Infomercials Tell A Story
In 1984, infomercials emerged as a viable form of marketing when the FCC eliminated restrictions on program-length advertising on television. Though nearly everything has changed in the way we watch TV since then, infomercials (now often referred to as long form commercials) are a mainstay for leading brands and ad agencies worldwide. Why? Because they offer an uninterrupted half hour of programming dedicated to telling a powerful story about a brand, product or service. There’s simply no better way to deliver important information to consumers about your product. Adding an effective long form commercial or infomercial to any marketing campaign can improve sales across all platforms, including Amazon and at retail.
Infomercials Have Evolved
The key to this kind of success begins with a dynamic, effective and creative infomercial script based on the proven principles of direct-to-consumer marketing. There are unique qualities to a successful infomercial script that have been proven over and over again throughout the decades since 1984. And while many of these techniques were once considered cheesy or too hard sell by many brands, the infomercial script has evolved along with the changing face of television advertising. In fact, the infomercial’s direct-to-consumer approach is more effective than ever in the fragmented television landscape. Many high-level brands understand this and have long form commercials in their marketing plans.
The biggest misconception about long form commercial or infomercials is that they are easy to execute. Anyone can do it, right? Wrong! Though infomercials evolved from the yell-and-sell format of early pitch people, including those who sold various home goods at fairs across the country, there is a very nuanced skill in the “pitch.” There is a specific order of information that evolves in a successful direct-to-consumer presentation that motivates an immediate action or sale. This is the secret to the infomercials enduring success! This is why it is crucial to seek out experts in this format when adding long form to your platform. Do not underestimate the skill behind an effective infomercial.
Tone and Style That Match Your Brand
Another misconception about infomercials is that they are cheesy or obvious and that their tactics don’t work today. The opposite is true. As stated above, infomercials evolved out of direct-to-consumer marketing; in this digital age, this format is more important and effective than ever. Brands are now able to reach larger audiences with targeted messaging that drives immediate and direct sales. However, an effective direct-to-consumer marketer can also drive retail and Amazon traffic, as well as direct sales, increasing sales across all platforms. That is the power of long form marketing.
And forget the cheese. Sophisticated direct-to-consumer marketers can produce long form commercials that match the tone and style of any brand. In other words, an infomercial can be as elegant as any high-end brand, or it can be fun and entertaining as might be required for a children’s product. What remains the same, however, in every successful long form campaign is a powerful script utilizing proven direct-to-consumer principles.
12 Elements of an Effective Infomercial
While infomercials have evolved and have become more sophisticated, the elements which have made them so effective throughout the years are still present in a successful script today. Here are the 12 elements that are specific and necessary to an effective infomercial script:
- Problem / Solution
- Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or Differentiation
- The Secret / Reason to Believe
- The Story
- Simple Selling Message
- Call to Action / Create Value & Urgency
- Offer (Best Value is Only Available Here)
Let’s break it down:
Every great infomercial begins with a great hook, something that will make the viewer stop and take notice. This has never been more important than today with so many channels and other distractions, including the lure of the web and everything else life throws at us. Finding a way to disrupt the distractions and grab a viewer’s attention is a key opener. It might be a surprising headline, a shocking image, or a relatable problem. As with each of the elements discussed herein, your specific product, brand or service will drive the right creative hook for your campaign. In fact, there may be more than one great hook. We recommend testing different hooks to find your most effective, or even run various commercials with different hooks, if your campaign has the bandwidth.
2. Problem / Solution
A problem without a good solution is the reason most new products and services are developed in the first place. It is also key to finding your audience. People who are frustrated with the problem your product or service solves are your customers. Set up a relatable problem and explain why your product or service is the newest, best solution now available and you are on your way to having a successful campaign.
People who are willing to share their positive experiences with your product or service are golden. Testimonials can be powerful motivators for consumers, because (when done right) they feel relatable and can create a connection between viewers and your good or service. Effective testimonials provide viewers with a reason to believe – if their stories feel real and authentic. Developing authentic testimonials is an art and should not to be taken lightly. There is real skill involved in capturing a true story from a real person – not an actor. Take this element seriously!
The longer, half hour format of the infomercial provides a unique platform for you to demonstrate how your product works and show why it is a superior and unique solution to the problem. A demonstration may come in the form of an actual demonstration, as with a household or kitchen product, or it could be presented in the form of an animation that shows how the product works in the body or on the skin, for a personal care product. While your specific product or service will drive the creative approach, an effective script will include some form of demonstration to visually show the viewer how your product works.
5. Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or Differentiation
The Unique Selling Proposition or USP is a short (usually no longer than a few sentences), precise statement of what makes your product or service different from other products or options on the market. It should be the most compelling statement you can make about the problem/solution, features and benefits of your product, and it will be used throughout the infomercial to drive the messaging. In fact, a powerful Unique Selling Proposition should be at the center of your entire marketing campaign. Think of this as the elevator pitch for your product: If you only had a few seconds to convince a consumer you have what they need, what would you say?
6. The Secret / Reason to Believe
The next element of a successful script is the Secret– that special “something” your product or service has that no one else has. The secret might be a special ingredient, a patented technology, a unique design…anything that sets your product apart from anything else on the market. This is the key element of your USP and it usually involves “claims” about the efficacy of your product. What claims are you making about your product? Give your consumer a reason to believe in your innovation.
Now that you’ve revealed the secret and made claims about your product or service, you need to offer proof that your product delivers on these claims. Are there independent clinical studies, visible proof, or other documentation that the product or service works as claimed? Refer back to the Demonstration element as a way to offer proof of your claims. Providing proof will go a long way to winning customers and increasing sales.
8. The Story
This is the power of a long form or infomercial campaign! The longer format allows you the time and space to tell a compelling story about your company, your brand, your product or your service. Great stories make people feel; good feelings motivate sales and lead to loyal customers; they create a relationship between your product or service and your consumers, the most powerful asset of any brand. In the half hour format you have the unique opportunity to engage viewers in your story. Storytelling in marketing and advertising is an entire industry now; however, we’ve been using this technique for decades and we know it is proven to drive sales.
9. Simple Selling Message
Yes, tell a story, but also keep your selling message simple. Pare it down to the most essential and meaningful benefits and features of your product. And do not provide ordering options; if a potential consumer must make a decision other than to simply order now, they will often opt out. Keep it simple.
Think of an infomercial as a documentary about your product or service. It should be authentic, which will make it feel real and true to viewers. As stated under “The Story” section, feelings create connection and long-term customers. Remember: it is the moments of realness that sell. Your testimonials should be real, your USP should be true, your story should be authentic. While puffery was part of the infomercials of the past, today viewers know when something isn’t real. Today it is all about being authentic.
11. Call to Action (CTA) / Create Value & Urgency
An infomercial is designed like any half hour television program, with acts separated by commercial breaks. In an infomercial, the acts are about the product, or service, and the commercial breaks, what we call CTAs, are designed to sell the product or service. There are generally three or four CTAs of varying lengths in a half hour program, and these are the real secret to an infomercial’s success. A well- crafted Call to Action presents the USP, the Secret, creates value for the product or service and drives urgency to purchase. Every successful infomercial has powerful CTAs.
12. Offer (Best Value is Only Available Here)
The Offer is the section of the CTA that reveals the price to the consumer. There are specific methods used in effective Offers that eliminate barriers in potential consumers and get them to take action immediately. A compelling Offer often starts with the value of the product, which is more than the price, and may include a price drop, free shipping, and other incentives associated with purchasing here and now. You’ve heard the term, “Through this exclusive TV offer;” It is used to indicate that the offer presented in the infomercial is only available through the program. Some clients prefer to drive consumers to retail and/or Amazon. An effective offer can drive sales to any of your preferred locations, while capturing direct sales at the same time.
All of these elements are part of a successful infomercial script; however, they can be artfully crafted into a unique script that meets the needs of your specific campaign. Infomercial no longer means yell and sell; long form commercials can be elegant, using state of the art graphics and all the best visual elements of contemporary television. What is more important is that the visual style of the commercial matches the brand, product and/or service being offered. A lower priced kitchen product would be better served by a different visual style than a high-end skincare brand. Put your brand style guide front and center in your infomercial development, as with any other marketing channel.
No matter how they are packaged together, it is important to understand that these elements are proven techniques that drive sales. Do not shy away from a price drop or some other technique because you think the consumer can see through it. These techniques still work! But there is a specific methodology to using them that leads to success. We have seen many companies think they can create a winning script without really understanding the skills needed to pull them successfully together for a specific product or service. As stated, there is a real art to creating an authentic story about any product or service that generates sales.
The well-crafted Infomercial is still a powerful tool in any marketing campaign, even more powerful today than ever. Be sure you reach out to experts in the field of direct-to-consumer advertising and marketing to ensure your product’s story is told in the most compelling, success-driven way possible.