November 23, 2019

Oh, no, Pumbaa. No. We’re going way back… to before the beginning.”

                                                                                                 –Timon in The Lion King

From Chapter 2 of Overdeliver, Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketingentitled “Original Source” (re-formatted and edited for this post):

Every lesson I learned throughout my career at Boardroom, and everything I’ve done since (including running high-end mastermind groups and consulting with companies to help them implement direct response principles in their marketing), has been based on original source material from the greatest marketers who ever lived.

Not reruns. Just re-applications.

My first book, The Advertising Solution,profiled six of those greatest marketers, and their fingerprints are all over this book too.

Believe it or not, all the marketing you’ve ever done is probably based on something they pioneered, even if you’ve never heard of them before.

When you recognize and understand the fundamentals of any field, you’re better equipped to innovate and break the rules of the particular game you’re playing.

(And according to Dan Sullivan, America’s premiere coach for entrepreneurs, “If you name the game, you own the game”).

Marketing is no different.

If you don’t know the fundamentals, you might accidentally break the rules and get lucky, but you can’t rely on getting lucky.

Building a business that will keep its customers for a lifetime requires much more than the occasional successful fluke.

And when you have a deep, intrinsic appreciation of the principles and strategies that were developed over the years by the titans of direct marketing, you get to stand on their shoulders.

Taking what they learned (and proved over and over again), you build on foundations they laid, and what you create will be much more solid because these principles are timeless. They are still 100 percent relevant to today’s marketplace (e.g. Breakthrough Advertising written in 1966).

This might be obvious to you, but just in case it’s not, having a deep understanding of the fundamentals of direct response marketing from the pioneers who first implemented them will enable you to achieve better results with any and all marketing programs you work on today and into the future.

You will be able to serve your customers in powerful, profitable ways without having to repeat the painful learning curves and costly errors that these entrepreneurs and marketers suffered before you.

Rosser Reeves, one of the greatest ad men who ever lived (he developed the idea of the unique selling proposition—USP–and coined the unforgettable M&Ms “melt in your mouth, not in your hand” slogan), wrote about why it’s so important to understand the fundamentals in the introduction to his landmark book Reality in Advertising:

This book attempts to formulate certain theories about advertising—many of them quite new, and all of them based on twenty years of the most intensive research.

Before the ink is dry, some man will sit down and write a campaign that ignores every word contained here. What is more, this campaign will work.

However, this does not invalidate this book.

The croupier at a roulette wheel knows that at some moment a player may violate all the rules of probability. If the wheel spins long enough, some number (say, thirteen) will come up twenty times in a row.

But roulette wheels, in the long run, do not lose money on exceptions, nor do advertising agencies or their clients, in the long run, make money on them. Agencies and clients, like actuaries, must invoke the laws of probability and determine (out of hundreds of campaigns) how they can make these laws work to their benefit.

As you will see, when the laws of probability are observed, it is possible to add a heavy percentage to every advertising dollar. Nor will this procedure rule out genius or fail to give genius full room to exercise its rich and golden talents.

Reality in Advertising was written in 1961, which makes Rosser Reeves one of those original sources of innovation and wisdom.

When The Advertising Solution was published, I did a long interview with marketing icon Perry Marshall, and unexpectedly, we got into the weeds on original source as a core concept, not just talking about the legends who came before us but about what they taught us for today.

While the six legends I profiled are considered the fathers of modern advertising, in reality they were all direct marketers (i.e., they understood the importance of measuring everything), even if they were trapped in the bodies of what we thought were general advertisers (those who only focus on image advertising).

Perry’s insights on Rosser Reeves, and how he thinks about learning from the best, are worth sharing here too, since Perry agrees that all marketers today owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who came before us:

[Reeves] was the first person to define the unique selling proposition [USP]. If you go read his book, it’s relatively short, but it has so many dense ideas and says so much in such a short space of time that you really need to know. . . . It’s like eating a bunch of pecan pie. You feel it’s a bit much; you can’t eat giant chunks of it; you need to absorb it.

This is not the way most people want to consume information, but if you want to be a master, you’ll seek out the original source and you’ll really be a student of that original guy, not a student of a student of a student of the guy.

To become a world-class marketer, to master the art and science of building businesses for a lifetime, you must first and foremost be a student—a student of human psychology and of the core principles of direct response marketing.

There are five key principles at play in direct response marketing:

1. Marketing is about psychology. What moves your market?

2. There’s nothing wrong with shortcuts. If someone else has already done the research, use it. Don’t waste time doing all the research yourself.

3. Use what’s already working. There is material for great copy and promotions everywhere, so keep your eyes open. But if something is already working, let it run. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

4. Swipe files are your secret weapon. Study control packages (winners from other marketers) to internalize the rules of powerful copy and for insight and inspiration. This is the closest thing you will get to a master’s degree in direct response.

5. That new thing might not be so new. Materials and techniques developed in the 1920s and the 1960s are still completely relevant and effective—and they provide the foundation for every technology and tactic we are using today.

Confession: I received a “one star review” on Amazon for Overdeliver from a reviewer criticizing chapter 2 because it repeated over and over again the importance of original source…which is accurate…and I fessed up to her (and apologized).

I was disappointed that she gave up reading after Chapter 2…and while the rest of the book might not be “5 stars” to everyone, I believe it was worth at least 3 stars if she continued. Oh well.

If I had to do over again, I would have been a bit less repetitive in this chapter…I got into a trap because I believe the message is so important.

And that’s not coming from “grandpa” telling all of the youngsters to “Get off of my lawn!”

 Better stated, my obsession with original source material is not to lecture people younger than me–and I am certainly not saying that marketing was “better in my day” (and “before the beginning”).

In fact I readily admit that it was not better then…but it was foundational.

Simply put I want you to all be better marketers and copywriters by going back to “where babies came from”  so we can all be better “adults” in the most spectacular time in history to be a direct response marketer.



About the author 

Brian Kurtz

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Title Goes Here

Get this Free E-Book

Use this bottom section to nudge your visitors.