If you have not seen the movie Coco, it is a must watch.
On the surface you might think it’s just another animated Pixar film for kids…but don’t be fooled.
This is one of the most important films I have seen in a very long time–and those of you who have read previous posts about my favorite films know that I am at least a little serious about movies.
To add credibility to my recommendation, I hope many of you noticed my crowning achievement of picking all the winners correctly for the major awards (and a couple of minor ones too) from Hollywood’s Oscars ceremony in February (see the P.S. in “Don’t go it alone”).
So I think I have at least a little street cred here, no?
Why is Coco such an important film?
Because at its core, it covers the most important issues for those of us who are still above ground.
From a review I found online:
The film’s main theme, loving and supporting your family, and remembering those you’ve lost, comes through in every scene
The movie centers on a specific tradition in Mexican culture, Dia de Muertos (The Day of the Dead).
According to Wikipedia, Dia de Muertos, a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, is:
“A multi-day holiday focusing on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.”
The film is profound in its simplicity and it is way more inspiring than it is sad…despite being about honoring the dead.
The main themes of family and remembrance hit home for me as I completed my new book, Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing.
In the dedication to my wife and kids I wrote:
“No one can do anything in life without a loving and supportive family.”
And on the issue of remembrance, I share a lot in the book about my journey through all sorts of marketing wars which were not won on my own (even when I was able to claim victory).
The story would be incomplete if I did not honor the greats of direct marketing who I stand on the shoulders of.
Therefore the importance of family and remembering those we’ve lost is not lost on me…nor should it be lost on you.
In particular, Coco asserts that when we die we are not really “dead” as long as we are thought about and referred to often by those we leave behind.
When I wrote “The O.G. direct marketing”about Gordon Grossman a few weeks ago, a forgotten legend (who is still alive!), I realized that in the spirit of Coco I need to keep telling you about all the amazing marketers you might have missed out on who are rarely talked about anymore.
If you missed knowing about them, I will assume it’s based on when you were born, not because you are reluctant to learn from them.
Another “Original Gangster of direct marketing” is Richard “Dick” Benson…probably the smartest man who ever lived when it came to the art and science of direct mail.
I talk about him quite a bit in Overdeliver since along with Gordon Grossman and Richard Viguerie, they gave me a foundation that allows me to say today that “paying postage made me a better marketer” (which is the title of Chapter 3).
One of the things I talk about at length in the book is Benson’s “most important calculation” which every direct marketer needs to make—what he calls “The Bogey”—and that section is a must read in Overdeliver.
But instead of excerpting something from my book about Benson and The Bogey (I need to create some suspense for the release!), I found the afterword I wrote when my previous company Boardroom re-published his classic book, Secrets of Successful Direct Mail.
Here is a picture of the hard cover edition, which is no longer in circulation and becoming increasingly rare:
NOTE: No need to pay up for the book on Amazon or eBay though.
You can download a free PDF of the entire manuscript of this classic as one of the 11 bonuses at www.OverdeliverBook.com when you pre-order my new book.
And Gordon Grossman’s Confessions of a Direct Mail Guy, also not in circulation and hard-to-find, is one of the bonuses as a PDF as well.
Here is what I wrote about Benson 15 years ago to whet your appetite:
If you were looking for “warm and fuzzy” in a direct marketing consultant, Dick Benson was not your man.
But if you wanted a consultant who had “seen it all and done it all,” Dick Benson was the only consultant you’d ever need.
Among those of us who worked closely with Dick throughout their careers, there is unanimous agreement that no one else who saw so much…did so much…or shared so much.
Dick Benson has left a rich legacy through his writings, speeches, and teaching.
Aside from all of the people Dick personally trained who became some of our best direct marketers, he authored the book you are holding…which many people (myself included) believe to be the best book ever written on direct mail.
I used to buy 50 copies at a time and keep them on hand to give to any person starting out in the industry and to everyone I interviewed for a job.
I told them Secrets of Successful Direct Mail is essential reading.
When the book went out of print, I felt a void in my direct marketing library…and I felt personally responsible for being unable to share this book with the next generation of direct marketers.
It was time to get it back in circulation.
And it is now time to remind our industry of Dick Benson’s contributions.
Dick’s influence on our company, Boardroom Inc., has been enormous.
He saved us from disaster on numerous occasions and made us more fiscally responsible than we ever could have been without him.
As the primary consultant throughout our history, he deserves much of the credit for Boardroom’s success, longevity and solid reputation.
Thanks in large part to Dick’s influence, our direct mail has been successful and (judging from how many have copied it or written about it) highly innovative, and always considered state-of-the-art.
When Dick ran his own company, he had the largest subscription newsletter in the country twice-first with Contest Newsletter and then with The University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter.
The fact that Boardroom has also had the largest circulation newsletter at one time as well (Bottom Line/Personal) is testimony to his great counsel and total unselfishness in helping others to achieve their goals, even when they competed with his own enterprises.
