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Direct Response Marketing

Head of Household

4 Mar, 2010 By: Pat Cauley Response

Demolition Man

“With all housewares products, it comes down to how it demonstrates,” Sylva says. “The product needs to be highly demonstrable and there’s just no way around that. People really like things that look easy to use. If you can’t demonstrate your product and make it sing, then you really don’t have a chance of selling it.”

Aside from the demos, the product’s positioning is also vital to a campaign’s success. “People get too close to their products, and they get a tunnel vision where they’re so in love with the products that they aren’t looking at them objectively anymore,” says Sylva.


Raymond concurs. “The message is always best if it focuses on what a product does best. And if the message is formulated to be around what the product does second best, then the sell falls short,” he adds.

With a great product and strong message intact, it all comes down to delivery. With the Discovery Network series “Pitchmen” at the forefront of popular culture, a host’s significance to a campaign can’t be understated, and especially when it comes to housewares products. Since demos are such an integral part of a housewares campaign, the host’s presence and familiarity with the product can make or break its success.

“Don’t expect a host to walk in and try your product for the first time on the set. These are the kind of products where you need to spend time with the product and truly understand it. You need to look like you live and breathe the product to make the demos look very natural. They’re not acting,” says Forbes Riley, a long-time infomercial host who has worked on many successful long-form DRTV shows, including the Jack LaLanne Power Juicer.

“With some shows, I’ll get the product in advance, and I’m chomping at the bit to share it with people. Or, there are other times where it may be great product, but I get it the night before and then see it on set at rehearsal,” says Tom Jourden, an infomercial host and producer that’s worked with housewares names like Miracle Blade, Bissell and Hoover. It’d be as if the most talented player on a basketball team showed up on court without learning and practicing the plays or studying the opponent.

“We can always act like we believe in something, but when we really do, then it shows to the viewers watching,” says Jourden. And, trust the hosts — consumers are watching closely.

Riley has found herself to be a type of 24-hour-a-day market research project. She describes being recognized by folks in public asking her if the products really work, even those she’s not involved in. This, along with fragmented audiences, smarter consumers with access to online reviews, and a scrutinizing Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has left marketers in a much different place than they were only 10 years ago.

A Brave New World

“The pitches have stayed the same, but the level of sophistication in which they’re presented has changed. The high production value has to be there and the product has to look good,” says Sylva.

Riley stresses that gimmicks don’t work in housewares like they may in other categories, and Jourden agrees. “Changes have forced everyone to not only have better products, but better demos and more truthful advertising than ever. It will ultimately help everyone because the consumer will be happier, there will be lower returns and they’ll have more faith in the DR business,” says Jourden.

And, the maturing nature of DR both on TV and online has had a great impact on the housewares category at large. “DR has become completely institutionalized,” Reynolds says. “Categories in retail and all the TV time being dedicated have become a force in our world. Online sales have been the biggest change in terms of impact on the business, and retail consolidation has had some impact on that as well.”

Taking the DR component out of the mix, the housewares industry has had more changes of its own. The biggest change Reynolds has noticed in the past 10-15 years is how the housewares industry now relies on advanced design to push additional business. Products can’t just look prettier, but must be much more functional and practical.

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