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Jeremy Weisz 7:26

And I guess that interaction could have gone either way. Right. And I guess it went in the right direction for you, Joe, so where do you get that? Do you have that natural sense for copywriting and persuasion? Where does that come from?

Joe Sugarman 7:39

Well, I think looking at every problem is an opportunity. And I look at every problem as an opportunity, so great that it dwarfs the problem. So whenever I have a problem, I think well, how could I solve this? What are some of the different ways I could solve these problems, and army experiences is one example. But there are many others throughout my whole life. One of the other things too, is I’ve always believed I was going to be a success. And it was this constant belief that got me through a lot of failures. Because I thought to myself, “well, it’s just a temporary thing. I’ll be successful. I just have to persevere.”

Jeremy Weisz 8:18

Because there’s some things that happened when you were growing up that allowed you to have that mindset.

Joe Sugarman 8:26

No, it was just I just, I just really believed I would be a success. And we just, you know, my cousin is a psychiatrist. And one time he was hired by the San Diego Chargers to determine what it took to be a superstar. And he studied the San Diego Chargers, studied all the football teams and he came up with it. He wrote a book about it, but he came up with the conclusion that there were two types of superstars, one that had very big egos, like remember Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears were real big egos, and two that are very religious, such as Tebow, for example.

So one of the two and when you think about it, really both groups had very strong beliefs. One believed that one person believed in himself and the other person believed in a higher power. And so I had this belief that I was going to be a success. So whatever happened to me I would always think well, it’s just temporary or it’s it’s it’s the best thing that could happen actually. Because I’ll I’m learning from it and I’ll be very successful in the long run.

Jeremy Weisz 9:36

Anyway, how do you get started and where do you first get started in your copywriting career?

Joe Sugarman 9:41

First get started. Actually I was in grammar school. I was probably about fourth what actually — no, I shouldn’t say that. I when I was in first grade, believe this or not, they held a city wide. I lived in Chicago. They held a city wide contest for the slogan. And my slogan. Everybody participated in all the schools, the high schools, the grammar schools, and I was only in second grade. My submission won an honorable mention.

And there were only a few honorable mentions given. And I was awarded that. So it was kind of the first indication that I, well, maybe I have something going here. But then in fifth grade, the teacher gave everybody an assignment. And the assignment was to write something and then read it to the class. And so write, read , and write a composition. So I wrote a very funny one making fun of the teacher. When I got up in front of the class and read it, the students just cracked up. The teacher didn’t like it, by the way, and the teacher was always pushing the envelope.

But the class loved it. And I saw what a great thrill it was to be able to do that. And so when I got to high school, I worked in the school newspaper, I was a photographer for the paper, I was also writing columns. I published my own magazine while I was in high school. So I was always writing. I was always writing. It was just and I’ve always found that the more you write, the better you get. It’s one of these things where you put in like 10,000 hours writing and you’re going to write a good writer.

Jeremy Weisz 11:22

After military days, what when did you first start selling products?

Joe Sugarman 11:31

When I first started selling products that actually happened while I was in Germany, I met some people who were in the ski lift business and wanted to sell ski lifts. And they approached me and I got a hold of a couple good friends of mine and had them come out to Austria where these ski lifts were built. And I started, I became a ski lift salesman, I guess I didn’t, my job was to create the advertising. And my partner was to do the installation and the selling. And I did a pretty good job of advertising because a couple other ski resorts said, we’re not interested in a ski lift right now.

But we would really like to have you write or give us some good advertising direction. And so I had about three or four of those ski resort accounts, and realized I had an ad agency. No. So I started a little agency where I was handling these ski resorts. And then there was a politician that asked me if I could help him. It was a friend of mine. And I did and he won. And as a consequence of that, I started doing political ads for the Democratic Party in the Chicago area. And I had a wonderful track record, 85% of my candidates won. But about 50% of those eventually went to jail. But that’s Chicago fall.

Jeremy Weisz 13:06

Well, so what were some of the things you used in your copy at the time with, with politics, and with the ski lift that you used that worked really well?

