I don’t read Consumer Reports. For starters, I already own a car and the necessary large appliances but more importantly, in their bid to maintain editorial objectivity as they conduct product ratings, they accept no advertising.
Anyway, the New York Times posted a review of an article in Consumer Reports‘ February issue where they express dismay at how otherwise intelligent consumers purchase truckloads of infomercial products that amount to low-quality snake oil hokum. They may even use the decidedly unacademic descriptor ‘crap.’
That’s not just their opinion; they subjected fifteen popular products to their rigorous testing process, rating everything from the Snuggie to Grease Bullet cleaning tablets and the ever-popular, thrillingly-named ShamWow! My favorite finding? “Each time we laundered two Snuggies, we removed a sandwich bag’s worth of lint from the dryer screen. After 10 washings, “the fabric had bare spots between pills and clumps.” Imagine…
As one editor put it, “We tend to laugh at these commercials but they are very powerful persuaders.” Why is that? Why do we have such a hard time turning away from these breathless, carnival barker sales pitches that sound like parody before they inevitably become parodies? Why aren’t we offended by their rote work plotting of problem/solution/product demo and lily-gilding a gogo? Why are they so persuasive?
I have a theory on what makes them work… Enthusiasm.
Raw, unfettered enthusiasm that communicates as genuine excitement, absolute faith and infectious energy. When you compare that tone and the sound of most mainstream brands, there’s a glaring difference. Mainstream brands come from corporations with stockholders, HR Departments and legal staffs. Infomercials spring from the fevered zeal of hopeful entrepeneurs with the sole goal to sell, sell, sell. And that makes all the difference.
Is there room for this kind of enthusiasm in mainstream advertising? Certainly somewhere. But it’s gonna require we all get a lot more comfortable with one specific type of punctuation: the exclamation point.
Or rather, the Exclamation Point!