Article by Alan Rosenspan

A few months ago, I wrote an article for Direct Marketing entitled “The Greatest Marketer on Earth!”

No, it wasn’t autobiographical – but thanks for asking.

It was about P.T. Barnum, and I received a number of enthusiastic e-mails about it, including one from Joe Vitale.

Mr. Vitale, the author of several terrific books on marketing, also happened to write a book on Barnum. His e-mail to me was as follows:

“I loved your article on Barnum. But there are a few misleading statements that I’d like to clear up for you and your readers:

1. Barnum did not invent the circus.

What Barnum did was build on the popularity of the circus, clean it up so it was morally attractive to men, women, and children, and, of course, market the daylights out of it with grander ads and bigger attractions

Barnum did not write all his own copy. He used – among others — Richard “Toby” Hamilton, a popular press agent of the late 1800s.

Hamilton once said, “Suppose a grocer should advertise fine, fresh codfish and his rival across the street advertised the largest, sweetest, absolutely the best codfish ever caught, with scales as large as quarters and meat whiter than snow—the finest yielded by the Atlantic Ocean. Which grocer do you think will sell the most codfish?”

2. Barnum did not do everything himself.

He hired many people to promote his enterprises. When he promoted Jenny Lind, the famed Swedish soprano, he hired twenty-six reporters to feed the press news stories about her talents, her arrival, and her character.

3. Barnum indeed created a sign that said “This way to the Egress.”

He did not hang in at a circus, but at his famous Barnum’s American Museum. Crowds in the museum, located in the heart of New York City, often kept new people from getting through the six-story building. Barnum hung the sign. People went out the door under it, down the steps, and found themselves in the street. It was all part of the fun.

I wasn’t upset at Joe’s corrections. It was kind of him to write. But what did bother me was the title of his book, because it was so much better than the title of my article.

He called it, “There’s a Customer Born Every Minute,” and I enjoyed reading it. But he also sent me another book, which I wanted to share with you.

It’s “The Seven Lost Secrets of Success.” And the subtitle is “How the Million Dollar Ideas of America’s Forgotten Genius – Bruce Barton – Can Help You and Your Business Become a Roaring Success Today!”

Joe Vitale is obviously a very talented copywriter.

I’ll tell you more about Bruce and Joe in a moment, but I want to share with you the #1 Secret, and show you how it applies to direct marketing.

“The Juice of the Fountain of Youth”

The first and most important secret is to “Reveal the business nobody knows.” It means educating people about what your company or your product really does, and the benefits it provides.

But not just the little benefits – the big picture benefits. As Barton said, “Find some way to translate your story into terms of human life and the reader’s self-interest.”

For example, Vitale describes when Bruce Barton gave a talk to the American Petroleum Institute. He told them that they weren’t selling gasoline at all.

“My friends, it is the juice of the fountain of eternal youth that you are selling. It is health. It is comfort. It is success. And you have sold it as a bad smelling liquid at so many cents a gallon.”

He goes on to describe the life of one of their customers. He tells a story about Jacob, who’s poor immigrant parents had no gas and had to live in a dingy neighborhood under the shadow of ugly smoke stacks. Their lives were miserable.

“Not so with Jacob,” said Barton, “He works in the smoke of the city, to be sure, but he lives in the suburbs and has his own garden. His children are healthier; they go to better schools. On Sunday, he packs up a picnic lunch and bundles the family into the car and has a glorious day in the woods or at the beach.”

“And all this is made possible by a dollar’s worth of gasoline!”

Of course, today that would probably be $10. worth of gasoline, but you can see the point.

The Story of the Three Bricklayers

Three bricklayers are working on a project in New York City. Each one was stopped and asked what he was doing.

“I’m laying bricks,” the first man replied, and went back to his rather dull and repetitive job.

“I’m putting up a wall,” the second man said, which sounded a little more interesting.

“What am I doing?” asked the third man. He paused and glanced up at the sky with an inspired look in his eyes, and answered solemnly, “I’m building a great cathedral.”

Chances are, there’s a dramatic story in your product, and how it benefits people. But you may be too close to it to see it clearly. Or perhaps you take it for granted.

