Listen to Schwartz
When I first started writing about direct mail in 1992, I regularly turned to the books of Bob Stone, Herschell Gordon Lewis and Joan Throckmorton to further my understanding of this complex, but invigorating field. I also remember a couple of pocket-sized books put out by newsletter and book publisher Boardroom Inc. that became so invaluable to me that I took them home to ensure they wouldn't grow legs and disappear from my office. During one of my many household moves over the years, I lost one of the books; the one that remains on my bookshelf is "Benson on Lists," containing some of the best list-testing insights ever published.
Thanks to Boardroom's second reissue of the late Eugene Schwartz's "Breakthrough Advertising" ($95; Bottom Line Books; www.targetmarketingmag.com), I now have another book to carry homeand at 236 pages, this one's too big to misplace. One of the most famous direct marketing copywriters in the world, Schwartz was such a talent that the companies for whom he worked, notably Boardroom and Rodale, paid him top dollar and kept his name secret out of fear that competitors would try to lure him away.
And when you read his book, you'll understand why. The entire premise for this work is to help copywriters learn how to break free of their reliance on formulas so they can open their minds to originality and breakthrough ideas. He writes:
In a field in which the rules are constantly changingwhere the forces that determine the outcome are constantly shiftingwhere new problems are constantly being encountered every dayrules, formulas and principles simply will not work. They are too rigidtoo tightly bound to the past. They must be replaced by the only known method of dealing with the Constantly Newanalysis.
For all marketers who have ever tried to copy Martin Conroy's "Two Young Men" letter concept for their own product, and found that they did not immediately have a blockbuster control on their hands, Schwartz's words should hit home.
This is in-depth instruction on how to create advertisements, starting with how to get the headline right before you move on to the text that secures the response. It's a veritable copywriting course.
But Schwartz's insights are not just for copywriters. Marketers, salespeople, consultants and, yes, even editors at direct marketing publications, can learn a great deal from Schwartz on how to continually position their products for long-term success.
P.S. If you're interested in discussing any of the direct mail controls that Schwartz penned, feel free to give me a call at (215) 238-5437.