Joe Sugarman 13:16

Well, to get them to get people involved, to have people look forward to receiving your message, we would send out, for example, a folder that unfolded and said, expand and expand your ski lift operation and real clever little bits like that. But I don’t know if I can answer them really fairly. But it was just this unique. Off the wall. The more off the wall, the better. But I had experiences. That taught me a lot even when I was in high school I could share with you. I went to Oak Park River Forest High School, you’re familiar with that. And I had a chemistry class. And the person sitting next to me or standing next to me in chemistry class. We would have lab work one day a week and then the other four days a week we would have a classroom.

So in the lab work, the guy that was sitting next to me or standing next to me kept spilling chemicals on my table. Got me some of my clothes, and I got really upset with him. And I said, you jerk I said what the hell you doing right now you get to get the roses Oh, are you looking you want to fight? And I looked at him and he’s like, I was 150 pounds. He was about 100 pounds. And I said yeah, okay, I’ll, I’ll fight. So he says, he says okay, yeah, where is it? How about Greenfield park that’s right across from my home and so Okay. And what time I said four o’clock. He says, Okay, I’ll be there at four o’clock. Sure enough, four o’clock at night. By the way, I called all my “Hey, friends, so you gotta come out and watch this fight.”

This is going to be kind of a quick thing, but I want you to witness it when I went home, I got dressed all in white. And the reason for it is if I punch the guy and I get and he starts bleeding i You can see it, you know, very contrast. But if I had something where I was wearing black, you wouldn’t be able to see it. So I have white everything white shoes, white pants white shirt. Anyway, the day arrives, or the time arrives, and I go out there. And then sure enough, I see all my friends and I see him and then they’re all waiting for me. And before we started, I wanted to wave to my friends and acknowledge them for coming and thank them, so I waved to them. And then I turned around to face my opponent. And before I could even lift my hand, he punched me in the face. And I start bleeding all over my white clothes. I mean, I couldn’t stop the blood from running.

I couldn’t stop bleeding. I raced home, fortunately, just a few yards down the street. I was worried about my mom, because if she saw me she’d die. I mean, she’d be so sorry to see what happened to me. So when I walked in, I said, Mom, please just take me to the hospital. I think I need some stitches. Don’t get excited. I’m perfectly okay. And she took one look at me and started screaming through the hospital. Stitch stitch me up. I’m okay. Everything’s fine. Now, two years later, almost to the day. This jerk, this idiot, married my sister. So when you think about it, it took two years, but I finally got even with them. Oh my god. Yeah, by the way, they’ve been married 55 years. And so this is a true story. And one of the things I learned from that was never be overconfident. You never ever know. You never know. So I was never cautious. I was always looking at both sides of the issues. So if, you know, what’s the worst case scenario, what’s the best-case scenario? What do I have to look out for?

Jeremy Weisz 17:06

How did you get started with BluBlockers?

Joe Sugarman 17:11

Well, again, my philosophy has always for every problem, there lies an opportunity, so great that it dwarfs the problem. And I was doing an eight page insert in the United Airlines magazine. And I was doing this insert and one of the pages of the eight pages. So it was devoted to a product that no longer existed because the company went out of business. And here I was stuck. And I had to fill a full page ad. Well, I remember being in California a couple of weeks earlier, and a friend of mine handed me a pair of sunglasses that I put on and I was amazed at the clarity and how relaxed my eyes were and the fact that I wasn’t squinting. And I said that I said I got it, I gotta get these sunglasses. He says “no, no, you don’t want to, they were made for NASA for the astronauts.”

And they are just too expensive. They’re like $300-$400 apiece. And the company that was making them was going out of business. And I said, Well, you know, I can probably get it made in the Far East. This is Yeah, but I don’t even worry. Think about it. So when I got back and realized I was missing that page, I had a problem. So I called up my friend and I said, Hey, look, I really need a product right now, send it over in a rush. I’ll source the product, I’ll find a place to get them. I’ve got two months to do that. But I’ve got a deadline to get this insert finished within the next few days. So he sent me a pair of sunglasses. I came up with the name blue block, or I photographed them, wrote the ad so quickly, and sent it to the publication along with the seven other ads. And then I sat back and I sourced a couple thousand pairs in Korea.

