Stan Rapp

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

Last week, I had a dream — and in it, Karen Carpenter and I were friends. The following night, I had a similar dream — and this time it was Carly Simon. I literally went to bed the next night hoping for a Roberta Flack visitation.

Some recent and mildly frustrating interactions with young marketing colleagues started me wondering about the amazing mentors whose generosity and wisdom shaped my own career. What’s happened, I asked myself, to the time-honored practice of mentoring?

Many years ago, a giant USPS truck backed up to a house in Greenwich, Conn. and dumped 14,000 identical mailings onto the front lawn. The offer: membership in The Beginning Reader's Club—the Dr. Seuss books by mail. The beleaguered homeowner told the local newspaper he was very surprised, especially because he and his wife had no kids.

Why would BMW send me a $3 mailing with a barf bag as the centerpiece?
Peggy and I drive a 10-year-old used Jag. It works fine.
We have no intention of buying another car—ever.
So why would BMW send me this weird, grotesquely expensive mailing?

One of the revolutionary direct marketers and copywriters in the 1980s and 1990s was Joe Sugarman, who changed direct marketing by introducing the toll-free 800-number. What's more, Sugarman was the first to market a cordless telephone phone and a digital watch. If you traveled back then, your in-flight magazine was certain to have one or more page ads for Sugarman's goodies and high-tech gadgetry. They were immediately obvious with bold, catchy headlines and long copy that grabbed the reader by the throat and would not let go.

I was invited to a meeting of elite direct marketers at the Yale Club last week. So elite, only 24 people showed up. The title of the presentation: "Data Stewardship: Big Topic. Gigantic Challenge!" It was a session about how unfair the recent Steve Croft "60 Minutes" segment was to "Data-Driven Marketing."

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