This 1970s Ginsu knife ad is a direct marketing classic. The Ginsu Guys are still in business — running a marketing and media-buying agency. There’s also a book : The Wisdom of Ginsu: Carve Yourself a Piece of the American Dream, published in 2005 and available on the used book market for a penny (plus $3,99 shipping.)
The story behind this ad and others is that the old tricks still work, when adapted to current conditions. Scott Martin shares some of the other oldies but goodies in his blog posting: Can these old school ads help your bottom line today?
The concept, of course, is that humans are hard-wired to think, respond and react in some predictable ways. Sure, there are cultural differences, economic and technological changes, but if you can reach the right hot buttons, you can cause people to purchase your product or service — and often at a much higher price than your competition.
The Ginsu knife story is fascinating on several levels, however. This is an American-made product that played out (with a wonderful bit of reverse psychology) a “Japanese” theme. (Back in the 70s, Japanese products were starting to lose their low-quality image. I remember well my first real electronic item — a rather bulky reel-to-real tape recorder manufactured by Sony.)
The 50-year-guarantee is also quite creative — who is going to remember (and keep the documentation) that long for such an inexpensive item.? (The 50-year-guarantee lives on today in the roofing industry. A roofer told me in confidence that actually current roof manufacturing quality hasn’t really improved despite supposed “longer life” roofs — it is just that the roofing product manufacturers know they won’t need to honour many actual guarantee claims by the time they might come due.)
Of course, massive off-time television purchases for direct response ads and the infomercial consumer product world may be beyond your scope if you are a regional contractor or are an architect, engineer or consultant seeking to win some public-sector work. I think this kind of blatant marketing trickery would turn off more potential clients than it would attract if you tried these approaches overtly and in combination, without thought and respect for your actual potential clients.
Still, the image of that guy dressed up in a Japanese outfit “smashing” a tomato with his hand is unforgettable. (Oh, and the Ginsu Guys say they are still honouring the old guarantee.)