Recently, I ran across old pictures of my parents out fishing with the Ronco Pocket Fisherman. I had myself a good laugh. The old commercials came to mind, so I checked out YouTube—and lo and behold, I found them! Yes, the commercials are a little silly, but something dawned on me: I can totally see why my parents and other people bought the Pocket Fisherman in the 1970s and 1980s.
Those Ronco commercials! They’re so cheesy, but so enchanting. They’re the products you never knew existed, but now you can’t live without them. Hey, I’m not a big shopper, but even I can’t resist some of those Ronco products. I’m a beer drinker and I love entertaining guests—how cool would it be to be able to instantly frost my glasses with the Ronco Glass Froster? (Sure, with some forethought I could have easily put those glasses in the freezer, but the Ronco does it instantly, like magic!) See, now you could insert ME right into the infomercial.
Seriously, I wonder if I can I still buy one?
The Ronco Marketing Formula
There are loads of not-so-secret marketing formulas out there, but Ron Popeil, inventor and salesman extraordinaire of Ronco, really had it down. Those infomercials all work exactly the same way. Nowadays, we can parody the formula from memory.
Here’s how we see it…
- Identify the target audience
- Identify their problem
- Introduce the solution
- Prove it works
- Show how easy it is!
- List additional features and benefits
- Develop and tell a story around it
- Close the deal
Here, it’s easy. I’ll make up an infomercial on the spot…
- Target Audience: People who do laundry for messy people, like kids
- Problem: Mud stains, food stains, who-knows-what stains—so many stains!
- Solution: Awesome Stain Remover XL!
- Prove It
- Easy: Just spray on Awesome Stain Remover XL, throw it in the wash and you’re done!
- Features and Benefits: Just one squirt is all you need. One bottle cleans a year’s worth of laundry for the whole family.
- Story: Bobby came home from soccer practice today with mud all over his uniform. Uh oh. But wait, I have Awesome Stain Remover XL! Just spray on Awesome Stain Remover XL and look! The stain is gone!
- Close: Only two payments $9.95! Why pay more?
- Up-sell: Act now and we’ll throw in a second bottle for free! (You pay S&H.)
An Infomercial is a Story is a Brand
What’s the most relatable component of the whole thing? The story about Bobby, of course! This formula is everywhere, and it doesn’t have to be as obvious as Billy Mays yelling at us about OxiClean. (RIP.) Because what is an infomercial at its core, if not a story? And how could a brand ever be a great brand without a great story to back it up?
Ron Popeil of Ronco built a very successful as-seen-on-TV empire because he understood that, at its core, the product is about the people who want to buy it and the story surrounding the purchase. It’s the moment you’re watching a commercial and suddenly you think, “Wow, it’s like they’re talking directly to ME.” If the story is valid and the benefits are spot-on, you’ll get your audience to actually stop and think: “How did I ever live my life without this? I need it now.” Ronco knows their products are valued, and they understand the need to convey, convince and connect that value to their audience.
What better way to connect with your target market than through a story? If you’re stuck, it’s time to get creative: brainstorm potential audiences and the messages they want to hear through your story. A great story instills a lasting impression—and that’s great branding!
…Unfortunately, the Glass Froster was discontinued, so nowadays it’s pretty hard to come by. (That and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t entirely safe.) But hey, you can still get yourself a Pocket Fisherman! How can you resist the mini tackle box in the handle?