When the final history of our age is written, one of the most influential people will be determined to be not a head of state or scientist who made a tremendous technological breakthrough, but infomercial hawker pitchman Billy Mays. The (late) hirsute, pudgy, fast talking, emphatic face of a thousand infomercials has become the symbol of our world’s television obsession as much as another age belonged to Julius Caesar or Napoleon. Therefore the photo of Billy giving his trademark thumbs-up wearing an Oxi Clean shirt had to be the lead-in to Jon DiPietro’s superlative article Inbound Marketing Lessons from the PitchMen
on Domesticating IT. In the piece, DiPietro outlines the key marketing ploys that infomercial masters use to hypnotize entire nations and how they can be adapted to online marketing.
An Infomercial Opening Pitch Is a... Tweet!
DiPietro discusses the cross-pollination that can be derived from the lessons of the infomercial deities and how they can be applied to landing pages
, but these marketing fundamentals are so key to any aspect of the arts of persuasion that they can be legitimately leveraged to any online marketing effort. The first factor is the enlightening revelation that the opening lines of each infomercial sums up the product in a pre-packaged, handy, easy to remember... are you ready for this... tweet! The summaries of the product’s pitch line are essentially identical to tweets as they never exceed 140 characters and are so heavily condensed that they tell the entire story right there!
Any online marketer involved in microblogging should take a graduate level course in infomercial writing as these pitch lines are this century’s equivalent to Haiku. Study carefully the enviable opening lines and summary pitches for Oxi Clean, Quick Chop, Handy Switch and the holy grail of infomercial hucksterism, Mighty Putty: “The easy way to fix, fill and seal virtually anything fast and make it last!” When you can sum up the values of your product or service with such apt poetic compression, you too will enter the highest echelon of master marketers.
Describing the problem and how your brand solves it is the first key to grabbing an audience’s attention, but of course every infomercial succeeds or fails on the demonstration of the product itself. Oxi Clean magically turns a laundry tub that looks like it’s full of mud into clean clarity in seconds. The Quick Chop pulverizes a block of ice. And in what has to be the prevailing image of infomercial history, Mighty Putty tows an 80,000 lb. eighteen wheeler carrying a Caterpillar wheel dozer! Remember how Krazy Glue held up a man by his hard hat? Mighty Putty tows a tractor trailer! Take that! Indeed that competitor discreditation is at the heart of infomercial strategy, as it has to be shown that any other product on the market is inferior to the jaw-dropping wonders of the subject of this pitch.
Motivating Arbitrary Deadlines
The sweet spot of infomercials is of course the call to action where every imaginable incentive is applied to get the sale. An artificially high price is slashed in half; the product is pitched at a particular price but if you call now you will receive two for the price of one; you will receive additional bonus accessories; and it always culminates with the “WAIT! There’s more!” A wholly arbitrary deadline is placed on the offer that motivates the customer to proceed to checkout right now or they will miss out on the extremely valuable and additional thingamabob. Once the audience is pushed to the point of frenzy, nothing is left to chance or to interpretation. “Here is how to order now” includes specific instructions that any school child could easily follow to satisfy the newly created need.