Radio Waves: Countering Infomercial Stigma With Radio Personality Credibility1 Nov, 2011 By: Buck Robinson Response
Despite the tens of billions of dollars generated by television infomercials during the past two decades, a majority of the population is unlikely to ever respond to an item or service offered via infomercial. Why? There’s an inherent skepticism toward the entire methodology.
Parodies on “Saturday Night Live” are one thing, but the real damage comes from the seemingly endless headlines exposing scams and “lemons” that have made their way into people’s homes — and wallets — via infomercial. Even top-notch shows touting high-quality products suffer from this stigma, and as an industry, it seems that we spend an inordinate amount of time, energy and money preaching our own legitimacy in an effort to contradict public perception.
One of the most widely utilized methods for creating immediate credibility for the product or service in question has been the inclusion of a celebrity spokesperson. However, too often these “celebrities” are B-list (or worse) actors who are viewed as shills just looking to collect a paycheck and get back into the public eye.
If an infomercial product truly wants to create credibility, it should employ the endorsement of a respected radio personality. Radio personalities are educators, as well as entertainers, who have an enormous amount of credibility and trust with their listeners. And when that trust and credibility is thrown behind a product or service, the result is DR magic!
Case in point: We were faced with the challenge of making P90X, a product that had enormous success on television based largely on its dramatic before-and-after visuals, work on radio. Everyone had seen the P90X infomercial, but there was a significant portion of the audience who said, “It’s an infomercial — of course it looks good, but it’s probably too good to be true.” That seed of doubt was enough to keep them from making the purchase.
In our host endorsements, we had the hosts say things like, “You’ve probably seen this product on TV and, like me, you were skeptical. Well, I’ve been using it and I’m living proof that it’s the real deal!” They supplemented this by posting before-and-after photos online, blogging and mentioning their progress daily on-air. The impact was dramatic: P90X was able to tap into a significant new audience because of the hosts’ credibility validating the claims made in the infomercial.
For years, direct marketers have rushed to retail with the belief that allowing the client to hold the product in his or her hands would make it more legitimate. But we also know that racing to retail comes with its own set of headaches. If a direct marketer wants to generate confidence in a product and prolong the direct-to-consumer phase of a marketing program, test radio endorsements to support and legitimize the television campaign.
One word of warning, however — not all radio endorsements are created equally. Audiences are savvy — they know when a host is “mailing it in” just because of the paycheck involved, and not because of a legitimate belief in the product. No script — no matter how cleverly worded — can ever compare to a legitimate, heartfelt testimonial. Having a host read copy points is not necessarily enough; it takes an intimate knowledge of the host and his or her manner of speaking to the audience in order to get their words to carry the desired gravity.
As long as you go into it with the right guidance, there is no marketing method more influential than a trusted radio personality. However, because the costs and commitments associated with endorsement campaigns are significantly higher than general spot campaigns, it’s always wise to seek out an agency that truly understands the methodology and that can unlock its potential on your behalf!