That’s my first source, South Korea by the way. And then the ad ran and I’ll never forget I was given the results in a kind of a printout of a computer printout. And I was gonna study that on a flight I was taking to Detroit. So I’m sitting on the airplane and I’m looking at this this report and it shows that I sold out of all 2,000 pairs of sunglasses and then all the rest of them I had maybe sold 50, 20, 30, 40 — and this was just in the very beginning of the set and I realized I had a huge hit on my hands. And the rest is history. I advertised for a year in every magazine I can get my hands on. I spent like a million dollars just advertising. And I sold like — if you can remember this figure of 100,000 pairs during a period of about six eight months and then I heard about infomercials where that were allowed that President Reagan had announced that you could have half-hour commercials that were deregulating the federal agency responsible for overseeing this.

And so I said, Well, I’m going to try. Everybody thought I was nuts. By the way, they said, How could you sell a pair of sunglasses on TV? People try them on and want to look through them. And of course, we patterned our show, and people don’t realize that an infomercial is really entertainment. And so we said, I’m going to create a very entertaining show that helps sell the product. And I remember I said, we sold 100,000 pairs over six, eight months, we sold 100,000 pairs that first month that we had our commercial, we ran infomercials for four or five years. And during that time, our sales just continually increased and got to a point where we were selling 300,000 per month, and doing very, very well. And I was keeping it very confidential. Because there were a lot of government people out there, there were competitors. And you got to sometimes keep your success kind of quiet, which I did.

Jeremy Weisz 21:21

Anyway, it worked, what wouldn’t? What did you do in those infomercials that you felt at the time was working so well?

Joe Sugarman 21:30

Well, what, what you do is, again, you provide entertainment, so I was providing, I figured a four, I wanted to figure out a format that this product could fit into and I came up with Candid Camera. If you remember back in the days Candid Camera was where they stopped people and they did something strange. And the person reacted kind of funny.

And it was kind of an entertaining show. And so I created a candid camera where I’d walk up to somebody and hand him a pair of sunglasses, they put them on and they go wow, whoa, wow, this is different, you know, we got a lot of those. And some of them were very entertaining. And as a consequence, people loved the show, they saw it as entertaining. And, of course it generated an enormous amount of sales.

Jeremy Weisz 22:22

Yeah, yeah. So I know you, you know, you write the book Triggers. And you wrote the book Triggers. And it’s really good. What have you incorporated? And what are some of the specific triggers you use? In your copy?

Joe Sugarman 22:38

Okay, well, I wrote a book called Triggers. And in the book, I talk about 30 psychological triggers that help you. Its chairs help you sell your product to the consumer, how you help them exchange their hard earned money for your product or service. And, in fact, I have the hook that you showed before, this is The Adweek Copywriting Manual. It has all the triggers in there. And it’s all about copywriting. And so your question was?

Jeremy Weisz 23:17

What specific triggers do you use? Or how do you use the specific triggers in your copy?

Joe Sugarman 23:23

Well, I found a couple that are very powerful. They’re all very important. But I had one for example. It’s called satisfaction conviction. And what it really means is if you offer somebody 30 days on trial, that’s normal. But if you tell somebody to look at using this for a year, if you’re not happy anytime within that year, return it and get all your money back. That goes way beyond just the trial period. That’s a satisfying conviction. I am so convinced that this product is so good for you. And I am willing to make an offer that is so incredible.

And we have I have written 1,000-word ads, and taken well, 1,000-word ads and change like one little sentence at the end of that ad, offering a satisfaction, conviction and sales just exploded. So I realized that was really important. Another one is curiosity. You’ve got to make every part of your ad. Interesting enough so that they’ll want to read the next part. For example, they look at the headline, and they say, Oh wow, I gotta read a sub headline and read the sub headline and they see the pictures under the captions of some of the pictures and then they just get into it. So curiosity, you want to get him to read that first sentence. So I’ve made a lot of mistakes too. That’s how I discovered all these triggers. But those are probably the most important couple that I found.

