Ginsu

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The Ginsu knife is a product best known for the sales techniques (hawker and hard sell) used to promote it.

History[edit]

The "amazing" Ginsu knife became known to millions of television viewers in the United States through ubiquitous television advertisements in the late 1970s. Ads asked, "How much would you pay? Don't answer!", urged viewers to "Call now! Operators are standing by!" and included the signature line "But wait! There's more!", which became a popular catch phrase.[1] The ads fueled sales of between two and three million Ginsu sets between 1978 and 1984.

The Ginsu ads adapted the hard sell direct-marketing techniques of door-to-door sales and print advertising to the medium of television. In the process, they established the formula for the modern infomercial. Robert Thompson, of Syracuse University, called the Ginsu advertising campaign "the pitch of all pitches."[1] The style of the ads also invoked many elements of the modern infomercial pitchman style, popularized first by Ron Popeil and carried through to modern times by Billy Mays and Vince Offer. Ed Valenti and Barry Becher repeated the advertising formula with other products such as the Miracle Slicer, Royal Durasteel mixing bowls, Vacufresh storage containers, the Chainge Adjustable Necklace, and Armourcote Cookware.[2]

The knives were originally called Quickut knives, made by a company in Fremont, Ohio, but since that lacked panache, Valenti and Becher, and copywriter Arthur Schiff, devised a name and pitch that hinted at Japanese Samurai images (the name Ginsu does not mean anything in any language, though Becher would later say that Ginsu means "I never have to work again").[3] Previous knives of a similar style had a single-edged blade.[clarification needed][citation needed] Valenti told the Palm Beach Post in 2011, "We were mindful that the last thing anyone wanted was another set of knives. The challenge was to position the product so that it made every other knife you owned obsolete."[1]

"Ginsu has everything a great direct-response commercial could have," said John Witek, a marketing consultant and author of Response Television: Combat Advertising of the 1980s. "Ginsu had humor, demonstration, and a precisely structured series of premium offers I call 'the lots-for-a-little approach'."[4][5]

Cultural impact[edit]

In American popular culture, "the amazing Ginsu knife" remains an icon of "hard sell" marketing. According to the Ginsu website Ginsu Guys.com, the comedian Gallagher made a career out of mimicking the commercial's antics. Jerry Seinfeld joked in a stand-up routine that he ordered the Ginsu knife after seeing the infomercial so late at night that he was too tired to realize he had no use for the knives.

In April 2009, a stretch of road in Warwick, Rhode Island, which passes the office of Ed Valenti, was named "Ginsu Way".[6]

A line in the Weird Al Yankovic song "Mr. Popeil", written about the infomercial giant Ron Popeil, mentions, "If you order today, you get a Ginsu knife and a smokeless ashtray."

In S. M. Stirling's novel Island in the Sea of Time, a Ginsu is a short sword modeled on the Roman gladius.

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has named its green sawfish "Ginsu" after the product.[7]

Modern version[edit]

In 2013, Consumer Reports reviewed the Ginsu Chikara knife set in their review of fifty knife sets and rated it as their "Best Buy". It tied for fourth place in quality, at less than a quarter of the price of similarly rated models.[8][9][10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c quoted in obituary of Barry Becher, Washington Post (DC), June 28, 2012, p. B6.
  2. ^ obituary of Barry Becher, Washington Post (DC), June 28, 2012, p. B6.
  3. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (30 June 2012). "Barry Becher, a Creator of Ginsu Knife Commercials, Dies at 71". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Reynolds, Bill (December 12, 1982), "GINSU! It came from Warwick – it devoured the marketing world", Sunday Journal Magazine: 3 
  5. ^ Auchmutey, Jim (1983), "But wait, there's more!", Advertising Age Special Report: 1 .
  6. ^ Associated Press (2009-04-03). "But wait, there's more! Call that road Ginsu". Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  7. ^ Shedd Aquarium. "Green Sawfish". Retrieved 2013-06-27. 
  8. ^ http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/kitchen/kitchen-knives/kitchen-knives-ratings/ratings-overview.htm
  9. ^ DiClerico, Daniel. "In Consumer Reports' tests of cut-rate knives, Ginsu skewers Ronco". Yahoo!. 
  10. ^ http://www.thetruthaboutknives.com/2013/08/consumer-reports-kenji-lopez-alts-kitchen-knife-video-shootout/

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]