The name “Ginsu Knives” is known all across America as one of the classic “As Seen on TV” products that still can be spotted in stores today. Today, I looked at the old infomercial and pulled out what it had in it that made it so effective.

Ed Valenti - Ginsu Knives

Ed Valenti - Father of the Modern Infomercial

Watch the video here:

This video was shown on TV first in 1978 and has some great marketing behind it. Let’s tear it apart.

  • A seductive voice at the beginning creates interest with visual shock-value. The hand chopping the wood is exciting (especially for ’78!).
  • Next, it shows a hand karate-chopping a tomato to no success. Again, more visual. Gets people hooked into watching.
  • The next scene shows a Japanese chef cutting the knife. The undertone is that Ginsu is a Japanese product, and will give you some kind of magical powers to cut vegetables.
  • Examples after examples. Bread, meat — “it can chop wood! … and still say razor sharp!”
  • They ask what price you would pay
  • Then, they add bonuses to sweeten the deal – a 6-in-1 kitchen tool, meat fork AND 6 steak knives (with matching handles)
  • To win you over even more, they’re offering a spiral slicer for cutting potatoes
  • Again, they ask you how much you would pay, each time providing more VALUE
  • Here’s my favorite part — a “50 Year Guarantee” that covers replacement or refund
  • All of this, for only $9.95
Ginsu Knife 50 Year Guarantee

If the viewer gets to the end and is already enticed by the offers, and the piling on of value-added bonuses, the “50 Year Guarantee” is the thing that really seals the deal. It takes the threat of the product being a dud, and puts all of the risk on the advertiser. This is called Risk Reversal, and is a great strategy to sell something of value.

Ginsu Knife Marketing ReviewI’d be curious at the return rate that Ginsu realized. With a 50-year return policy, people could STILL be returning this product. Are they? Nah, they probably forgot about it. I can’t cite for certain, but I remember hearing that a 365-day guarantee out-performs a 30-day guarantee on products. It gets more people to get cash out of their pockets and hand it over. Although the percentage of people who returned the product is higher, the ROI is greater because there were more buyers on the front end. And that’s not to mention the upsells (products sold after the initial sale) that the Ginsu customers were given.

The genius behind this promotion is the marketing pioneer Ed Valenti. He started the modern infomercial with the success of Ginsu and then started selling jewelry, cookware, watches, mixing bowls, and food storage containers. This is a perfect example of someone who found one thing that worked and then RAN with it.

YES! – this is awesome. I just did a Google Street View of the return address location in Warwick, RI – where Valenti started his company. Check out how small the building was! He ran that commercial with incredible success and still had a tiny shop for returns. Case-and-point you can start something from nothing!