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Joe Sugarman was the CEO of JS&A Group, Inc. and a renowned bestselling author. He was a luminary in the field of direct response marketing and copywriting. His innovative approaches and successful marketing strategies are showcased in his notable books, including Triggers, Success Forces, and The Adweek Copywriting Handbook.

He rose to fame with the creation of BluBlocker Sunglasses, which have sold over 20 million pairs. Joe was also recognized for pioneering the now-common practice of accepting credit card payments over toll-free telephone numbers.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [02:17] Joe Sugarman’s unexpected path to copywriting mastery
  • [07:26] How a mischievous act led to a military intelligence career
  • [11:22] Joe’s initiation into product sales and copywriting
  • [13:16] Mastering the art of persuasion in politics and ski lift sales
  • [17:11] The BluBlocker breakthrough: how Joe sold 300,000 pairs in one month
  • [22:38] Joe’s favorite psychological triggers and how he employed them
  • [27:23] The slippery slide technique: keeping readers hooked to the very end
  • [39:13] How Joe changed the direct marketing industry
  • [42:57] Joe’s most memorable headlines and their impact
  • [50:03] Joe’s hair growth product poised to make waves

In this episode…

Are you ready to unlock the secrets of direct response marketing from one of the industry’s most legendary figures? In this episode of Inspired Insider, Jeremy Weisz sits down with Joe Sugarman to explore his remarkable career and the invaluable lessons gleaned from his triumphs and missteps. How did a former military intelligence double agent during the Cold War become a pioneer in compelling communication and marketing strategy?

Listeners are in for a treat as Joe Sugarman shares the fascinating story behind the explosive success of BluBlocker Sunglasses, revealing the game-changing moment when toll-free marketing revolutionized consumer behavior. From there, the two delve into Joe’s favorite marketing campaigns, each demonstrating his unparalleled knack for capturing and retaining audience attention.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast with Dr. Jeremy Weisz, Joe Sugarman recounts the captivating narrative of how BluBlocker Sunglasses achieved remarkable success, shedding light on the pivotal role toll-free marketing could play in reshaping consumer habits. Gain insight into Joe’s most cherished marketing campaigns, which showcase his exceptional ability to engage and retain audience interest and his unforgettable impact on the marketing world.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “For every problem, there lies an opportunity so great that it dwarfs the problem.”
  • “I look at every problem as an opportunity.”
  • “The key to success is to duplicate yourself through copywriting.”
  • “The more often you fail, the closer you get to success.”
  • “My philosophy has always been to study every detail of a product; it’s in the nuances where the best marketing ideas hide.”

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Episode Transcript

Jeremy Weisz 0:02

In this interview, we talk with Joe Sugarman. He’s a legend in direct response marketing and copywriting. He’s the man behind BluBlocker Sunglasses. They’ve sold over 20 million pairs. He talks about his biggest failure, and it’s pretty epic. That’s a great story to listen to. Also he talks about some of the triggers that allow us to be better copywriters, that and much more coming up now.

Okay,all right, I’m gonna get started. Jeremy Weisz here I’m the founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders how they overcome big challenges in life and business. Today we have a legend, who I consider a friend and mentor, Joe Sugarman, anyone who doesn’t know Joe, he’s considered one of the legends of direct response marketing and copywriting. He’s the man behind BluBlocker Sunglasses that have sold over 20 million pairs.

And he’s also credited with introducing the concept of using toll free numbers to take credit cards over the phone at the time. That was unheard of. I’ve heard stories that I want to find out firsthand from you, Joe, where you regularly made 300,000 sales per month, and sometimes even 250,000 sales in one day. His books include Triggers, Success Forces, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, and several others. I personally, I mean, anyone who doesn’t have it. This is one of the best books of all time for copywriting, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook. You can see it’s like I page through it I read about once a year. Joe, thank you so much for being here.

Joe Sugarman 1:56

Well, so it’s my pleasure. And it’s been a while since we talked.

Jeremy Weisz 2:00

It has. And I’m excited to hear your big lessons, even mistakes you’ve learned in your journey. I like to include a fun fact first. And a fun fact about you is you were in the CIA. And you were actually a double agent in Germany. Tell us about that.

