Kaboom! The selling magic of Billy Mays

Billy Mays is the king of direct response TV ads.

Don’t know who Billy Mays is? Yes you do. Watch this video.

Everyone knows Billy Mays. And for good reason. While direct response TV commercials are all designed to get your attention, Billy Mays is the one pitchman who can grab your attention even if you’re in another room.

Mays started his selling career right out of high school pitching products on the Atlantic City boardwalk. He honed his craft at home shows and state fairs around the country. He became famous after meeting the founder of Orange Glo International, a manufacturer of cleaning products.

Orange Glo hired Mays to promote their various cleaners, including OxiClean, Orange Clean, and Orange Glo. Sales soared. This success propelled the company into the top 10 privately owned companies from 1999 to 2001, according to Inc. Magazine.

What makes Mays’ pitch so effective? Enthusiasm, directness, and authority. A Billy Mays pitch is packed with nonstop energy. He’s pleasant, but doesn’t joke or clown around, always getting right to the point. His voice is loud and commanding, a style perfectly suited to selling on a busy boardwalk, but also perfectly suited to breaking through to preoccupied TV viewers.

I think few would say they “like” to watch a Billy Mays commercial. He’s considered obnoxious by many. But that’s irrelevant. Just as people say they dislike catalogs while continuing to place orders, they say they don’t like Mays’ in-your-face style while emptying the store shelves of the products he pitches.

In marketing, you should learn from what works, not from what you like.

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Comments

16 Responses to “Kaboom! The selling magic of Billy Mays”

  1. Shama Hyder on July 16th, 2008 4:31 pm

    Dean,

    I have always liked this guy! He has such a powerful way of doing things.

    I bought my first tub of Oxy thanks to him. I want my whites whiter! = )

    -Shama

  2. Dean Rieck on July 16th, 2008 5:04 pm

    Shama,

    Yeah, I’m a huge fan. I used to do that sort of work. I’ve always considered that the perfect job…reading scripts and getting paid for it.

    I’m also a fan of Don LaFontaine, the guy with the deep voice who does all the voice overs for movie trailers. He’s paid HUGE sums of money for just a few minutes work. Millions a year.

  3. Suzanne Obermire on July 21st, 2008 6:55 pm

    Any guy who’s watch matches his product gets my vote! Have you noticed he has an ORANGE watch??? That’s called wearing your brand.

    Seriously, not all products/services could be hawked by someone like Billy, but his style definitely works for him and his products. My only fear is that he endorses too many things. When is his reputation stretched too thin to make an impact, do you think?
    Suzanne

  4. Dean Rieck on July 21st, 2008 8:30 pm

    Suzanne:

    I think you make a good point. Most pitchmen are good at selling certain types of products but can’t sell everything. I can’t see him selling Rolex watches or Brie.

    But there are plenty of products to keep him busy. What a great job.

  5. Kriss on August 2nd, 2008 5:11 pm

    He happened to be in my lamaze class back in 2005 and honestly, I think he was the quietest person in the class! Of course, we were halfway through the first class when someone started to ask if he was the Oxiclean guy…

  6. Dean Rieck on August 2nd, 2008 6:45 pm

    Kriss:

    I’d think most guys are pretty quiet in a Lamaze class. :)

  7. Kathy on August 22nd, 2008 12:16 am

    I will never purchase any product endorsed by this guy. I change the channel as soon as his commercials come on, and think that his commercials are the equivalent of SPAM. There was proposed legislation to stop LOUD tv ads (and this loudmouth is certainly who comes to mind). I don’t know what happened or is happening with the legislation, but those who feel invaded by this obtrusive cheap SPAM should not take it quietly and treat it just as they do with their email inboxes.

  8. fred savage on September 4th, 2008 2:32 am

    This guy GRATES on my NERVES!!!

    How can you people luv this guy…seriously?

    He’s on CNBC, various cable channels etc.

    Everytime he is on, I change the channel.

    Why? Because I can HEAR him without his annoying LOUD grating voice. I really wish people would bring this up with advertisers. We are NOT completely deficient of our senses and have the intellect to discern the message in TV ad if we wish to. We do NOT need someone yelling at us to hear a message. There is enough yelling in the world already. I don’t need to hear this on the tele…when I watch…which thankfully is rare. Thankfully also, I have a PVR so I can skip most of the Crap…like this guy’s ad’s.

    I’m sure he is a nice guy, but we are not DEAF!!!

    Dear advertisers:
    Please respect our collective intelligence and get this guy off the air!

  9. Random Data « Coastcontact’s Weblog on November 19th, 2008 7:02 pm

    [...] television networks hawking a variety of products.  He makes lots of money despite being very irritating.  Marketers don’t care just as long as he can keep selling everything at $19.99 plus shipping [...]

  10. Dennis on December 26th, 2008 2:05 pm

    I actually change the channel everytime I hear this guy ….I cannot stand his whiny screaming voice and make it a point to never buy anything he may be pushing nothing about him or the products he hawks are amazing. And that free !!! just pay shipping and handling !!! is only for people who never got past the first grade, I have actually learned to hate this person.

  11. Dean Rieck on December 26th, 2008 2:31 pm

    Dennis:

    Well, it seems people like him or hate him. There’s no middle ground. But he’s effective. He may be today’s top pitchman and will certainly be around for a long time.

    And you know Vince, the ShamWow guy? I just saw him last night pitching a different product. So I’m guessing you’re going to start seeing a lot more of him too.

  12. Pam Linwood on January 31st, 2009 5:19 am

    This guy really bugs me — maybe it’s that there’s no inflection in his loud delivery. Give me Vince every time!

  13. Generating sales leads with TV ads on June 2nd, 2009 10:13 am

    [...] same formula at work in nearly any direct response TV ad selling mops, diet pills, or any product. Watch this Billy Mays commercial to see problem / solution in action. The difference is that these TV commercials seek to sell the product directly rather than generate [...]

  14. Charles on June 28th, 2009 7:00 pm

    Wow this is too sad. I love watching Billy work his magic on the screen. Guess Pitchmen is canceled now? :(

  15. Dean Rieck on June 28th, 2009 8:06 pm

    Charles:
    Yeah, I heard about Billy’s death this morning. Sad. He was the king of pitchmen.

  16. A mathematical diversion with LINQ « CTICoder on July 18th, 2009 2:09 am

    [...] So now what?  Double??  At first it appeared that it would work…   but RIGHT BEFORE I got to my answer of 90%, KABOOM!  [...]



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