An infomercial is a marketing format where the product features are dramatically demonstrated, with a large dose of enthusiasm, and topped with a hint of urgency. I know because I’ve spent 100s of hours watching infomercials.
The basic goal is to take the shopper from awareness, to interest, to desire, to purchase in the first visit itself.
It’s like a guy looking to hook up at the club. It works but not for everyone.
Infomercial Versus Brand Marketing
This article started by defining an infomercial; let’s now shift the focus to brand marketing.
Brand marketing is the opposite of the infomercial format. With brand marketing, the brand is basically saying, “we’re confident we’re a great solution but we will not grovel.”
It’s a much more subtle (non-aggressive) form of marketing.
With brand marketing, the underlying thinking is “if we’re really good the buyer will find us eventually, let’s just send gentle reminders until then.”
Case Against Infomercials
There are many bad infomercials— from those pushy local car dealer TV spots to the shady health supplement advertised as a YouTube pre-roll.
It’s for this reason that most brands would much rather invest in brand marketing. Their skin crawls at the thought of being seen as an infomercial-type product.
None of this would matter but for the fact that it greatly complicates my life as a conversion optimizer.
Clients hire us for just one reason— to improve sales by 20% in 90 days. This means we need to construct a compelling pitch for the shopper, which means we have to discuss key features and the specific ways we differ from the competition.
Infomercial Lacks Innovation
The infomercial format developed nearly 40 years ago. For their time they were a radically different idea and something totally new to consumers, which is why they became popular. But I haven’t seen much innovation in the infomercial space.
Home Shopping Network has certainly improved the infomercial format, but not by a lot:
Consumers have gotten more sophisticated with time. The infomercial format that may have worked on someone seeing it for the first time 10 years ago may work today.
In marketing, we need to live by this rule— when they zig, you zag.
The infomercial format hasn’t done much zagging in the last 40 years. And that’s a problem.
So I can see why my clients are hesitant about a marketing strategy based on the infomercial format.
But Brand Advertising Is Broken Too
If infomercials have issues brand marketing isn’t the solution, either.
Brand marketing is too fluffy. The consumer doesn’t give a damn about the brand’s lofty goals and dreams— she just wants to know if the advertised product can get the job done cost-effectively.
Value for money is something brand marketing doesn’t like talking about. The idea is that the brand is so great that the question shouldn’t even come up, but it does, it always does. We have a whole strategy around communicating brand value– we call it Price Justification.
Middle Ground Between Infomercial and Brand Marketing
Like with everything in life the truth is somewhere in the middle. If the goal is to maximize conversions the marketer needs to decisively demonstrate expertise while doing it in a way that isn’t too much in the buyer’s face. Consumers don’t like being hard sold.
Let’s look at an example of a beloved brand that has managed to find a happy middle ground between infomercial and brand messaging.
Have a look at this commercial:
Even on these product pages (Dyson Outsize Absolute), they indulge in both brand marketing with beautiful, rich photography:
While also powerfully demonstrating the technical details of their vacuum cleaner, as an infomercial would:
Dyson Is the Perfect Conversion Optimization Template
I study eCommerce sites for a living and I can tell you there is no finer example than Dyson of a brand that perfectly balances the Infomercial versus brand marketing tightrope.
The concept of an infomercial-style pitch for traditional brands is a relatively new idea, which is why you need to jump on it.
The good news is that multi Billion dollar brands like P&G are also getting into it (link.)
Ok, now that we’ve been able to bring you to the dark side and convince you to give the infomercial format a spin let’s address the next question in your head. Why is the long-form sales pitch being shown as a lightbox popup? Why isn’t it just being shown on the main page? That’s explained here.