The bad news: I hit age 80 in August. The good news: 80 is the new 79.
Since this is the Target Marketer of the Year issue, let’s reflect on the great marketers of all time. Luckily, I had some grand mentors who pounded the rules into my head and talked me back from the edge.
Here are the mentors I wish I had. To this day I continue to read their work and marvel how their marketing philosophy, smarts and rules of the road apply directly to the data-mania environment of today.
Claude C. Hopkins (1866-1932)
Author of “Scientific Advertising” and “My Life in Advertising” (both free online), many of Hopkins’ words are hard-wired into my DNA. A sampling:
“The right offer should be so attractive only a lunatic would say no.”
“Cheapness is not a strong appeal. Americans are extravagant. They want bargains, but not cheapness. They want to feel that they can afford to eat and have and wear the best. Treat them as though they could not and they resent your attitude.”
John Caples (1900-1990)
Creative director of BBDO, author of “Making Ads Pay” and “Tested Advertising Methods,” and creator of the great “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano” ad.
“What good is all the painstaking work on copy if the headline isn’t right? If the headline doesn’t stop people, the copy might as well be written in Greek.”
“Avoid ‘hard-to-grasp’ headlines that require thought and are not clear at first glance.”
“If you have news, such as a new product or a new use for an old product, be sure to get that news into your headline in a big way.”
Maxwell Sackheim (1890-1982)
Co-founder of Book-of-the-Month Club, author of “Billion Dollar Marketing: Concept and Applications” and wrote the most successful space ad in history: “Do You Make These Mistakes in English?”
“The most important order you get from a customer is the second order.”
“Make it easier to say yes than say no.”
“Give the reader a chance to make a deal with you — not tomorrow or next week, but RIGHT AWAY.”
David Ogilvy (1911-1999)
My opinion: the greatest marketer of the 20th century. Author of “Ogilvy on Advertising” and “Confessions of an Advertising Man.” He invented the Man in the Hathaway shirt (with an eye patch) and the bearded Commander Whitehead, spokesman for Schweppes tonic water.
“The wickedest of all sins is to run an advertisement without a headline.”
“Unless your campaign is built around a great idea, it will flop.”
“You cannot bore people into buying.”
“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her!”
“You should try to charm the consumer into buying your product. This doesn’t mean that your advertisements should be cute or comic. People don’t buy from clowns.”
Richard V. (Dick) Benson (1922-1996)
Author of “Secrets of Successful Direct Mail,” co-founder of American Heritage, founder of Benson-Stagg agency and the Benson Organization, entrepreneur, and consultant par excellence.
“A special discount to customers — as opposed to outsiders — will increase response by more than the discount.”
“FREE is a magic word.”
“Letters should look and feel like letters.”
“A premium is a bribe to say ‘Yes’ now.”
“Think of alternate media — co-ops and FSIs — as short-copy media.”
“Tokens or stickers always improve results.”
“A follow-up mailing dropped two weeks after the first mailing will pull 50 percent of the original response.”
Lester Wunderman (b. 1920)
Author of “Being Direct,” founder of the world’s largest direct marketing agency that bears his name, and the first to identify, name and define “direct marketing.”
“I got the sense that advertising ought to be totally accountable. If people were going to spend money on it, they ought to know what effect the expense was having.”
“What we have today are two-way technologies. We’re in the death-knell of one-way conversations and the birth of the dialog system of marketing. The secret of the future is to listen to the customer, not to talk to him.”
“Advertising has always been capable of eliciting a response — but only in the nature of direct marketing do we find the potential for responsiveness.”
Note: After 23 years with Target Marketing, this is my final Famous Last Words column. Thank you for reading me. I would love to keep in touch with you: I’m at email@example.com and 215-627-9103 rings on my desk.