My new guilty pleasure is watching the Discovery Channel show “Pitchmen.” On it are two pitchmen, Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan, who create and star in direct response ads. These are TV commercials that sell you a product and entice you to call now.
Each week, inventors pitch their ideas to Billy and Anthony. Two inventions are selected and the dynamic duo then create advertisements for these products. Then they run the ads to see if they are successful.
It is interesting to watch which products the pitchmen select…and why. It appears that there are two criteria:
- The product must be visually interesting to demo. For example, using a hammer to smash Billy’s hand protected with a shock absorbent shoe insole.
- The product must solve a pain. I discuss the need to solve a pain extensively in my previous articles, including one on why a blizzard was the catalyst for the success of the ATM and why the best selling cars are gas guzzlers.
This last point is addressed more fully in a recent newsletter from The Straight Dope. In an article on direct marketing advertisements (the “As Seen on TV” brands), they discuss why now is the best time for these commercials.
In a January article in the Newark Star-Ledger, Telebrands president A.K. Khubani says tough economic times create an ideal environment for his company’s MO: not only are ad rates down, more people are staying home and watching TV. Superstar TV pitchman Billy Mays suggests that many direct-marketed products sell well in a bad economy because they help (or at least promise to help) buyers save money somewhere else. The problem of wasted food is solved with this miracle bag-sealer system! Don’t throw away those torn pants – save them with this mending kit! Even the clothes-storage products, which have been around a while, seem particularly appropriate in a time when some people are downsizing to less roomy, more affordable housing.
The rest of the straight dope article discusses the psychology of the special offers and pricing. In particular why the price point has to be low enough so that the viewer doesn’t think twice about impulse purchases.
This reinforces the point that I discuss often in my “innovation bell curve” articles…
In tough economic times, affordability and accessibility are king. Provide a product with a high perceived value for low cost. Perceived value is driven by the importance of the pain you solve. If you can solve a significant pain for little money, your customers will be eager to buy…even when they are cutting back on spending in other areas.