But creating an environment, for example, is one trigger if you create another trigger would be storytelling. People love stories. They love stories they don’t, the facts are okay, but they just love to retell their stories and storytelling is great, I didn’t realize how often I use storytelling to start my head. One example was we did a commercial for or an ad for a thermostat. And I started off the ad, saying what a stupid looking case it had used old technology. It was the stupidest product ever seen. But then something came up that really impressed me.

And I followed that. And here’s why I think it was the most, most incredible product you could ever imagine. Well, you start reading that and you gotta you got to hear the how, what am I doing? What’s this guy doing? And he’s knocking it, you know? So those are a couple of the triggers. And I have 30 of them in The Adweek Copywriting Manual. And boy, I’ll tell you that our handbook, it’s The Adweek Copywriting Handbook. And that’s like on Amazon, I think it’s like $15-$20 or something. It’s very inexpensive, but I guarantee you that anybody who gets that book and reads it will change their lives.

Jeremy Weisz 26:36

I agree. Yeah, I can absolutely agree.

Joe Sugarman 26:37

The most powerful thing that you as an entrepreneur or anybody as an entrepreneur can do, man or woman, youngster old stuff doesn’t matter is being able to communicate through your copywriting. Because then you reach millions of people. The key to success is to duplicate yourself. And you do that by simply writing a copy that you can disseminate to millions of people.

Jeremy Weisz 27:11

Yeah, you’ve mastered the art of storytelling. If someone’s, you know, thinking, Well, how do I become a better storyteller? What advice do you give them?

Joe Sugarman 27:23

Well, keep in mind curiosity. Because when you start, like, I might start an ad, the story I’m about to tell you may seem incredible, but it’s the absolute truth. Well, you kind of booked, you know, you’re you want to find out the rest of it.

Jeremy Weisz 27:50

So it’s just again, the question, actually, in terms of the storytelling, what advice would you have? I guess what you’re saying is to follow some of those triggers. And that will kind of help formulate a story around some of those specific triggers, because that will keep people’s curiosity and, and keep them interested.

Joe Sugarman 28:05

Exactly. What you want to do is create that slippery slide. We call it the slippery sir, I call it a slippery slide, where you start reading and you cannot stop until you finish the ad. And I’ve had people do that and write to me and say, Look, I am not interested in buying your products. I just want you to know you are wasting my time. Every time I see an ad in The Wall Street Journal or in Fortune or whatever. I read it because I’m so compelled to read it and you’ve wasted so much of my I mean, I’ve gotten letters like that, believe it or not. That’s a high compliment. Oh, really? Kind of indirect. But yeah, it’s a good one.

Jeremy Weisz 28:44

So what are some of the — obviously you’ve had a lot of successes, what are some of the mistakes or failures along the way?

Joe Sugarman 28:51

Well, you always have failures, but I never consider them failures, I consider them learning experiences. I’m about to publish a new book, it’s called The Seven Forces of Success. The seven forces of success and failure is one of the success forces. The more often you fail, the closer you get to success. We’re all like you were all given a, let’s say a bucket of oysters. I like this analogy. We’re all given a bucket of oysters. And in one of those oysters is a pearl.

And you know that so you start opening up the oysters and you realize it’s not easy because it scratches you, it hurts you and so a lot of people just give up. But if you keep going that pearl might be the last, might be the last in the last oyster or it might be in the second to last you never know. You just keep digging and you keep doing what you think you’re supposed to be doing and eventually you’ll be successful.

Jeremy Weisz 29:48

Yeah, so what was the time for you that you had to keep digging? It wasn’t it wasn’t in that first easter.

Joe Sugarman 29:55

Oh, there was time. Here’s where I add after even after the military, where I would be running teen clubs or, well, a good example is my Batman credit card.

Jeremy Weisz 30:15

What happened to that?

Joe Sugarman 30:16

Oh, this is a story. This credit card is 47 years old. And it came out in 1966. And the story behind it is a good story about perseverance. As well as well, anyway, long story short is in 1966, Batman came out on television, and everything that had Batman on sold like crazy, I mean, Batman T-shirts, Batman this feminine and the same year and it became a fad. By the way, in the same year, another fed hit. And that was it. All the banks, all the financial institutions would issue credit cards, or what they called plastic money to their customers. So if you had a checking account or a savings account, or any kind of an account at a bank, you would get this plastic money and they were encouraging people to go out and use it and people were using it and it became really big.

