Since I don’t personally own a set of Ginsu knives I’m probably not qualified to discuss how “amazing” they really are. I do know that their commercials were one of the first to be described as infomercials and that they laid the groundwork for many more products to follow their lead.
We’ve probably all seen them at one time or another. If you’re like me and don’t subscribe to cable television, they’re usually on sometime after the Sunday morning talk shows or late at night when there’s nothing else on. They usually start off with a demonstration of the products amazing, mind boggling feats of derring- do and end up with an out of breath announcer imploring the viewers to “Act now to take advantage of this offer!”
As for the Ginsu’s themselves, one couldn’t be blamed if they thought that the origin of these knives emanated from deep inside the kitchens of Japan where master chefs plied their trade and unraveled the mysteries of Oriental cuisine. You couldn’t be blamed if images came to mind of seasoned steel workers sweating late into the night and putting as much effort into the manufacture of these knives as their ancestors did when they crafted swords for the Samurai.
As it turns out, these one of kind wonders were not shipped in across the oceans or flown in from mysterious lands. They were manufactured in good old Fremont, Ohio.
The knives themselves first emerged under the brand name “Eversharp” back in 1978. For some reason that didn’t quite fire the imagination of the buying public and sales dwindled. Then, in a stroke of genius a member of the marketing team claimed to have the image of a Japanese chef come to him in his sleep. All that was needed now was a name and it wasn’t long before the name “Ginsu” was thrust upon the buying public. (The “chef” in the original commercials wasn’t actually a chef at all. He was a visiting exchange student studying at a nearby college.)
But Wait, There’s More!
How many of us can ever forget the following slogans that were used to pimp the now “Amazing Ginsu”? Who can forget the image of a hand crashing down on an innocent tomato in the form of a karate chop while the announcer reminds us that ”In Japan, the hand can be used as a knife…but it can’t cut a tomato!”
Or asking you how much you’d be willing to pay for a knife that cuts through cement blocks or nails made of steel? But don’t answer yet because….
In addition to the Amazing Ginsu, if you act now you could also receive a brand new set of Ginsu steak knives that were guaranteed to cut through the toughest cut of meat you could ever imagine.
Now how much would you be willing to pay?
Then just when a figure would come to mind, you’d be told that if you “Acted now on this limited offer”, you’d also receive such bonuses as a lifetime guaranty and that if you weren’t completely satisfied all you had to do was simply return the product and you would be issued a refund.
The folks behind the Amazing Ginsu were pioneers of sorts. Many commercials at the time either weren’t willing to or afraid of actually demonstrating their product in front of millions of viewers. Sure, BIC pens were blasted from cannons and Timex watches could “take a licking but kept on ticking” and the folks at Samsonite subjected their luggage to the rage of a crazed gorilla but the folks behind the Ginsu had elevated the game to a new level. In addition to subjecting their product to all sorts of abuse your average consumer wouldn’t dream of, they were among one of the first companies to offer their product via the use of a toll free number and through credit card purchases.
I don’t know if the Amazing Ginsu is still being hawked on television these days or if they have gone to pasture like many of their predecessors.
For good or bad, their legacy lives on in the myriad of products offered through what’s known as “direct response marketing” and probably laid the groundwork for such things as the Home Shopping Network and QVC.