Cameron Yoder sat down with Rick Cesari live at the Prosper Show to talk about the power of video for storytelling.
They covered everything from Rick’s infomercial career, to best practices for product listing videos, to Rick’s predictions for the future of video and ecommerce.
Rick Cesari made that infomercial
Rick’s got 25 years of experience using video to promote retail products. Think of a classic informational and he probably made it — George Foreman Grill, Sonicare toothbrush, Juice Man Juicer, and GoPro.
In the mid-eighties, he was creating infomercials for real estate. Rick went on in the nineties to use direct response TV – TV ads that prompt viewers to respond immediately often by calling a phone number – to market the Juice Man Juicer and Bread Man Bread Machine Deluxe.
The 30-minute infomercial he made for the Sonicare toothbrush landed the brand in first place on the Inc list of fastest-growing companies and the business was sold to Phillips Electronics.
From infomercial to ecommerce
Cameron asked Rick what principles from informercials apply to ecommerce. Rick says a lot of the principles are the same.
“Some people don’t think they’re the same. I think there’s a lot of great foundational information that’s the same,” said Rick. “If we know how to hook a viewer, who’s standing there with their controller, flicking around TV, you’d know how to hook a viewer that’s online before they click away. It’s the same concept.”
He actually sees a direct throughline on what works in print and radio and TV networks to social media and ecommerce. That’s true despite changes to details like lengths or formats because human psychology remains the same.
Rick says, “What worked on radio and print and TV now works on Facebook and YouTube and Amazon.”
Best practices for product listing videos
Video has become hugely important for ecommerce brands to capture attention and bring their products to life. With new opportunities like Sponsored Brands video on Amazon and the ability to use video in product listings, sellers want to know how to create videos that will work for them.
Rick says the mistake to avoid is to create a video that leaves you wondering exactly what the product is. Avoid that mistake by following these product listing video rules.
- Use titles and graphics
Using titles and graphics to call out features and benefits is a straightforward way to ensure that it’s clear what your product is.
Rick says, “If you have to make a short video for Amazon, make sure you have title graphics on there.” There’s an important reason to include them: “A lot of people will watch these videos without sound. And if your pictures and titles can tell the story, you’re halfway there to getting them to buy it.”
- Show how the product works
A video shouldn’t just show the product itself. It should demonstrate how the product works or how a shopper might use the product.
The example Rick gave is a video of a knife. “There’s a beautiful picture of a knife. Well, that’s nice, but it’s much better to see a knife slicing through a melon, and then you’re showing the product doing something.”
- Show the product in an aspirational context
Rick advises brands not to settle for just showing how the product works, but to create something that a person could imagine themselves doing and that they’d aspire to do.
“I’m a big believer in this,“ says Rick. You want shoppers to think “Wow, that could be me.”
He talked about an example of a pingpong table where the video showed how to assemble the table, making it look like a lot of work. He reworked that video to show people enjoying playing ping pong with the table.
Cameron brought up the observation that shopping live streams are bringing something similar to infomercials or home shopping back again.
Rick really likes the idea of Amazon Live because he’s seen how powerful that type of marketing can be. He said, “I looked at it as – here’s the online version of home shopping network.”
That works well because, “You have a pitch person who’s good at selling the product. And even though it looks like they’re just like talking about it and demonstrating it, they know what they’re doing. They know they’re pointing out the benefits, they’re answering your questions before you have a chance to ask them.”
Rick tempers his excitement over the potential of Amazon Live with some hard experience. It doesn’t always work as well for sellers as he might expect, and he lays that at Amazon’s feet, saying, “If Amazon would do a better job of putting an audience in front of it, I think you’d see sales skyrocket.”
Tips for getting started with video
A lot of people are overwhelmed by getting started with video and all the equipment and expertise they feel they need to start. Cameron asked Rick for advice on getting over that initial block and starting to create video.
Rick says it’s best to just start, create the best video you can, and learn from there. “A lousily done video is better than no video at all,” says Rick.
You can also start with very basic equipment. Your phone camera is probably better than professional cameras from five years ago. Rick suggests investing in just a small amount of equipment: “For under a hundred dollars, you can buy a simple ring light and a simple microphone, and you can attach it to your phone and you have everything you need to do to start making video.”
Rick wrote the book on video
If you want more advice on video from Rick, it turns out he wrote the book on that. Twice.
The Video Persuasion is the 2017 book in which Rick shares what he’s learned from a career in video. The purpose of the book, says Rick, is that he “wanted to try and take all the information that was in my head that I’ve learned over the years and put as much of it as I could into the book.”
More recently Rick coauthored The Amazon Jungle with Jason Boyce. Rick says, “It’s not a get-rich-quick book. It’s a practical guide of how to make a product, how to source the product, how to make your product different than the competition. And once you’re on Amazon, here are some things that will help you brand the product and ways to help market it. We even talk a little bit about off-Amazon marketing.”
The future of video for ecommerce
Rick was already preaching the value of video for ecommerce a few years back when most sellers weren’t thinking about it at all. So, what’s he saying now about the future of video for ecommerce?
“It’s going to become more pervasive,“ Rick predicts. “It’s a great medium for educating people. Whatever it is you want to educate them about, about a product, about a service. So I think that whatever online channels are using it right now, I think they’re going to expand the opportunity to use video as technology allows.”