
standard that keeps you in the market.
and keeps your industry safe.
Greg Shelton | OWnEr
Shelton Fireworks, Eagleville, Missouri