Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 7/2/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive
Tags: Advertising, Business, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Media, Sales
Source: Just when you thought the deal could not get any better, just wait, there’s more…call now and your order will be doubled… “As seen on TV,” we review some of the most successful infomercial campaigns and why they did so well.
We have all experienced at some point in our lives, while flipping through the television channels, that moment when we came across a presentation of the latest and greatest widget, gadget or contraption, with a deal we just could not pass up. From products like OxiClean and the George Forman Grill, to exercise equipment and other inventions that seemed like no one would ever buy, infomercials have catapulted sales and brand recognition for a number of inventors and marketers, resulting in millions of dollars in returns on their ideas and inventions.
Not all infomercials or products reach the success of the Thigh Master or the Snuggly, however each product that is pitched on television infomercials has a life cycle that assures the product continues to get exposure. As of recent, specialty retailer stores have sprung up to showcase product offerings once seen on television. Walmart and Target have even dedicated shelf space to offer products that were once pitched on infomercials a second chance to connect with consumer audiences.
Some of the most successful infomercial products include the exercise device called the Thigh Master. The Thigh Master was a simple contraption made up of two metal loops joined by a spring mechanism in the middle that was designed to assist consumers in toning legs, hips, and waist. The pitch was that a consumer could operate the Thigh Master while attending to other activities such as reading, watching television (other infomercials), or just about any other activity that did not require the use of one’s legs at the time of using the Thigh Master. Thigh Master achieved huge success in sales, grossing over $100 million. The Thigh Master incorporated the celebrity endorsement of television personality Suzanne Somers to help pitch the device to “would be” consumers.
Another well-known infomercial product that has transitioned to shelf space at your local retailer is OxiClean. OxiClean was pitched by former Billy Mays, who would claim, “I’m not yelling, I’m projecting,” as he would hook viewers to stay tuned because, “but wait, there’s more.” Billy May’s unique raspy voice and the multitude of scenarios presented on how OxiClean would solve every cleaning situation as the latest miracle for your household, grabbed consumers to gross over $500 million dollars in sales to date. Part of the success of OxiClean is its transition from infomercial to its placement on shelves at selected retailers.
“Set it and forget it,” was the tag line for the device that would promise steamed vegetables piping hot; meats cooked to be tender and succulent. The Ronco Rotisserie Oven also known as the Showtime Pro, steamed rolled its way to the top by having the inventor and marketer Ron Popeil invite celebrity guests to accompany him in infomercial sessions. The Showtime Rotisserie raked in over $1.2 billion dollars for Popeil, putting Ronco at the top of infomercial success. The oven is still available today, and continues to be sold on television, Amazon, and in selected retailer outlets.
Richard Simmons not only had you Sweatin’ to the Oldies and managing your meals; he had consumers dole out over $200 million dollars for his fitness programs, making Simmons one of the wealthiest fitness gurus ever. Sweatin’ to the Oldies was a series of exercise regimens coupled with music to entice baby boomers to want to engage into a heathier life. Over 20 million of these programs were sold. Simmons targeted the “regular” person as part of his campaign, which attracted tens of millions of out of shape people that might have never taken the time out to visit a gym or hire a personal trainer. The business plan worked, branding Simmon’s as a fitness expert and television personality for life.
Then there was the blanket you could wear called the Snuggie. If you doubt anyone would spend their money on this product, you are highly mistaken. Tens of millions of Snuggies have been sold. In essence, this body-length blanket with sleeves was advertised that it could be worn by anyone, anywhere, anytime, and even boasted that it would bring people closer together if they all had a Snuggie. Sadly, it did the opposite, as the Snuggie was designed for a single person to use at a time. The Snuggie would rake in over $400 million dollars can still be found in selected retailers, on the internet, and on the infomercial, which still airs from time to time.
The infomercial product industry is a multi-billion dollar per year industry, and since its inception, the infomercial product world has grossed over $250 billion dollars in sales to date. With the widespread use of additional digital media, television is not the only medium used in pitching a message to would-be consumers. Digital social media platforms allow for a plethora of video content to be made readily available and stream to almost any mobile device, bypassing the conventional television set.
It is estimated there are over 500 products that have been initially developed and marketed specifically for infomercials.
One of the largest companies in the infomercial product sector is Telebrands. Located in Fairfield, New Jersey. Telebrands is responsible for launching over a hundred products alone, and has been doing so since 1983.
Based on these metrics, you wonder why more products don’t go down the infomercial path. Not every product is a good fit. The more technical the product, and the higher the investment a consumer must make, the less advantageous it becomes for the product to be featured on an infomercial. Typically, products marketed on infomercials are similar to the impulse buy at the register of a retailer; where consumers feel comfortable with the risk they are taking. And besides, most infomercials offer a risk-free money back guarantee.
Infomercials have been rumored to get a bad rap. Complaints from consumers include inferior or poor quality in the manufacturing of the product itself, or products that claim they will last a lifetime, but don’t. Some products seem so far-fetched that some people don’t believe they can actually function as advertised. As a result, the Federal Trade Commission has taken aim at infomercial marketers, bringing an average of five cases to court each year.
Some infomercials can be outright comical; as they might pitch a product’s suggested use or durability in situations that a consumer might never intend to use the product. When was the last time you purchased Tupperware to have an elephant stand on it? The next time you mock an infomercial, just remember it’s the inventor and marketing company that is getting the last laugh.
Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”