But if you could take a step back – you might be able to see it with a different perspective.

A few years ago, we presented a campaign for Uniroyal, where we focused not on the tires, not on the car, but on the passengers – your family. Our line was “You’ve got a lot riding on your Uniroyals.”

Today, that positioning is used very successfully by Michelin, which uses a little baby inside a tire.

So how do you take a step back?

Here are three suggestions:

1. Look at the biggest possible picture.

What are you really selling? Is it software, or a better, faster way to do your job? Is it life insurance, or is it perfect peace of mind?

Always keep in mind the old marketing example that when people buy a drill, they don’t need a drill. They need a hole.

2. Keep asking “And that means?.”

You need to get to the ultimate benefit, which is almost always the most important.

For example, if you’re selling mints, the obvious benefit is clean, fresh breath. But is that the ultimate benefit? Do people want clean, fresh breath simply for it’s own sake?

Maybe, but here the ultimate benefit might be self-confidence. You’ll never have to worry about offending other people.

3. What would happen if it didn’t exist?

A great way to get to the ultimate benefit might be to pretend your product doesn’t exist. What would people have to do instead?

For example, if there were no such thing as life insurance – working people might have to scrimp and save their entire lives, and do without a lot of the luxuries of life, just to make sure that if something happened to them – their family would be protected.

What are the other six secrets?

Here, according to Joe Vitale, are Bruce Barton’s other great secrets. His book explains them in great detail and can be ordered at

1. Use a God to Lead Them

Can you establish yourself as an expert in your field?

2. Speak in Parables

What are your stories? Who has bought from you and prospered and changed?

3. Dare Them to Travel the Upward Path

How can you challenge your customers without insulting them? Think of the Marines.

4. The One Element Missing

Do you sincerely believe in what you are doing and selling? Sincerity is key.

5. Give Yourself Away

What are you giving to your clients? To the world?

6. Sharpen the Knife

Are you polishing your writing, your ads, until they are perfect?

Are you polishing yourself?

The Bruce Barton Nobody Knows

As Joe Vitale’s book reveals, Bruce Barton was one of the founders of modern advertising.

He was the second “B” in the giant agency BBDO (Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne) and created some very famous advertising campaigns. His slogan for the Salvation Army was a classic — “A man is down, but he’s never out.”

Barton was an enormously successful businessman, a Congressman, a motivational speaker, and a writer with a number of best-selling books on business, ethics and religion. Magazines called him “The Prophet of Advertising” and “The modern philosopher for millions.”

He was one of the first advertising people to understand the customer’s point of view. He said that the job of advertising and marketing was to “become the buyer’s assistant.”

In a speech to the Advertising Association in San Francisco, Barton quoted the last verse of “Mary had a Little Lamb.” He said it illustrated one of the most important principles of the advertising business.

“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”

The eager children cry, “Because Mary loves the lamb, you know”

The teacher did reply

Barton then thumped his hand down on the podium and said,

“It’s about time we quit trying to shear these sheep – and start loving them a little bit!”

This was 25 years before David Ogilvy said, ‘The consumer is not a moron. He or she is your spouse.”

The Joe Vitale You May Not Know

Since receiving his e-mail and reading his books, I have become a great fan of Joe Vitale.

If you haven’t heard of him, Vitale is an independent marketing consultant based in Houston, Texas. His other books include, “CyberWriting: How to Promote Your Product or Service OnLine,” and “The AMA Complete Guide to Small Business Advertising.”

Vitale calls his website “The Copywriting Profit Center” ( and offers some valuable articles for direct marketers. These include: “The 10 Laws for Writing Letters that Get Results,” which I highly recommend.

Joe’s writing is not only informative – it’s inspirational. In fact, he sounds like Bruce Barton. In one of his articles, he ends with:

“I am sharing this with you in the hope that it sets your own heart on fire, awakens something in your soul, and urges you to go for –and get — your own dreams.”

Alan Rosenspan — no relation to Joe Vitale — creates award-winning and highly successful direct marketing and advertising campaigns for dozens of different companies. Please call him at 617-559-0999. You can also visit for over 30 informative articles.

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