Eugene (Gene) Schwartz, author of Breakthrough Advertising, had this to say in his preface to the 2004 edition (now out of print) which I had the privilege to publish with Marty Edelston at Boardroom:
“…this book is not about building better mousetraps. It is, however, about building larger mice, and then building terrifying fear of them in your customers. In other words, it is about helping to shape the largest and strongest market possible, and then intensifying that market’s reaction to its basic need or problem, and to the ‘exclusive’ solution you have to offer it.”
Of course, applying a strategy like this can be used for good or evil…and Gene was as good as they come.
He applied this principle to everything he did, creating maximum impact with exclusive solutions, always aiming to reach as many people as possible.
If you are a student of direct marketing (or any form of advertising for that matter), I don’t have to tell you how Breakthrough Advertising has influenced so many of us for a very long time; and if you have never heard of this treasure, you are in for a treat when you have a copy of your own (see the P.S. below).
Today I want to give you a sneak preview of the 2017 edition of Breakthrough Advertising by sharing my draft of a new Afterword.
This Afterword will give you additional insights into the world and mind of Gene Schwartz, one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived–who I was proud to call my friend.
Let me know what you think…it’s not final yet and I wanted my online family to see it first:
Afterword to the 2017 edition of Breakthrough Advertising
Human behavior hasn’t changed since 1966.
Actually, I could plug in any year before 1966 (1066?) and say the same thing.
And while many think this classic book is only about creative, copywriting and direct marketing, it is more importantly about human behavior…how we can predict it and how we need to be immersed in what it takes to understand why people do the things they do at the deepest level.
Gene said over and over, publicly and in private:
“The greatest mistake marketers make is trying to create demand”
And one of the most fascinating things you should know about Gene Schwartz (and so many other legends we consider the greatest copywriters of all time) is that he was never about trying to create mass desire; rather, he saw his job as channeling and directing mass desire.
He makes it sound so simple.
But when a man who could write copy, as well as anyone who has ever lived, lets us in on his secret to success, we must pay attention.
And it’s why this book might be the most important book ever written for anyone who markets any product or service in any medium.
It would have been a crime to change one word of the original manuscript that Gene penned in 1966…so you will be pleased to know I have not done that…and what you have here is the original, word-for-word version of Breakthrough Advertising, which Gene wrote in 1966.
I take the responsibility of being the shepherd of this sacred work very seriously.
Gene’s wife Barbara has entrusted me with making sure this book lives on forever…and congratulations that you now own a copy.
For this afterword in this new edition, I wanted to expand a bit about Gene, someone I was lucky enough to call a friend, mentor and business partner.
Gene playing the long game
First, let me build on what Marty Edelston (Founder of Boardroom Inc.) shared about this magnificent man in the Foreword regarding this “copy for names thing.”
Marty mentioned briefly the story of Gene getting paid in “names” (lists) for the copy he wrote for us at Boardroom (and other large direct marketers like Rodale).
“It’s not always about the money.”
Gene taught us that even in a world where the best copywriters could command the highest fees for writing promotions for their clients, it’s better to play the long game.
A blog post I wrote a couple of years ago details this further and gives you the essence of this remarkable man:
During the 1980’s, Gene wrote many of Boardroom’s most successful direct mail packages–and he also wrote some of the biggest winners for Rodale Books (publishers of more health books than anyone at that time).
And here’s the kicker: Boardroom and Rodale never paid him a dime for any of those landmark packages. Here’s how that came to pass…
Gene had his own company called “Instant Improvement” which published health books on many esoteric and eclectic topics which were sold with some of the most famous direct mail packages ever written.
Classic headlines included “How To Rub Your Stomach Away” and “The Tao of Sexology.”
Instant Improvement was a small but mighty company…and Gene got there because he understood that without being able to mail the best lists of other health book buyers, he didn’t have a business.
His house list was quite small while Boardroom and Rodale had the most responsive and largest lists o health book buyers in the country.
Since Boardroom and Rodale needed world-class copy and Instant Improvement needed world-class lists, these three direct marketing leaders comprised the most powerful group of allies since World War 2.
(Excuse the hyperbole…but it was a huge alliance).
