“Learning is rooted in repetition and convexity, meaning that the reading of a single text twice is more profitable than reading two different things once.
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Lebanese-American essayist and scholar
The first time I read this quote and saw the word “profitable” I knew I needed to share it with you, my marketing and copywriting geniuses, under the umbrella of “repetition makes perfect…and profit” …which includes under it:
Practice makes perfect…trial and error make perfect…research makes perfect…and testing makes perfect.
I don’t think Mr. Taleb is talking about profitability like we talk about profitability in marketing…but there is profit everywhere (and I don’t mean just cash profit).
Whether we hear about profit from a prophet like him…or from an online marketer…or from an inventor or innovator of any kind…or someone who only works pro bono…repetition is a critical component to making a profit.
And since I’m repeating this blog post (with some additional insights) from last year, it’s repetition on top of repetition…always with a purpose.
Let me begin where I began last year, reminiscing about reruns from a long time ago…
When I was in college, The Odd Couple TV show (a classic starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall) was on twice a night at 7:00 and 11:00, with reruns of the 114 episodes that were produced from 1970 through 1975…and I couldn’t get enough.
In fact, many evenings, after dinner, I’d watch the 7:00 rerun, go to the library from 7:30 until 10:30, and return to my room for the 11:00 episode.
It never got old…I ended up memorizing at least 110 of the 114 episodes…and in the process I got into the habit of studying at the library “just enough but not more than was necessary” (an affliction that affects many college students then and now).
Years later I realized that the habit of repetition was nothing to scoff at…and despite The Odd Couple never being anything in my life but an entertaining binge (does anyone ever do that today? ☺), I believe the lesson was significant:
A lot of a great thing is better than a little of lots of mediocre things.
At least that’s how I’m spinning it.
First, so I am not embarrassed to tell you that “odd” story.
And second, to assert that repetition is the cornerstone of all education…leading to knowledge…and wisdom.
Note that the definition of “repetition” in this context does not refer to rote memorization… or simply regurgitating facts that have been drilled into your head multiple times.
It’s about repetition with a purpose…to embed into your brain anything and everything that is important to you…” news you can use” … whether in your personal life or business life.
Having fun facts at your fingertips you have learned through repetition, useful or mundane, to spit out at a moment’s notice, is a nice by-product of regular repetition…whether as icebreakers at a cocktail party…or when you decide to become a contestant on Jeopardy.
But what I’m referring to is getting to the root of eternal truths, fundamentals and core principles that are most meaningful to you…and related to what you believe you are on earth to do before you depart.
Purposeful repetition is the critical piece to get there.
And that I got to this epiphany by watching 114 episodes (multiple times) of a meaningless 70’s sitcom is shocking, isn’t it? 🙂
Here are some examples of meaningful (i.e., purposeful) repetition that I learned, mostly from others, and applied in my work:
- Copying successful ads: In the words of Gary Halbert: “Get yourself a collection of good ads and DM pieces and read them aloud and copy them in your own handwriting.” (And please read the P.S. for a way to apply this today in your own writing and marketing.)
- Selling Gene Schwartz’s masterpiece Breakthrough Advertising: On every book I ship, I attach a letter to the book with instructions on how to get the most out of it because it’s a dense read. I recommend that buyers read the first three chapters multiple times before reading the rest of the book…so they can train their “Gene Schwartz muscle” to think like Gene…and then the book will make much more sense…and be way more applicable too.
- Slicing the salami: While working at my wonderful company Boardroom, for over 30 years, we had an expression to describe the process of creating our “greatest hits books” (with content from our newsletters) …we called it “slicing the salami.” For example, an article about a diet plan for heart disease could appear in a general health book or in a broad-based consumer book…probably only read once by the reader of those respective books…but no harm/no foul if the reader read it twice in both books. And if they did read it twice the odds just doubled that they would take the advice to heart (pun intended) and execute on it.
- Keeping your best content in a “rotation”: When best selling author and expert marketer Brendon Burchard was in the habit of posting memes and quotes on social media that were meaningful to him and his audience (and he might be continuing this practice today), I remember him saying that he posts in a “rotation” and everything doesn’t have to be new all the time…but everything does have to be consistent with his vision…and the “greatest hits” get repeated often. (That’s not a direct quote, just my interpretation of what he told me.) And emails and social media posts that you send a second time that didn’t get opened or appear in a feed the first time you sent them, makes it new rather than a rerun for many anyway. Good content is a terrible thing to waste…and sharing it as a “one and done” is a mistake of the highest order.
