October 15, 2023

In January of 2017, when I made a deal for the exclusive publishing rights to Breakthrough Advertising, Gene Schwartz’s timeless masterpiece on copywriting, marketing and human behavior (which was first published in 1966), I had no idea what was in store over these last 6 years.

I knew that the “industry” would be enthusiastic since the book was so rare and hard to find.

But I didn’t know how enthusiastic.

There were clues, however.

Read “Paying $1,025.78 for a book? Gladly!” for some of the many stories I’ve accumulated about the lengths (and dollars) folks would go to and spend to get their hands on the book when it was not readily available.

Thankfully those days of scarcity are over.

I made the deal to publish with Gene’s wife Barbara when I formed my new company, Titans Marketing.

The previous deal before that just added to the scarcity (while I was at Boardroom), working with mentors Gene and Marty Edelston.

We would print up 250 copies at a time to give away to friends and colleagues…we never sold copies, not knowing the global appetite for Gene’s work. And we only did that once or twice.

Since publishing the “Titans Marketing Edition,” we’ve sold over 15,000 copies in over 75 countries.

With every royalty check I send to Barbara, she marvels at Gene’s current and everlasting popularity…” he’s more popular today than during his lifetime” …she can hardly believe it.

And I’ve noticed younger copywriters and marketers—in their 20’s and 30’s—are hungry for Gene’s work as well.

All of this organically led us to create training for it (The Breakthrough Advertising Bootcamp…please check out the P.S.)…and more recently, creating a 500-page companion volume and study guide, Breakthrough Advertising Mastery.

In the preface of every version of Breakthrough Advertising…from the 1966 original…to the 2004 “Boardroom Edition” …to the 2017 “Titans Marketing Edition” …there is this quote from Gene, which has become a battle cry for copywriters and marketers around the world:

“…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.”

Applying a strategy like this can be used for good or evil…and Gene was as good as they come.

No need for any of us to be afraid. 🙂

He applied this principle to everything he did, creating maximum impact with exclusive solutions, always aiming to reach as many people as possible, with uniqueness, targeted copy and credibility.

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 it is now more accessible than ever before.

And I know that most of you already have a copy (or know about it), especially if you have been part of my online family for any length of time.

I honor my mentors regularly and Gene is at the top of that list.

Also, many of you have attended one of the previous four Breakthrough Advertising Bootcamps… and if you haven’t yet, check out this link to read more about it…and how you can join us for the fifth “BA Bootcamp,” which begins on November 7th.

Some of you have also bought the companion volume, Breakthrough Advertising Mastery…and you can read more about that here.

All of this to say…I hope you will get on board the “BA Train” in one way or another…and at least buy the book (if you don’t already have it) here.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about…or don’t want to buy anything…or want some free content…I have copied and pasted below the afterword to the “Titans Marketing Edition” of Breakthrough Advertising.

Now that I think about it, many of you who own the book probably never read it. 🙁

Who reads forewords and afterwords, right?

Gene’s introduction is still part of the book…as is Marty’s foreword…and this is my contribution to the book…and it served as a tribute to my friend and mentor, Gene Schwartz.

I hope you find it insightful, learning what made Gene tick…and made him so special:

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 F\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).

The lesson?

“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 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 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 them 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



P.S. On November 7th, we will be launching our fifth Breakthrough Advertising Bootcamp…four live calls with lessons, hot seats, discussions (and even a little homework) …with the purpose of applying the lessons of this special book to your business.

Click here to add your name to the alert list.

You will then be alerted before anyone else when we open up the coveted 60 seats (on Zoom).

Looking forward to seeing you on November 7th!

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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