The True Wonder of the Magic Bullet Infomercial
By Marcy Huang, Associate Strategist
When I was little, my favorite thing to do when I was home alone was scroll through the entire TV guide until I found my favorite show: Paid Programming. Through infomercials, I entered a world of wonder: where a tiny sponge could soak up an entire gallon of water or a spray can could make your balding head look full of luscious hair. But nothing — absolutely nothing — was as beautiful to me as the Magic Bullet.
The “kitchen magician” promised to do any job in ten seconds or less. Provided of course, that job was chopping, dicing, pureeing… you get the drift. If that’s not incredible, I don’t know what is. My parents finally shut me up by buying me a Magic Bullet for Christmas when I was 10. I was so happy I cried.
But even after I obtained my beloved Magic Bullet, I never stopped watching when the half an hour infomercial came onto the TV. And while my desire to see vacuums that work on both carpets and wooden floors has gradually lessened with time, my love of the Magic Bullet infomercial has never once wavered.
I found the infomercial online a few months ago and have since watched the 28 minute long commercial many times. (Check it out on YouTube here. I know it’s silly, but stick with it!)
And while the ad is long, ridiculous, and, well, an infomercial, it’s my firm belief that we can actually learn some pretty cool stuff from what the Magic Bullet ad does right. Like what? Well, I’m glad you asked.
It balances both emotional and functional messaging
In general, ad content can range on the scale of functional to emotional. Functional content showcases product benefits such as how to use this eyeshadow in a makeup tutorial or how to prevent cavities with this toothpaste. Emotional content draws you in by pulling at your heartstrings or making you point at the TV and shout “Hey! They’re totally talking about me!”
If you’re working on a brand that does toothpaste, functional content might show a consumer how they can use the toothpaste to get whiter teeth. Emotional content might try to form a bond with the consumer by showing them how whiter teeth can inspire confidence. And content that’s more in between might remind the consumer of how their mother used to always tell them to brush their teeth to make them whiter. Get it? Great.
In our increasingly ad-blocking world, putting out functional content that actually gives some kind of information to our consumers and doesn’t just annoy the hell out of them is crucial to a truly successful campaign. But functional content alone just isn’t enough. The best ads are the ones that hit on the emotional side as well as the functional one. It’s the emotional stuff that really draws consumers in and makes an ad memorable.
The Magic Bullet infomercial has that functional messaging down pat. Mick and Mimi teach you how to make everything from salsa to blueberry muffins to chocolate mousse, and for a foodie that’s incredibly useful. But the Magic Bullet’s messaging isn’t just functional. It draws the audience in and makes an emotional connection by inviting the watcher into an intimate breakfast with Mick and Mimi’s friend group. It brings you back to your own memories of crying when dicing onions or complaining about sticky fingers after chopping garlics. Mimi understands your struggle of making the perfect omelette. She really does.
It was way above the trend
The recipes from the Magic Bullet infomercial were shot in the exact same quick and easily digestible (pun-intended) style as Buzzfeed’s Tasty videos — and Tasty, for the record, currently has 68 million followers on Facebook. The whole commercial was effectively thirty minutes of 10-second cooking tutorials accompanied by close-ups of melted cheese being poured onto chips. And this was before #foodporn was tagged over 96 million times on Instagram.
This style of cooking content has gained such widespread popularity online that non-food brands are using it as well. Even hair and makeup tutorials are starting to be shot in the same kind of recipe- style. (Don’t even tell me you don’t see the similarities between Tastemade and Refinery29’s Short Cuts.)
It utilizes word-of-mouth
Sort of. Hear me out: Currently, 7/10 Americans seek out opinions on items before they purchase, so recommendations and reviews are clearly extremely important to consumers. In the infomercial, the audience can easily put themselves in the seats of Mick and Mimi’s friends — firstly because the characters, while one-dimensional, are parodies of what real people really act like, and secondly because the friends are skeptical of the product, just like we are. The ad is somewhat realistic in that characters don’t immediately “buy in” to a product just because the word “Magic” is in its name. Mick and Mimi need to win their friends over before any of them will provide testimonies to the audience at home. Sure enough, over the course of 30 minutes, the characters start to believe in the Magic Bullet themselves and give their own glowing reviews of the products. The audience back at home is left seeing the way that the actors’ mindsets have evolved, and might share that same excitement. Berman hates broccoli, but he doesn’t mind it in that smoothie! Maybe there’s something to those green shakes afterall…
It had shareable, memorable content
Really great social and digital content has an aspect of shareability to it — it’s the type of content that you don’t just watch and forget about. It’s the stuff that motivates you to engage and share with friends. The truth is, sometimes the Magic Bullet gang says some ridiculous things. Hazel coming out of her room and puffing on a cigarette, asking “Did somebody say muffins?” Berman, a hungover grown man, making a face and saying “Yuck, I hate broccoli?” If this ad had come out in 2016, there’s no question that Berman’s face would be a meme that I would use any time someone asked me to go for food at a place I hate. This is priceless stuff, guys. Seriously. It’s ridiculous. It’s stupid. But it’s funny, and it’s the type of content that feels relevant enough that I might want to share it.
These four aspects all come together to create some truly entertaining content. And at the end of the day, that’s what we want our ads to do. We want to create content that doesn’t just sell a product — we want to create content that adds value to people’s lives. We want to create content that people actively want to seek out and watch. Yes, that’s hard. But it’s worth the struggle to get there.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go make a smoothie...