So that has become a fad. And I said, I thought to myself, You know what, Batman’s a fad, credit cards a fad. I’m going to present and I’m gonna see if I can get a license to sell a Batman credit card. So I called up the Licensing Corporation of America who are issuing the licenses. I talked to this guy and Marie Marie explained the concept to me, says Joe, that’s ingenious to New York and present it to our President. I’m sure we will want to talk to you about this. And so I flew to New York. And I mean, Batman appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. I mean, this was huge, bad. I went into the office, I presented my idea, I had graphics, I had everything all prepared. And anyway, the president of National periodical club or excuse me of licensing Corporation of America stood up and said Mr. Sugarman, we have been presented with hundreds of ideas for Batman products.

As a matter of fact, the other day, we licensed Batman peanut butter. He says, This is the most ingenious idea, because what I explained was we take the cards and sell them for $1 apiece with everybody’s name and boss. But what we do is we create a mailing list of a million names and then we send out a catalog listing all of the Batman products very smartly. Yeah. They flipped out. Oh, terrific. I said, Well, what do I do next? And this is when he says, well, we want to become partners with you. Yeah, I’m just, I mean, Batman partnered with Joe Sugarman, this young guy in the advertising, so anyway, I raced back home. I got a credit card printer to give me a gift and head of everybody else. I explained the situation I got radio spots made up. I had every I even had a Batman. What do you call it a Batman? I added a few ancillary Batman things too, as well, like a certificate.

A warranty if you lose your Batman card, you know, you won’t get into trouble and this spoofing kind of thing. And then I had everything I had done within like 10 days, they were starting to deliver these Batman credit cards. That’s quite a bit. Yeah, it was they rushed through because they realized it was a fad. And so I am sitting here delivering the credit cards to my office because I didn’t want him to go to the embosser until I got the license. And I kept calling in the sky. Murray wouldn’t return my call. And finally after about two or three days of calling, I fly out there, wait in the waiting room. And finally this guy Murray comes out and he says “Joe, I don’t know how to tell you this. But the President of National periodical publications, the man that owns the rights to Batman, we just license the man that owns the rights doesn’t like your idea and will not issue a license.” I said I own, you know, hundreds of tickets.

Anyway, long story short, I said look at let me meet with the guy so I met with them that afternoon they set up an appointment. Give you an idea what kind of guy he was as I’m walking in. He buzzes his secretary on the intercom he says Murray gives me a cigar. Murray walks in at the other end of his desk as he opens the box, takes out a cigar, unwraps it, puts it in his mouth and lights up so this the guy I’m going to be dealing with has good luck. So I talked to him and I told him the whole story and I told him I have every penny of just invested in this and if he could just Give me enough, give me one city or one town that I can sell it in, just just to earn back with the money that I’ve spent. And he said, he finished kidding. And I said, “Yeah, I’m finished.” He says, “Well, I just want you to know, I’ve made $60 million off this Batman thing. I don’t like your idea.”

“And so as far as I’m concerned, you’re not going to do it. Because if you do, I’m going to sue your ass now you can get out of here.” But don’t believe it, I realized I was going to make a million dollars and I was going to be set for life. It was another thing to realize I was flat broke and owed people a lot of money. And so what I did was I went back and I talked to all my creditors and I sat out every month, I’ll send you a check. Sometimes it won’t be big. It’ll be small. But eventually I’ll repay you. And after a couple of years, I did. And then I called, again, the licensing for things. Maybe they changed their mind. They didn’t. Every year I would finally call up in 1978. They were coming out with a movie called Superman. And I call to check to see if there’s a chance of getting a license. And they said, Yep, there’s a good chance because we’re coming out with this movie. We’re promoting all of our superheroes. So I’ll get back to the guy.

