Dating back to the days of cave dwellers, the humble product demonstration can be one of the most persuasive sales techniques. Scott G examines this method of selling in the light of today’s new media realities.
“This miracle elixir is guaranteed to soothe, lubricate, heal and otherwise transmogrify your throat from top to bottom.”
Or words to that effect.
It’s one of history’s most entertaining product demonstrations and it occurs in “Poppy,” a 1936 film in which W.C. Fields plays American frontier salesman Professor Eustace P. McGargle.
The good Professor stands at the back of a wagon in a town square, holds aloft a bottle of suspicious-looking tonic and extols its virtues with mellifluous phrases spoken with great power and loving care. Unfortunately, he gradually loses his voice, so he uncorks the bottle, takes a hefty swig, and then proclaims in full-throated roar, “It cures hoarseness!” And the customers flock to purchase the snake-oil.
You can’t beat a good product demo, as we all witnessed recently in a television campaign for the Apple iPhone. The elegant ads do nothing but show how the product works. And the world gaped at the spots in fascination.
Done well, the product demo can do wonders for immediate sales (“Watch as I show you how easy it is to club your enemies with this mastodon bone”) but it also has the potential to help establish a long-term position for a brand. Consider the reverse product demo used for years by Maytag, with their repairman bored out of his mind because their products never break down.
Sounds of Sucking
Of the many product demos currently on display are commercials for vacuum cleaners, including one where viewers are given an inside-the-product view as dirt enters the chamber.
Ads for the Dyson vacuum are the most stylish in this category, but they are spectacular failures in that they refuse to show how the devices “never lose suction.” I can remember the product benefit but I don’t believe it because they never prove it. (Not that I believe that the rival Oreck can nearly suck up a full-grown human, but at least they don’t make a claim they can’t back up visually.)
New Media, New Realities
Product demo advertising currently accounts for about eleventy gazillion dollars in sales (you can see that I’ve done quite a lot of research on this topic) but a significant amount of that may have to change in view of today’s altered media landscape.
Thirty-second broadcast commercials are not dead, but they are steadily losing share of corporate advertising budgets (they’re down 33.79% according to figures I just made up). Online ads rule, but even that may be changing as people easily skip over online messages or engage in gaming.
The point isn’t the raw data; there are research firms who can give you the actual numbers. The point is that potential customers are actively seeking ways to avoid your message (unless you’re the iPhone) and you’ve got to find a way to convince people to look at your product announcement.
If People Want Info, Your Ad Is Relevant Data
When you have a product people want, your ad isn’t viewed as an ad; instead, it becomes information. Or infotainment, depending on how you present your product benefits.
Sometimes, a public relations campaign can pave the way for your advertising to reach out and make the sale. Other times, you need to design your advertising for the new media. Hence the proliferation of online games and interactive quizzes that just happen to mention products.
The closer you can get the game or the quiz to reflect the product benefits, the more effective you’ll be in branding and the more success you’ll have convincing customers to make a purchase. Or, put a better way, you’ll be more successful the more you can have a consumer make a mental association between your product and the benefit.
Final Word: Doing the Demo
One nifty advantage of the product demo ad is the instructional aspect, or the guide it provides for people. When first picking up an iPhone, most users I observed go through the same sequence they saw on the commercials. Effective spot, wasn’t it.