The Genius of the Infomercial

This is probably the most 'uncool' thing I've ever admitted to anyone. But I love infomercials. You know, those 15-20 minute ads that you see on Film 4 or other digital channels late at night or early in the morning. They are more common in the US than in the UK, and I must confess that I've spent more time than is probably healthy watching infomercials while on holiday in the states. They just fascinate me. Some are actually very good - while others are truly awful (I've put in a video clip of some the worst examples below).  I love the way they set out the problem in great detail, then swoop in with their solution leaving the viewer utterly convinced that their life will be incomplete without the steam cleaner that will completely deoderise their home with the 230 degree power of steam. I believe that I'm the only person on the planet not doing Zumba and that I must have the 24 DVD set with the 'maraca style' toning sticks if I'm to have any chance of transforming my physique. I've cried (don't judge me) at the Sheer Cover presentation that shows the woman with the unsightly birth mark on her face regain her confidence and find a husband thanks to the fine mineral powder concoction that costs just £39.99.

Love them or hate them, the fact remains that this form of marketing works astonishingly well for certain products. They sell warehouses full of stock - and not at discount prices either. The steam cleaner product that's doing the informercial rounds at the moment sells for around 30% more than a market leading brand steam cleaner you can get on Amazon.

So how do they work? It's fairly simple formula, and while you might not want to go down the informercial route for your product or service, the formula is interesting and worth noting. Here's the component parts of an infomercial.

1. Identify the problem. Infomercials identify the problem clearly and then catastrophises it to make you believe it's worse than it really is. So you don't just need to clean your house, you need to deoderise it to clean that hidden dirt and those lurking germs.

2. Add buckets of emotion. You have to show countless examples of the problem - including head shots of people talking about their ruined lives. Fat people who've tried everything, spotty people who were reaching for paper bags to put over their heads, and mothers deeply concerned about germs on their children's toys.

But wait, there's more...

3. Present your solution to the problem. The infomercial will ride in on a white steed with the solution you've been waiting your entire life for. You'll see it in action, with ample before and after shots.

4. Present the 'deal' - making sure to show the price, the perceived value and pack in tons of bonuses not available anywhere else. Also, infomercials are excellent and presenting 'time out' offers where a special price or bonus is available only for say, an hour after the programme has aired. It makes sure you take action right away. And of course, no infomercial would be complete without the phrase "But wait, there's more..." repeated several times.

5. Make buying easy - Just one phone call, just two clicks on a website - and the product will be on its way to you.

6. Show results - make sure you show ample people enjoying and using the product.

7. Testimonials - lots of before and after shots and interviews.

8. Then repeat - repeat steps 1 through 7 again. In some infomercials this entire process is presented 3 or 4 times in one 15 minute presentation.

9. End with a clear call to action - just in case people didn't get it the first few times it appears.

So just for fun, here's some examples of some of the worst out there.