He says “yes, you got it. We’re going to issue you a license.” Finally, anyway, 12 years had passed. And so when I came up with these promotions, it bombed. Nobody was interested in getting a Batman credit card. The time expired, really. So everything was kind of cool until the year 2000. I still had all these Batman crud, I still had a quarter million Batman really holy cow. So. So that was the year 2000. I was giving a seminar, a guy named Dan Kennedy, you probably sure heard of him. He was at my seminar. He was speaking at my seminar and he walked up to me and he said, Joe, remember that Batman credit card? And I said, Yeah, I remember that. He says, Well, you gave it to me one long time ago. I gave it to a good friend of mine. A good friend of mine gave it to his son. His son put it on eBay, and sold it for $400.

Whoa. So I took out my calculator. And I only had eight digits. I needed one that was bigger. So I went into my office and got one that was bigger. I realized I had $100 million worth of Batman credit cards sitting in the story. Anyway, 46 years ago, I still had pretty close to a quarter of a million. I pass these beaches that I get, you know, to various people. But anyway, that’s the Batman story. And that is something I took, well, 46 years ago, and up to probably the biggest one of the biggest disappointments in my life, because I was so close to making that million dime back then a million dollars was a lot of money. But it just didn’t work. It didn’t happen. But you know, I said to myself, okay, there’ll be other opportunities.

Jeremy Weisz 38:07

How did you do? I mean, you capitalize pretty quickly on that. How did you get the funds to even purchase that amount? Like if someone right now wants to start something? What advice would you have for them? What did you do at the time to actually generate the money to even purchase that many cards?

Joe Sugarman 38:25

Well, keep in mind, Batman was so big. And everybody saw the potential of this and they were willing to risk their position. I mean, I had a mailing house that was going to provide credit for me. I had an embossing house that was going to the bank. I had a bank that said, hey, we’ll take the dollar that comes in. We’ll process it on magnetic tape and send it to the embosser. That’s how we do our credit cards. I mean, I had everybody cooperating. Yeah, yeah. But I did. I paid everybody back. It took a couple of years, but I paid everybody back. And, again, timing was more important. Anything else? Unfortunately, my timing was off.

Jeremy Weisz 39:11

But that’s serious. Perseverance is becoming electable.

Joe Sugarman 39:13

You bet. At the back of the card has humorous terms and conditions. That’s right, I’ll read these to you. It says it is valid only for firms entering main credit cards and authorized by the bad bank credit card company. loss or theft of this card must be reported immediately, immediately to the commissioner’s office. Bills payable upon receipt of delinquent accounts result in loss of credit privileges and a big spanking. Not for payment of income tax. And then there’s the back where you sign it. And I have a lot of fun just going to a restaurant and they say, “What credit cards do you accept and they say oh, we accept them all. Okay, so I put the card in upside down and they walk away and you can always see them stop, guard and then interpret.

Jeremy Weisz 40:05

It’s a lot of fun. I don’t quite know what to do with it. How did it work? When did you first come up with the idea to take orders over the phone? Because you pretty much started that industry?

Joe Sugarman 40:19

Yeah. Yeah. See at the time. At the time, they had toll free numbers, of course. And you were not allowed to take a credit card order over the telephone, because you needed to be valid. You needed a signature from the purchaser. So I would get calls when we were sitting at that particular time, I think it was ‘73. We were getting calls from people that would say, I need to get this caffeine, I’m leaving on a trip, please, could you send it off today, I’ll pay the freight charges, whatever it costs, and just sign my name to the charge slip. So I did. And I did this for about six months and never got ripped off. And I helped a lot of people that way.

And I said, gee whiz, this has got to be a really good method. So I hired some order takers, I got more toll free lines, and I put very small coupons on our ads, which credit card buyers call toll free. We were deluged, we broke even before noon, on an ad that was just an average ad. And I said, Oh my god, this is incredible. And I kept doing it. And then finally got a call from I think it was Bell systems. And it was the Marketing Manager for Bell systems. And he says, “Mr. Sugarman we know what you’ve been doing as far as credit card order taking over.” And I said “oh boy,” I said, “Okay, this is well, we’ve also been tracking your success and seeing how successful you’ve been, we’ve decided to authorize and allow credit card orders to be taken over the phone.”

