Timeless Marketing Truth: How To Add Character To Your Marketing And Bring Your Message Alive

Making a character out of the advertiser brings the message alive. Maxwell Sackheim is most famous for inventing the Book-of-the-Month Club. But before that, he invented some dramatic, and dramatically successful, advertising.

One of his patented techniques was to make a character out of the advertiser, writing ads as if the clients themselves were actually talking. One Sackheim client was Frank E. Davis, “The Gloucester Fisherman”.  This is how Sackheim wrote for him:
“There is no use trying. I’ve tried and tried to tell people about my fish, but I wasn’t rigged out to be an ad writer and I can’t do it. I can close-haul a sail with the best of them. I know how to pick out the best fish of the catch… But I’ll never learn the knack of writing an ad that will tell people why my kind of fish—fresh caught, with the deep sea tang still in it—is lots better than the ordinary store kind.
“At least you can taste the difference.  So you won’t mind, will you, if I ship some of my fish direct to your home?  It won’t cost you anything unless you feel like keeping it. All I ask is that you try some of my fish at my expense and judge for yourself whether it isn’t exactly what you have always wanted.”
This copy sold tens of thousands of tubs of fish right across the country. The authentic character of the Gloucester Fisherman brought life, and customers, to the product.

You’re thinking, “Great then, but now? Come on.” Maybe you’ve heard of a couple multi-millionaires named Harry and David? Ever wonder how they got started? Years after Sackheim, a copywriter called G. Lynn Sumner wrote an ad for a pair of pear growers.  The ad set off with the headline: “Imagine Harry and Me Advertising Our Pears in Fortune!”
Here’s a snippet of Sumner’s copy: “Out here on the ranch we don’t pretend to know much about advertising, and maybe we’re foolish spending the price of a tractor for this space; but my brother and I got an idea the other night, and we believe you folks who read Fortune are the kind of folks who’d like to know about it. So here’s our story…”
Years later again, in the ‘70s, Frank Schulz took a Joe Sugarman seminar. Joe suggested the character formula. Frank wrote a headline:  “A Fluke of Nature.” He told of the accidental invention of the “ruby red” grapefruit, and about how picky they are in picking the fruit. The rest is marketing history.
One variation on the character gambit is the open letter. Norman Cousins resigned from The Saturday Review to launch his own World Review Magazine. Showing one heck of a lot of character, he put up $15,711 for three insertions in The New York Times. They were headed, “An Open Letter to the Readers of The New York Times.” He told them what was wrong with the journalism of the day and what they’d get from the World Review. That first round of advertising netted Cousins $54,923.00 in subscriptions.

Every viable enterprise has a character behind it somewhere. When you find it, then you know what’s unique about the company—and that’s at least halfway to great advertising!