Creative Corner- In Bed And Buying The lessons from HSN and DR
I've been sick for three weeks with the dreaded flu. How do I pass the time? Daytime TV leaves a lot to be desired. CNN gets tedious, and Oprah doesn't come on until 4 p.m. I've been spending my days watching Home Shopping Network and infomercials. Not only do I watch ...
Have Flu Will Charge!
My first purchase is an IGIA ionizer hair dryer. This amazing contraption is supposed to dry my hair in half the time, with absolutely no breakage! The enthusiasm of the salesperson is remarkable; she really gets me excited about the product. When she offers to include a free styling brush and terry cloth robe, I can't resist. I'm reaching for the phone.
A little later, I'm feeling awful—sick and sniffling. But I'm buying a good deal of stuff.
I switch the channel to Valuevision, which is having a Romance Week special: an 18-karat gold bracelet. Says the announcer: "It's a Greek Ribbon bracelet, 18-karat gold—both yellow and white—entwined to look like little ribbons in between the links. The retail price is $1,789. But you can buy it now for only $599."
Here's the clinker: "There are only 30 of these magnificent bracelets available. That's less than one per state!" I'm hanging on every word this woman is saying (maybe I have a fever). "That's only $18 per gram for 18-karat gold!"
I have no idea what a gram of gold costs, but I find myself intrigued. I stay strong. I'm still resisting the offer. I sneeze. I blow my nose. I sneeze.
The woman on my TV screen announces: "Wait, we have a special offer! You can get this Greek Ribbon bracelet for six 'value pays' of $99 each—that's just six easy payments!" I'm thinking: "In New York, I spend more than that for lunch every week.
"But," I say, "no, no buying … not now."
By the following day, I'm getting antsy. I've done the crossword puzzle, and there's nothing to watch on TV but soaps. I have no choice; I turn on Home Shopping Network. It's having a special "hand-made comforter event." I like that … "a comforter event."
The first comforter is clearly not my style, but the moment the second one is shown, my heart skips a beat. It's gorgeous—all peach-colored and flowered. My bedroom is peach. I decide it's fate.
The comforter is $100. "Not too bad," I actually say aloud as I dial the phone. It turns out the shams (pillow holders) are $100 for a pair. I give my credit card number to the operator. The fever has returned.
In addition to the comforter and hair dryer, I also buy drill bits for $19.95 (I thought a drill was included, but it wasn't), and a necklace with an original Panda coin from China. I really want those storage bags that you can vacuum the air out of so your bulkiest comforters can fit into a car's glove compartment … but the line is busy, and the urge passes.
Lessons Learned From Infomercials
The point of telling you about my shopping spree is that even I found these product pitches on TV irresistible. We certainly could learn from infomercials and jazz up some of our direct mail using these same techniques. Following are some ideas:
• Be enthusiastic! Enthusiasm sells product. Don't be afraid to add excitement to your copy. Talk in glowing terms about your offer. Find great testimonials. It really helps to have other people rave about your product, how they use it and love it.
• Demonstrate your product whenever possible. I don't think we do this enough. A few years ago we offered continuity sets of handyman books, a household-repair encyclopedia. We'd show people actually building the products and using the books. We showed readers how easy it was to install their own bathroom vanity by showing someone actually doing it. We also took great photos of the books themselves and how nice they looked on a bookcase.
• Use pictures of people whenever possible. Our eyes naturally are drawn to faces, so it makes sense to use photos.
• Focus on benefits. So many brochures I get in the mail include copy that discusses only the company and what it does. Infomercial producers have mastered the art of focusing on the products' benefits for customers. It's fine to tell me features and advantages—just be sure to make the benefits prominent.
• Be aware of your presentation. Infomercials excel at presenting items in their most positive light. Your brochure should do the same. The following things can ruin your brochures:
• poor layout, that is, cramped graphics and not enough white space;
• columns that are too wide;
• leading (space between lines) or kerning (space between letters) that's too tight or too loose;
• type over graphics;
• sans serif body type;
• type that's too small to read;
• too many fonts or overuse of italics and bold. Remember, the reason for different fonts or using bold or italics is to create contrast.
• Always include a guarantee. There are numerous risks involved in making a direct marketing purchase. Prospects ask: "Will I like it? Will it look like the one in the brochure or on TV?" People need to feel safe before they buy. Guaranteeing a full refund for 30 days really lets people off the hook, enabling them to think, "I'm just going to check it out." The truth is, once people actually receive something, they usually decide to keep it rather than make a trip to the post office to return it.
• Make an irresistible offer. Remember the classic Ginsu knife infomercial? "Buy only one knife," said the announcer, "and with your order, we'll include six steak knives, four paring knives, eight butter knives and six more steak knives!" I'll never forget: "The Ginsu knife has permanently bonded blades of surgical steel." And I got 24 of them all for the price of one!
Work to make your offer irresistible like that. Think about offering your prospects special gifts, discounted pricing, three items for the price of two or some sort of creative offer.
If you think your mailings are tired and your offers a bit boring, turn on the TV any Saturday afternoon or late at night to get some ideas from infomercials—and let me know if you end up buying the ionizer hair dryer. It works for me!
Readers: In an upcoming issue, I'll show some of the best and worst direct marketing campaigns. Please send me anything—good or bad—that stands out. Whether you received it or you've done it yourself, I'd love to see it. To thank you, I'll even send you a present. My address is:
Lois Geller, President
Mason & Geller
261 Madison Ave., 18th floor
New York, NY 10016
LOIS K. GELLER is president of Mason & Geller Direct Marketing, a full-service direct response agency in New York City. She is the author of "RESPONSE! The Complete Guide to Profitable Direct Marketing," and the soon-to-be-published "Friendship Branding." She can be reached at (212) 697-4477, or via e-mail email@example.com