Making DRTV work for a dynamic brand

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Tony Little
Tony Little

Tony Little is well known as the TV pitchman behind the Gazelle exercise machine. As CEO of Health International Corp., he has built a diversified company that's sold $3 billion-worth of products since he began appearing on the Home Shopping Network in 1986. Direct-response TV has been the backbone of a company that sells fitness equipment, apparel, food, books, videos and wellness products. Little recently published There's Always a Way: How to Develop a Positive Mindset and Succeed in Business and Life, and shared a few infomercial pointers with Direct Connect.

Direct Connect: How much of your success is due to DRTV?

Tony Little: I grew up on direct response television in the shopping channel format. When I had the opportunity to do the infomercials, I chose a company called Amazing Discoveries. The concept when I did my first show was: “Everything was an amazing discovery.” I fit into that format. I don't use scripts; I pretty much ad-lib. I know my products and I know what I believe. They're really fun to watch because you don't know what I'm going to do.

Direct Connect: So you have to believe in what you're selling?

Little: I have to believe it. I have more than 45 million people who have bought my products. You can't please everyone all the time, but they know that I do my best to make sure the product is the best product they can get for the price and it has value. My personality comes with every product. I never put out a product that didn't include me being a trainer and didn't include me being able to talk to you.

Direct Connect: So infomercials build a relationship?

Little: What an infomercial does is give you 26 minutes to educate a consumer via testimonials, via demonstrations and via your beliefs on why this product is so great. It's a very valuable tool. Ninety percent of us know when you go into a department store, most of the people at the fragrance counter or the other counters do not know what they're talking about. There's no education once you get into a retail environment. If you're able to get a message across on television that people will understand, that will translate not only on television, but to retail stores.

Direct Connect: What's the key to a good DRTV pitch?

Little: Make it simple. Don't get complicated. If this product does three things, make sure during that whole show -- whether it's testimonials or you demonstrating it -- you're supporting the three major items that people will remember about that product. Also, it's always best to represent a product on television that has a large demographic base – male, female, all age categories -- because you're dealing in numbers. If you try to segment your business – “I just want to sell this to retired people over 60” -- that isn't going to work. That's another thing about infomercials people don't understand. You spend a lot of money producing a show and testing it. And then it doesn't work? Bye, bye money.

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