Gene exchanged copy for names…even though he could have commanded the highest fees of any copywriter at that time. This amazing relationship led to millions of books sold by all three companies and also a much more efficient way to get the best health information distributed to as many people as possible.
Boardroom and Rodale were able to mail millions of names using Gene Schwartz controls for years…even after his death…and Gene was able to mail millions of Boardroom and Rodale names “on exchange” at an acceptable return on investment for his much smaller books.
But there was nothing small about Gene Schwartz…I never met a man who played larger. He traded his talent for the asset he needed most at the time…and money was the by-product, not the starting point.
Note: He made hundreds of thousands of dollars this way (if not millions), far more than he would have made simply charging a fee for his copy.
Understanding how to be a true partner with those you work with leads to exponential growth and true business building–which beats a series of “revenue events” by a mile.
Gene the sociologist
I never met anyone who read more than Gene Schwartz.
And Gene knew it wasn’t enough to simply study your client’s products or your own products; and it wasn’t enough to only study the audience you are trying to reach with those products.
Those things are critical to success but he went way beyond studying the project or task at hand.
What separated Gene from mortal men was that he understood modern culture and society at its core…by reading everything…scholarly journals, business books, fiction and non-fiction…everything.
And his favorite publication was The National Enquirer.
I think this explains why he was such a student of the human race.
In his own words:
“You cannot lose touch with the people of this country no matter how successful or potent you are; if you don’t spend at least two hours a week finding out where your market is today, you are finished!”
Gene spent way more than “two hours week” on this…and knowing him like I did, he was looking for where his market was “today” but he was also exploring where other markets might be tomorrow.
Gene the world-class art collector
When Gene passed away in 1995, the headline in his obituary read:
Eugene Schwartz, 68, Modern-Art Collector, Dies
There is one short paragraph about his copywriting and marketing prowess while the rest of the piece goes into great detail about his art collecting, which he did with the love of his life Barbara.
Barbara is still considered one of the leading art experts and consultants in the world.
Barbara and Gene were known for bringing the best new talent to the forefront…and I loved going to Gene’s house for regular lunches for more than just the marketing and copywriting lessons.
Each time I visited, his apartment had a new “exhibit”—that is, Barbara and Gene changed the art regularly with new pieces from both new and established artists.
I also loved the fact that Marty Edelston became a client of Barbara’s, and with her guidance (Barbara became an art advisor in 1988), he created an incredible collection of modern art and photography of his own.
The way Marty decorated our offices at Boardroom with his “Schwartz collection” was a tribute to his genius (every piece of art for him had a “lesson in life”); and it was also a tribute to Barbara and Gene’s genius too.
It is interesting to note as well that Barbara was also an excellent interior designer and helped design our offices at Boardroom.
You can tell the way Marty talks about this part of his relationship with Barbara and Gene in the foreword how much they meant to him, way beyond their business relationship.
What is the lesson we can learn from Gene (and Barbara) as they dominated the art world while Gene was also one of the most prolific writers and marketers in the world at the same time?
It’s that nothing replaces passion.
You can’t be a great marketer or copywriter for the long haul without being passionate about what you are selling or writing about…eventually the market will smell a lack of commitment which isn’t good for anyone.
Gene knew this so well…he poured his heart and soul into everything he did.
Here is how he described why art was so powerful for him:
“The arts not only imbue our sense of sight, balance, movement, touch, and hearing, they also lift our logical minds—the traditional focus of modern education—into the reaches of possibility, invention and genius.”
Gene Schwartz’s genius will live forever…and not just for copywriters, marketers, and artists…but for passionate humans everywhere.
I hope you will read the gift you hold in your hands right now many times over…I know it’s dense so you need to read it slowly too.
Having gone through it myself probably a dozen times throughout my career, I get new insights every time I read it.
I’m due for another read now after being reminded of what this incredible man meant to so many people and industries throughout his life.
I have many more great quotes from Gene but I think this one sums up his overall philosophy best:
“The creativity is in your market and in your product and all you are doing is joining the two together”
He not only makes it sound so simple, he also makes it sound so easy too.
And while we know it’s not that easy, reading and studying this book will be a game changer for you…I guarantee it…and it will pave the way for you to live into your own genius with passion.
It just doesn’t get any better than that.
-Brian Kurtz, January 2017