While gym memberships have slid since 2006, home gym equipment sales continue to grow. Fitness infomercials are among the most popular TV commercials used to sell home exercise equipment. Of the six most profitable infomercial products, three are related to fitness. (1, 2)
Most of us dream about enjoying amazing workout results by investing only minimal time and effort. Fitness infomercials are designed to create this fantasy, which lulls us into purchasing products that may not live up to their claims.
The Successful Infomercial Program Profile and Fitness Products
Successful infomercial programs promote products that:
*are revolutionary and innovative,
*cannot be found anywhere else,
*can make life easier and better, and
*produce immediate, transformational results. (3)
In order to fit this profile, marketers of fitness products often promote the fantasy of fast fitness. While the notion of undergoing a rapid body transformation appeals to the viewer, product claims may exceed the ability of the human body to achieve such accelerated results.
Many fitness gadgets have been taken to task by consumer groups for making unsubstantiated claims. While some products have been tested and shown to be reasonable supplements to a total exercise program, others are ineffective. (4, 5)
Despite consumer complaints and negative reviews, however, sales from fitness infomercials are booming. Why? Infomercial marketing tactics intrigue and motivate us to purchase a product regardless of its quality or effectiveness.
7 Common Marketing Tactics that Sell the Fast-Fitness Fantasy
These 7 common marketing tactics used in fitness infomercials target our emotions, establish product credibility, and offer bargains we can’t seem to refuse.
1. Emotions: Ads aim at the very core of our being–our sense of self and, perhaps, our vanity. They strike the chords of our emotions and play on our universal dreams, desires, and needs.
Our imaginations begin to mold our fantasies. Next, they establish credibility and trust, while easing skepticism about the ability of the product to fulfill our dreams of scupting a gorgeous body.
2. Testimonials: We listen to the stories of peers who profess amazing results from using the product and toy with the notion that, just maybe, it will work for us, too.
3. Endorsements: We tend to trust the word of celebrities, trainers, and elite athletes. If Oprah endorses a product, that pretty much seals the deal for many of us.
4. Scientific research: If a fitness device is based on a new scientific discovery or is university tested, isn’t that real proof that it is effective? Not necessarily!
Each of these confidence-building strategies has its shortcomings. Results claimed by compensated models may well be due to their total weight control and exercise program, rather than due to the product itself.
Scientific studies conducted or sponsored by manufacturers are often disclosed only upon request. Even results from university research may not be accurately represented in fitness infomercials, particularly if all of the findings do not support the fast-fitness profile. (5)
Nonetheless, according to one survey, viewers are more likely to trust infomercials than Congress, used car salesmen, and corporate executives! (3)
Once they have gained some reasonable level of our confidence in the product, they attempt to close the sale by:
5. Overcoming objections and upping the ante: Marketers emphasize the uniqueness of the product and urge us to accept no substitutes. They create a sense of urgency with limited-time offers and great bargains for the shopper in us.
6. Guaranteeing no risk: If you don’t get results, you will get a full refund! So, what have you got to lose?
7. Being persistent: Fitness infomercials repeat the same message frequently. Repetition, particularly late at night when our subconscious minds are more vulnerable, may well tap into the power of suggestion that prompts the buy.
Sold! Viewers will generally watch for 13 to 15 minutes before calling.
Add-On Sales For More Quick Profits
The purchase decision may be just the beginning of profits from fitness infomercials. Shipping, handling, and taxes are expected. But as a new, enthusiastic buyer, beware that you are likely to encounter a barrage of add-ons before you have completed the transaction. Pay close attention, or your credit card may automatically be charged monthly for additional products. And later, if you exercise your money- back guarantee, you may get the runaround from an automated system.
All told, you may pay the original advertised price many times over and, unfortunately, never see results. At some point you may come to realize that your fast-fitness fantasy was, from the start, the manufacturer’s quick-profit, dream-come-true at the expense of consumers.
Consumer Knowledge is Power
Do not let your emotions override patience and logic. Take a step back and research the fitness infomercial product and its claims. If you can move past the impulse buy:
*Check out user reviews on the specific product of interest.
*Visit consumer-related sites before buying exercise equipment.
*Ask the opinion of a fitness professional, preferably one who has formal training and an advanced degree in exercise science.
*If you decide that the product is worth a try, be sure to read the fine print on the website.
Educate yourself by learning fundamental exercise and weight control principles so that unsubstantiated product claims will be more transparent to you. Fitness knowledge gives you the power to prevent falling for the fast-fitness fantasy before you make the purchase.
1. Consumer Reports. (2009, January 6). Tip of the day: Choose a home exercise machine to fit your budget. Retrieved January 19, 2009, from http://blogs.consumerreports.org/health/2009/01/home-workout.html?resultPageIndex=1&resultIndex=1
2. The Marqui Automation Company. (2005, May 7). The all-powerful infomercial. Retrieved January 18, 2009, from http://www.marqui.com/blog/the_allpowerful.aspx
3. Infomercial Marketing. (2006, April 7). The right kind of product for an infomercial is… Retrieved January 19, 2009, from http://infomercialmarketing.wordpress.com/2006/04/
4. Federal Trade Commission. (2003, November). Avoiding the muscle hustle: Tips for buying exercise equipment. Retrieved January 18, 2009, from http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt113.shtm
5. Consumer Reports. (2009, January). Assessing exercise infomercials’ claims. Retrieved January 19, 2009, from http://www.consumerreports.org/health/healthy-living/fitness/staying-fit/infomercial-exercise-2-08/how-they-tested/infomercial-exercise-equipment-how-they-test.htm
Dr. Denise K. Wood is an educator and sport and fitness training consultant from Knoxville, TN and creator of www.womens-weight-training-programs.com She has trained a wide range of clients from beginners to Olympians. Dr. Wood is a former national track and field champion with years of international experience. She has been recognized as an outstanding professor in exercise science and research/statistics.