Eugene Schwartz was a marketer and copywriter. His sales copy and letters generated hundreds of millions in sales, and he made enough money to amass a renowned collection of modern art.
Schwartz didn’t leave behind much “how-to” knowledge, but he did explain why most products are doomed WAY before they’re introduced. I’ll get to that after I share a few details from Schwartz’s remarkable solopreneur life.
From Montana to Madison Avenue
Schwartz was born on March 28, 1927, in Butte, Montana and studied at the University of Washington. In 1949 he moved to New York City to work for the advertising firm of Huber Hoge & Sons as a messenger boy. He became a junior copywriter before the end of the year, a copy chief in 1951, and president of his own million-dollar mail-order firm in 1954.
He sold tens of millions worth of almost every conceivable product, both in his own firms and as a consultant. (Rodale Press once paid him a commission of $54,000 for four hours of work.) He also took newsletter publisher Martin Edelston from a net worth of $3,500 to being worth more than $50 million.
He and his wife Barbara assembled one of the most famous collections of contemporary art in the world, and when Schwartz died on September 6, 1995, his obituary in the New York Times was titled, “Eugene Schwartz, 68, Modern-Art Collector, Dies.”
His book, “Breakthrough Advertising,” is a classic.
‘The Demand Has to Exist’
In 1993, Schwartz gave a lecture to Philips Publishing, in which he laid out his eight rules of great marketing. Below he explains the fifth rule of great marketing:
I find as a personal phenomenon advertising to be an extremely easy discipline. It can be very hard if you work at it too hard. It can be very easy if you flow along with it.
What are you doing when you market something? You are not creating demand for a product. If you think that you are creating demand for your product, you’ve doomed yourself to a lifetime of hard work and failure. You can’t create demand for anything because demand is too large for you to create. The demand has to be out there. The demand has to exist before you even walk into the picture.
Think of yourself as an atomic scientist. You find a tiny thing called the atom, which has got enormous, enormous, enormous stored-up, locked-in power, and you find that if you take two atoms and bind them together, you can release the power. That’s what you’re doing.
You’ve got a market out there that wants security in retirement. You’ve got a market out there that wants alternative healing outside of the pain and embarrassment inflicted upon them by the medical profession. But they want the authority of a doctor.
What you are doing is you are taking that demand from every one of those persons, individual people, private people who comprise that market. And you are simply turning it or focusing it or channeling it onto your product. That’s all! It’s so much easier.
If the demand isn’t there, no matter how great a copywriter you are, you are going to fail.
You cannot create demand. You can only channel demand. Demand is there. Demand is enormous. The bigger the demand, the better your ad is. You are getting in a boat and letting the stream carry you. Just don’t think that you can paddle up against the stream.”