An infomercial should get people talking about your product—for better or worse. Shake Weight founder Johann Verheem found a surprise hit with his infomercial, which has been viewed millions of times on YouTube and lampooned for its sexual innuendo on Saturday Night Live. “We had incredible evidence on a product that worked, but it also looked provocative,” Verheem recently told Inc. magazine. “It's not just that sex sells, but one of the other things very important in direct selling, in infomercials, is that a product looks different enough for someone to stop and watch it.”
At any given time of the day, you can probably find an infomercial selling exercise equipment. There’s a reason for that. “Certain products will always do better than others,” says Michael McGahee, an infomercial producer based in Florida. McGahee notes that skin care products, weight loss formulas, exercise equipment, and kitchen appliances are consistently ranked among the top-selling infomercials. Home electronics and jewelry are usually relegated to home shopping networks, because those products involve a different type of sales approach, he says. McGahee notes that among the top 60 infomercials on television today, nearly 10 advertise exercise equipment.
Several years ago, Mike Spacciapoli worked on a series of infomercials to market a line of golf clubs he and his partner created. The most successful club, a putter, performed so well because it demonstrated a technology that could only truly be captured on film, he says. “It lent itself to a demonstration in pictures,” Spacciapoli says. He explains that after customers saw the infomercial, they were eager to visit the pro shop and try it out for themselves. “From that perspective, the infomercial was very beneficial to us,” he says. Generally, infomercials have three different duration lengths: one minute, two minutes, and 28 minutes. When thinking how to best demonstrate your product, it’s essential that you pick the right infomercial length to get the point across before boring the viewer.
Depending on your product and intended demographic, a familiar face or a celebrity can boost sales. Steven Marcus, an infomercial producer with over 35 years of experience, has worked with a range of celebrities including Cindy Williams, Don Shula, and Dan Marino to sell a range of products on infomercials. “They give you more credibility right away,” he says. They are especially helpful if your product lacks an easily demonstrable technology or “wow factor,” but other products, like electronics, really might not benefit from a celebrity at all, Marcus says.
According to a recent New York Times article, 95 percent of current Snuggie sales are derived from brick-and-mortar stores. Many entrepreneurs consider an infomercial like an audition for shelf space in big-box retail chains, which is extremely competitive to get. That's why it's important to position your infomercial to give it the greatest chance to be picked up by a national retailer. Steven Marcus says that one crafty tactic employed by entrepreneurs is to launch the infomercial campaign in the hometown headquarters of a retail chain. “Let’s say they want to get it in Walgreens or Wal-Mart. They buy airtime in the home town of the corporate headquarters where the buyers can see it,” he says. “The [executives] see it on the air for a while, and they track down the guy with the product.”