Writing Lessons You Can Learn from Infomercials
You know you've done it. We all have - woken up at some ungodly hour of the night and flipped through the channels, only to become mesmerized by one of the many infomercials that promote that next crazy product or service that is just guaranteed to make our lives better.
Chances are you get disgusted with yourself for watching, yet you can't seem to pull yourself away. Strangely enough, you maybe even take an interest in what the infomercial is selling. So what is it about these late night wonders that make it hard to turn away? What can we learn from them that can help us improve our writing skills and better engage our readers?
I asked myself this one late night several years ago. I was up with a whopper of a cold and I couldn't get comfortable, so to spare my sweetie I came downstairs, plopped down on the sofa and began to channel surf. A commercial, cleverly disguised as a TV show, came on the air talking about health issues “they” don't want you to know about. Anyone else remember that guy? Yeah … so being a bit of a health conscious individual I found some of the questions piqued my interest and I continued to watch.
Disgusted with myself for listening to this, yet unable to stop watching, I began to wonder... What is it with these commercials that make them so wildly successful? How are they able to get otherwise rational people to part with their money for things like a super absorbent towel or a pot with a lid with holes in it? These “infomercials” as they are called are definite cash cows, so I decided to pursue the reasons this may be the case and figure out how to tie it into my own career/business which is, of course, writing.
So what is it that makes them so wildly successful and how does that translate to writing hubs, content, books etc.?
10 Worst Infomercials Ever? They're pretty bad - but I've seen worse :)
Infomercials are great at grabbing attention – not only grabbing it but holding it. They often start off with posing a question or problem. Have you noticed that? They show you all that ground in dirt on a carpet and you catch yourself looking because in your mind you know that you have had a nasty carpet or two in your lifetime. Next you wonder how they are going to fix said nasty carpet stain. Before you can blink – or flip the channel, the latest wonder vacuum is sucking up 80 pounds of dirt in single pass. In a split moment they have shown you a problem that you can identify with and have provided a possible solution – and there you have it the hook.
So – how do we do that in our writing? The same principle applies. We either present a problem that readers will relate to that we can solve, or we ask a question that piques the readers interest and then answer it. Sprinkle in a little personal touch and voila – hooked.
The next thing these commercials do is provide “testimonials” - real average Joe's or Jane's just like you and I. You see Jane talk about how this wrinkle cream gave her such soft, smooth skin and suddenly she felt more confident etc. Suddenly, you find yourself wanting to feel like Jane. Maybe you could care less about those crows feet, and wouldn't have thought about wrinkles at all before seeing the testimonial. But who doesn't want to feel confident and good about themselves? Seeing Jane's new lease on life is what piques your interest - you can relate to feeling good and you want that feeling, not necessarily the cream itself.
Next we see Joe who is always pressed for time and this latest tool does 4 jobs with one fabulous product! Joe tells us all about how it saved him time, money and energy because he only had to use one gizmo instead of 4 gadgets etc. You can relate to Joe. You always seem to have so much to do and not enough time. Anything that makes life easier... and the next thing you know you're actually at least somewhat tempted to learn more about this gizmo.
How does this relate to writing? When we add our personal experiences and ideas, people can identify with us and our situation. It makes the writing more personal and compels them to want to know more.
I can write for hours on the benefits of coconut oil – yawn, but when I create an article that states how I use it, the health benefits I've experienced and my personal feelings, people can relate. Maybe they don't know the first thing about coconut oil, but they sure can relate to how it feels to be healthier, have shinier hair, better teeth etc. So my “ho-hum” article becomes more alive, because it combines useable information and personal experience.
You know that Shamwow guy has gotten stuck in your head more than once, or the late Billy Mays and his charisma and powerful voice hawking all kinds of cleaning products. I bet every time you see a Dyson vacuum that guys accent with a hint of cockiness gets stuck in your head right? “It should just work” lol. For what they want for those vacuums they certainly should work – but, anyway...
Personality in infomercials draws people in and keeps them engaged. Even if you want to “slapchop” the hosts face, you still can't help but remember him. Infomercials bank on that – quite literally. Recognition fosters trust and garners repeat business.
How does this translate to great writing? Many hubbers I've come to know and love and the ones I read the most are the ones with amazing personalities that shine through their work. I remember the ones I admire and there are other personalities in other forums I have visited that are irritating, but guess what? you remember them too and chances are you'll read what they've been prattling on about because they “get in your head”. If you keep an open mind you may even find you learn a thing or two.
Let your personality shine in your writing and you'll attract more attention and readers. People like to get a feel for the writer and showing some of your personality is a great way to establish trust and credibility as well. If people genuinely like you, they'll be inclined to read your latest piece.
Call To Action!
You know the catch phrases “For a limited time!” “Act now” “It'll be gone tomorrow” (yet the infomercial has played every night for the past four years). Calls to action work. They motivate and incite us to do something, whether it's to buy a product or service or to call our representatives, calls to action are a powerful punch. Copy writing courses push this phenomenon along with “power” words, both of which are designed to incite emotion and initiate a response.
How does this work for your writing? Easy! A call to action may get someone to purchase an item you are plugging on your website. It may entice people to read more of your hubs and gain you more followers. I link to relevant hubs in all of my writing actually, because it provides value, solves problems and gains readership.
So, the next time you write a hub, blog post or whatever it is you write, make it like an infomercial – only less annoying and pushy. Instead, focus on the “good” parts like a great hook, personality (preferably a pleasing one) and good value – give your readers excellent information, peppered with personal experience. Great content doesn't just regurgitate info, it becomes a story combined with useful information. This helps people feel their questions or problems are more thoroughly answered than just reading a textbook generic response. They get value and you gain a reputation as a solid writer and expert that people can trust.
So, What infomercial have you found got stuck in your head and why do you think it grabbed you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
The copywriters handbook is a great investment for your business. Learn how to make your copy convert into sales.
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© 2013 Christin Sander
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