- Getting to the core: I am aware that re-working core concepts in these blog posts for you every Sunday is full of repetition (sorry/not sorry) …but hopefully they are not “full of” something else. My goal is that you see it as repetition with conviction (and a purpose) …since they are my core beliefs based on 40 years in the marketing trenches. As I mentioned above, I also know you don’t open and read my posts every week (boo, hiss) …so there’s a shampoo-rinse-repeat mechanism in all of this (like what Brendon does) …for first time readers and repeaters. Like him, I try to do it with integrity and transparency (e.g., I told you THIS post was mostly created a year ago but there were some new spins on the core beliefs and concepts as well). How meta of me. 🙂
- The message and the messenger are both important: Whether you know the concepts already (from me or someone else), heard them but forgot (from me or someone else) –it happens to the best of us…or simply never heard them before…thank you for indulging me with my purposeful repetition.
I also think there might be a gene or chromosome for “purposeful repetition.”
My son did the same thing with Seinfeld reruns as I did with Odd Couple reruns…but somehow, I don’t recall in his case there was too much studying at the library (or anywhere else) in-between the early evening episode and the late evening episode.
He was also able to identify the full episode, with all the intricate and related side plots included, which always astonished me–simply by watching the first minute of each show (a very useful talent).
His “gene” was much more powerful than mine…it took me at least 5 minutes into each episode of The Odd Couple to identify the full episode (which had many fewer subplots).
I guess studying in the library is overrated.
P.S. Getting yourself a collection of good ads and DM pieces, reading them aloud, and then copying them in your own handwriting is not just a copywriting hack from Gary Halbert…it’s a mandatory right of passage if you really want to be good at the craft…and that’s the craft of both copywriting and marketing.
It’s how many master copywriters got started…and it’s also how many of them now teach copywriting today to a new generation.
But how do you define…and find…those “good ads and DM pieces?”
There are at least three ways:
- They need to be winners—and you need a vetting process for that (something I’ve done for you below…please read on).
- They should cover a wide variety of styles and formats from different writers and media. To find them takes time, effort and research.
- They should vary by category and offer—and if you are specializing in a particular category or offer type, start there (and that goes for copywriters and marketers alike).
I’m going to give you some shortcuts to finding many of these treasures because I have access to various collections of “good ads and DM pieces”—killer swipe files which should be part of your marketing library:
- One of the 11 bonuses for buying my book Overdeliver, (which is one more than 10—an homage to the movie Spinal Tap), is “Bonus #3” –what I call The Copywriter’s Toolkit, which is over 400 pages of the most spectacular ads ever written from 1900 through the present day.
This is only one of 11 bonuses. Wait till you see the rest. 🙂
- On the bonus page to my other book, The Advertising Solution, there is a swipe file with the classic work from the six legends who are profiled in the book: John Caples, Robert Collier, Gary Halbert (who will be extra proud if you copy some of his “good ads”), Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy and Gene Schwartz.
Yes…these are really good ads. 🙂
- If you want to spend a little more money—with writers you will learn so much from by going a mile deep with them (in terms of their eclectic styles and personalities)–I have the complete works of two such writers, Bill Jayme and Jim Rutz.
If you haven’t heard of them, you owe it to yourself to at least read about them at the links below; and if you have heard of them, you know how legendary their work is…and getting your hands on these treasured swipe files will be a gift that will keep on giving…as part of your marketing library…forever.
P.P.S. There’s another resource of “good ads” heading to the printer this week.
Breakthrough Advertising Mastery–previously labeled “The Breakthrough Advertising Study Guide”—will be over 500 pages with over 300 of those pages containing classic ads personally selected by Gene Schwartz to illustrate the principles he created in Breakthrough Advertising.
Earlier this year I talked about the launch of this project and we are now in the final stages, close to publication.
What does the publication of this one-of-a-kind volume it mean to you?
Lots of good, classic and meaningful ads are coming your way soon.
That is, this hardcover, 500+ page book, in full color, will have many ads worth copying…with all of the ads having a distinct lesson (within the context of Breakthrough Advertising) …whether you copy them or not.
Stay tuned. 🙂