Who would have thought that those individuals pitching products
at state fairs, flea markets, and home expos would not only become big business
magnates but celebrities? If you do not know them by name, you will know them by
product. There are people like the late Billy Mays who is known by numerous
products, but probably by his catch-phrase”Billy Mays here for…” Then before
Billy Mays there was Ron Popeil of Ronco fame. He had products such as the
Pocket Fisherman, Dial-O-Matic, Chop-O-Matic, Electric Food Dehydrator, and
Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler. The most recent pitchman celebrity is Vince
Offer of ShamWow and Slap Chop fame. All started as real world pitchmen.
Ron Popeil developed his real world pitchman skills doing demos
on the streets of Chicago. His father being a inventor, started in selling by
selling his father’s products to department stores. Then one day he saw pitchmen
working a busy street and decided he could do that too. He was very successful
and actually returned to pitching the items individually inside the very stores
he used to sell the products in bulk. He made much more money that way.
Billy Mays got his start as a pitchman on the boardwalk of
Atlantic City. The boardwalk being a long time location for the product pitches
to the tourist crowd, Billy pitched a bucket based car washing product. He even
was called”Bucket Billy” because of his continual hauling of buckets. He was
mentored by many of the old time Atlantic City Boardwalk pitchmen. Then he began
to hit the state fair, home show, and car show circuits to pitch products.
Then there is Vince Offer who pitched products at flea markets.
He had and still has aspiration to be a filmmaker, but his pitchman experience
still has been useful. Actually, it was a combination of filmmaking and pitchmen
skills that propelled him to his ShamWow and Slap Chop success. He produced and
financed his first television product in the ShamWow.
For all the parodies that these celebrity pitchmen have inspired
on YouTube or Saturday Night Live, their success is a direct extension of the
years they put in pitching products. That is to say that one cannot simply mimic
what they see on television, and be as successful. The zany, high energy demos
are highly planned and tested sales models. There is timing and reasoning for
every”but wait, there’s more.” Like any great performing making something seem
simple, there was a great deal of practice given to making it seem so simple.