“And we’d like to take your story and feature it in a full page ad in The Wall Street Journal.” And sure enough, that’s what they did. And it turned the whole direct marketing industry upside down, catalogs proliferated, call centers opened up, fulfillment houses opened up, I mean, it just created a whole genre of spin offs as a result of that. And that’s probably the thing that I’m most proud of actually, believe it or not, because it did have such a positive effect on the industry. And we had about a year jump, everybody was kind of hesitant to do this, you know, we had about a year jump, and it turned out to be very successful.

Jeremy Weisz 42:50

I’ve always wanted to ask you this, too. What are some of your favorite headlines of all time?

Joe Sugarman 42:57

My favorite headlines were when I started a company called The Consumers’ Hero. And the idea was with a friend who would get all of these used products back from major department stores, because people would return them. And so his job was to take off the brand name, polish it up and then sell it at a really cheap price. So I said, Well, let me start a company, let’s start a company together, you supply the products, I’ll supply the marketing.

And my headline for the ad was hot. Word is hot. In the sub headline was something along the lines of we have this hot merchandise that, you know, we were interested in liquid, you know, kind of kind of like it was illegal, right? And then, of course, you’d read the ad and you’d find out that it’s not illegal to join a club. But that ad just drew lots of people because they’re just like you’re. Yeah, you’re looking through a magazine and you see that headline. And then everything in the ad made you think that we were selling stolen merchandise until you got near the end.

Jeremy Weisz 44:14

That’s a great one.

Joe Sugarman 44:16

So that was then the one we did for our thermostat was the headline was magic, Baloney, magic, Baloney, magic Baloney, of course and then got into the fact that yeah, the products were kind of the product was not magic. It was called Magic stat. And anyway, a very interesting story about that product. We promoted it for three years and it actually became a brand name. And we did so well with it.

The company that sold us the product was bought out by Honeywell. When I got it, I got a call from the owner of the company. He says, Joe, I want to thank you for all that effort. Just want you to know, Honeywell bought our company for $20 million. Thank you very much for all your help and nice and I’m left with nothing. I said, you know, from now on, I’m going to do a product. I’m going to do one where I own the name. And that’s how BluBlocker that’s one of the ways BluBlocker happened.

Jeremy Weisz 45:27

So, Joe, obviously you’re a pioneer? Who are some of your mentors, who do you get advice from?

Joe Sugarman 45:36

That’s, that’s really funny because I used to read the old Well, when I know a few situations where I was put in a selling situation. And what I did was I read all of the books on selling and marketing everything that was available at the time. And so although I can’t point to a specific mentor, my mentorship encompassed studying a lot of books I read a lot . I was becoming an expert. I was becoming an expert on selling and marketing and led itself, of course, to copywriting.

Jeremy Weisz 46:16

Who are some of those? Could you remember any of those people who you were studying?

Joe Sugarman 46:20

Oh, the names elude me right?

Jeremy Weisz 46:25

I know, we’re talking 50 years or so.

Joe Sugarman 46:29

But yeah, well, I remember there was one. Wheeler was his name, he wrote a number of sales books. And the book, I remember one book in particular called Dangerous Selling. And the concept there was, he reached a point, the customer is definitely not going to buy your product. So here’s what you do, here’s some of your options of what you can do. To change the situation, you might find it to be dangerous. It’s just gutsy is basically what it was. So that was Wheeler who wrote that.

Jeremy Weisz 47:06

What about lately, anyone that you recommend people follow for advice or instruction?

Joe Sugarman 47:18

Not really, I think. I think John Carlton is a very good writer, a very, very smart guy. Gary, what’s his name? A few other very good writers that are around, some have passed away. But there are a few that are still around.

Jeremy Weisz 47:41

So what would you say? And people who are sitting now and they just have writer’s block? What’s your routine when you’re sitting down to write a great copy?

Joe Sugarman 47:50

Well, first of all, you become an expert on the product, become an absolute expert. We were presented with a digital watch. I asked every question I could think of when I went to the factory. And they explained that they sealed the certain module with a laser. And so I call it the laser being a digital watch. In other words, the more you get into a product, the more detail you get into the more you become an expert, more ideas will pop out. Second thing is to not worry if you’re having a rough time coming up with an idea, just put it aside. Because your brain, believe it or not, is working 24/7. And you’re taking a shower and all of a sudden boom, the idea pops up. So you shouldn’t be affected by writer’s block. I don’t believe it.