Joe Sugarman 2:17

Well, it’s a long story, how I got to Germany. But when I finally got there, I was assigned on several occasions to the CIA, and I worked for them part-time. And then after I got out of the military, I was in military intelligence and never wore a uniform, I was always in civilian clothes. And the military taught me how to speak German. I was fluent in German.

But I had gotten out of the Army, but I was still in Germany, I was still in Frankfurt, because I had things to wrap up. And one thing led to another and I became a double agent, and started working, the Russians thought I was working for them. And of course, I was communicating all of the information they were giving me to the CIA, and it turned out to be a valuable opportunity.

Jeremy Weisz 3:04

So you even use your copywriting skills to take warm showers. When you’re there, tell us about that.

Joe Sugarman 3:15

Okay. Well, I was in basic training. Actually, I was drafted, believe it or not, I had three, three and a half years of three and a half years of electrical engineering background. And I had three and a half years of being an ROTC. I was going to be a second lieutenant when I got into the army, but the army was in a rush to draft people and because they just put up the Berlin Wall drafted me. And so I went to basic training. Then, after basic training, it will give everybody a test. And I scored the highest on this test, I mean, figures, I knew all the military stuff, and I knew all electrical engineering, and I scored that was probably one of the highest and they called me out of the company of 2000 troops. And they sat me down just like you see in the movies, and they said, Mr. Sugarman just wants you to know that you had the highest score of all 2000 Troops, and that makes you eligible for military intelligence.

Which and we’re, we would send you to the spy school and after spy school, send you to some foreign country and teach you the language in that country. Are you interested? And I said, Yeah, very much. So there’s, well, you’re gonna have to put in an extra year to do that. And I thought about it and I said, you know, probably worth it. So they sent me to the spy School in Fort Holabird, Maryland. And if you can, it was like being in the Army. They had bunk beds and this huge room where on one side were sinks and mirrors where the guys would shave every morning. And on the other side were showers. And it was the middle of winter and there was a big fan and the sun. Due to the difference between the two, the fan was there to keep the mirrors clear and get rid of all the moisture.

Well, if you were taking a shower, it was brutal. I mean, I mean the wind blowing through, you wanted to get in and out real quick and it was very uncomfortable. So one day I got upset, you know, and I said, Hell with it. So I go over to the fan, I shut it off. Even the people’s mirrors, the troops’ mirrors are starting to fog up. Somebody goes over, turns it back on. Well, I did this for a couple of days, turned it off, and somebody turned it back on. So I said, You know what, I want to make up the sign. I want to come up with a sign so nobody touches that switch. So I went to an office supply store and got some stencils and stuff. And in the middle of the night, I got up and I made this military sounding sign. That said anybody touching the switch, turning it on or off will be subject to court martial, and will be dismissed from this school. And we’ll be subject to Part 407 of the Military Justice Act.

And I, in the middle of the night, I posted that next morning, I walk in, I turn on the fan, I switch it off, I step in the shower, I take the longest shower, you can imagine everybody’s mirrors are fogging up. And that was so funny to see this. So then the next day, I did the same thing, except I didn’t take that long shower. But I was and people are looking at me and other troops are looking at me and they’re thinking, Oh, this guy’s gonna get in real trouble. Anyway, I did this for three weeks, and I got away with it. Until I was called down to the commanding General’s office. And the commanding general says “Mr. Sugarman, I understand you’ve been violating Part 407 of the Military Justice Act. What do you say to yourself?” You know, and I was between a rock and a hard place.

But what do I do to tell the truth? Well, I always believe in telling the truth. So I said, I told him, I said, I told him exactly what I did. And halfway through my explanation, he’s starting to laugh. And then when I finished he was laughing. He says “Sugarman, we need more people like you, in the military. I’ve got this juicy assignment in Frankfurt, Germany, I’m going to send you there, they’re going to teach you the language, you’re going to be in a special, very high secret, top-secret deposition.” And, and that’s what happened. They sent me to Germany, I never wore a uniform again. And I had a very, very nice position.

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