He knew better than anyone that in direct marketing, survival meant cooperation and that coexistence took precedence over competition.
[2019 note: Dick also knew that we would all be using each other’s lists to promote and all boats rise when everyone’s list is larger.]
Dick’s support of our industry was unparalleled: His pledge of $1 million through life insurance to the Direct Marketing Education Foundation and his contribution of all the proceeds from his book, Secrets of Successful Direct Mail, speak to his commitment to direct marketing education.
He gave his time, which is demonstrated by the dozens of speeches, articles and free advice he regularly provided through the Direct Marketing Association and to hundreds of leading direct marketing companies.
He was the best mentor any young direct marketer could ever have.
I regret that Dick was not alive when he was inducted into the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame-something he really wanted and often talked about in his later years.
Recognition by his peers was something Dick cherished most, and I hope that bringing back Secrets of Successful Direct Mail will reenergize Dick Benson’s legacy.
Dick was “famous” for never saying goodbye on the phone.
When you called him for advice, you knew you’d better write it down and be ready to take it to your superiors before saying goodbye, because when he felt you were finished you’d hear a click of the phone. Many people interpreted that as Dick being unfriendly, or even a bit rude.
But those of us who knew him well knew that this was certainly not the case.
He was a “just-the-facts” kind of guy. The pleasantries came during personal interactions with him, usually over a fine meal.
He often called himself “Timid Timothy.” While “timid” is not how I’d describe Dick (he always spoke his mind), his friends knew him as a warm and endearing man.
And while he was warm and endearing, he was also extraordinarily opinionated…and he earned that right based on his track record…but he would be the first to admit his mistakes.
He was not afraid to backtrack if he was proven wrong too. He always said, “You’ve got to believe your numbers because that’s all you’ve got.”
I remember him saying to me once, “Self-mailers don’t work, but given your product line, demographics, and need to tell a compelling story with long copy, I think you should test a self-mailer.”
Opinionated and stubborn geniuses are also the best direct marketers.
The fact that Dick never said goodbye on the phone is symbolic of the fact that for many of us he will…well… never say goodbye.
I find myself quoting him almost every day as I continue in this neat little business called direct mail. [2019 note: And that hasn’t changed as I moved into marketing online.]
Hopefully, now that you are lucky enough to have a copy of his classic book, you will be able to incorporate Dick Benson’s wisdom into your body of knowledge.
I feel privileged to have received much of that wisdom first hand …and equally privileged to share as much as I can with as many direct marketers as possible.
My plan is to offer this book everywhere direct response marketers need sage advice and counsel.
And, if you ever visit with me, you’ll receive a second copy of this brilliant book, so you, too, can pass on Dick Benson’s wisdom.
Executive Vice President Boardroom Inc.
True to my word in 2004, you can all have the book right now in PDF form at www.OverdeliverBook.com. It’s “Bonus #10” of 11.
I had no idea when I wrote that afterword that it would get so much easier to share Dick’s wisdom with so many people in 2019.
Digital can be a beautiful thing (although I still prefer hard cover books).
You’ll also be able to access wisdom from many other amazing direct marketers on the site, past and present, who we must never forget, whether they are still alive or no longer with us.
When I celebrate “Dia de Muertos” later this year (which I will do every year after seeing Coco), I am inviting to my dinner party Dick Benson, Fred Catona, Jim Rutz, Gene Schwartz, Bill Jayme, Rodney Friedman, Lee Epstein, Adolph Auerbacher, Scott Haines, Audri and Jim Lanford, Bob Stone, Mel Martin (and many others).
Now that’s a helluva band in rock and roll heaven…or in this case, marketing heaven.
I suggest you make a guest list right now for your own “Dia de Muertos gathering.”
This is not a depressing activity.
Those who you honor (who you have lost) will really appreciate it.
Why am I so sure of that?
Just watch Coco.
P.S. Two of my honored guests at my next Dia de Muertos party will be Bill Jayme and Gene Schwartz as mentioned above.
Gene is well represented in the bonuses at www.OverdeliverBook.com as well although his two classic books (both once rare and hard to find) are available exclusively from Titans Marketing…in a partnership I have with Gene’s wife Barbara.
Sorry I couldn’t give those to you for free…but they are worth every penny you will pay for them.
People are not just remembering Gene…they have made him more popular today than ever before.
Barbara is astounded and grateful…and I am too.
We both often say that Gene is smiling down on us and is astounded as well.
And check out Bonus #5 of 11 at www.OverdeliverBook.com to see a video of Gene Schwartz smiling for yourself.
If you don’t have these books in your marketing library, your library is not complete.
As far as Bill Jayme goes, my guess is that he would not only want to come to my dinner party but he would also like to choose the menu and the wine pairings…he was quite a connoisseur of food and beverage…and of popular culture too.
That’s what made him one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived.
And he left all of his work available for us to study and emulate.
P.P.S. And did I say that you should watch Coco?