Jeremy Weisz 48:43

What else do you do when you really want to dig deep? And obviously, you’ve written a lot of ads in your day. What else do you do? When you’re really looking at the copy and honing in? You just do it in one draft now or do you have to kind of come back to it?

Joe Sugarman 48:58

Well, it’s really interesting. What I typically do is I just write. I don’t care about grammar or punctuation or anything I just write. And then it’s in the editing process where you go back and you kind of simplify things and take out words that you don’t need and all that kind of stuff. Just get it down on paper. There have been a few times when I came up with an ad. And I didn’t have to change a word; it just flowed right out. Joe Carbo is a good example of somebody when he wrote the lazy man’s way to riches. That was a famous book back then. It just happened. It just came right out. Other times, it doesn’t happen that way. And you have to really just struggle with it. So it varies, you know?

Jeremy Weisz 49:50

So I have one last question for you. I really appreciate your time by the way. I want to hear what people say, where they can find out more about you. What are you working on now that you’re most excited about?

Joe Sugarman 50:03

Well, I’m in the biotech business right now. We have a hair growth product that grows hair and my wife will love you. Yeah. Well, both men and women, and we’re going through clinical studies right now. And that thing could be huge. Again, it could be another BluBlocker and the biotech company also has other products. But right now, the big one that we’re focused on is the hair product. BluBlocker is still in business for 27 years.

We have a wonderful mailing list. We have a lot of fans. BluBlockers appeared in the movie Back to the knockbacks. Well, we weren’t Back to the Future to what BluBlockers have been in the movie, The Hangover worn by the baby as well as Zach Galifianakis. We’ve had some really interesting exposure with rock groups. And Nikki Sixx, and not the name rings a bell, but he’s a big endorser of BluBlockers. And Nikki Sixx, I’m sorry. And yeah, we have silver running very strong BluBlocker.

Jeremy Weisz 51:19

So where can people find out about hair growth? My wife will probably buy a case for me.

Joe Sugarman 51:24

We’re not quite ready yet, but we will be in about three or four months. Okay. Yeah. And it’s from our study so far. It really is just a fabulous product.

Jeremy Weisz 51:37

So my last question for you is, and I have a good story about when I was actually in Maui, and I got to meet with you and go up to the front of the hotel. And I said, Do you know how to get here? And they look, they take one look and they go “How do you know Joe Sugarman?” So you must be known by everyone in Maui. I think my question is, what’s this? What do you think the headline should be for your interview? Interview?

Joe Sugarman 52:20

That’s a good one. I’d have to. I’ll have to incubate on that. But that’s funny. Bring it up. That’s yeah, you want to be really interested in how to make a million dollars in mail order, you know, or you figure it.

Jeremy Weisz 52:35

I figure I have the legend on I might as well ask him.

Joe Sugarman 52:40

That’s good. That’s good thinking.

Jeremy Weisz 52:42

Joe, I really appreciate your time. Everyone should wear what site they should go to to check out more about you and what you’re what you’re up to?

Joe Sugarman 52:50

Now? It’s a good question. We’re working on the site now. It’ll be called And we’ll have a lot of information about me right now. There’s somebody that’s there’s a lot of people trying to imitate me. So you know, with the internet and all this kind of stuff, but that would be a good one. Joe? there. It’s always an interesting site for people. If you want to get The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, or any of my other books that are available, you can go to They also have it on the Kindle. So yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of places, you just go on the internet and type in my name.

Jeremy Weisz 53:41

Yeah, you’re all over the place. And you can’t hide now. Joe, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. It’s a true honor to have you on.

Joe Sugarman 53:46

Well, it’s an honor to be on and I appreciate everything that you’re doing. You’re a chiropractor, who’s gone into a lot of other things and are scientists and was a chiropractor as well. So keep on cracking those balls.

Jeremy Weisz 54:00

Thank you. Thank you.

Joe Sugarman 54:02

Okay, thank you.