The Great Schlitz Beer Rescue

How a Simple Idea Saved Schlitz Beer

Schlitz Beer was locked in a death struggle.

The brewery was mired in fifth place, and the competition was growing fiercer by the day. Breweries were pounding each other with more and more expensive ads. Bigger type, more pages. All shouting that their beer was THE PUREST!

When the water level rises like this, it’s the companies a few rungs down from the top that drown, and the makers of Schlitz sensed that they were in serious trouble.

Desperate to cut through the noise, they made a wise move. They brought in an outside expert, a successful advertiser known for his ability to make products fly off the shelves.

The ad man didn’t waste any time. He immediately asked for a tour of the brewery, and what he saw stunned him.

Plate-glass rooms full of filtered air, designed to cool the beer without contaminating it. The original mother yeast cell — developed by the brewery after 1,200 experiments — that all of the yeast in Schlitz beer descended from. Four-thousand-foot deep artesian wells drilled to where the water was purest.

After the tour, he turned to the brewers and asked, “Why on earth aren’t you telling anyone about this?”

“It’s nothing special,” the brewers said. “All the brewers do these things.”

That was true — but the public had no idea because none of the brewers talked about it in their advertising.

So the ad man rolled up his sleeves and wrote a series of ads describing the painstaking lengths the brewery went through to ensure the purity of its beer.

Did the campaign work?

Well, when the ads rolled out, demand for Schlitz Beer skyrocketed. And within months, Schlitz jumped from a mediocre fifth place to slugging it out for first.

All because an outsider saw what the brewers couldn’t.

For me, it’s pretty easy to hear a story like that and come down hard on the brewers. How could they be so blind?

But if I’m honest with myself, I can think of countless times where I’ve missed opportunities that were so obvious that you’d think an 8-year-old could see them.

This old saying sums it up: “It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.”

Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s deciding on your next new product or service, or writing an article or an ad to promote your business, or deciding which strategy or opportunity deserves your focus… don’t assume that you see everything.

It’s impossible to look at what you’re doing objectively. You will always have blind spots.

Sometimes it’s because you just really fall in love with an idea and forget to do a sanity check to find out what your customers think about it.

Other times, you’ve been working on something for so long that you lose perspective. Everything about it seems awful and you can’t stand to think about it anymore.

That’s why — no matter where you are in your business — one of the most valuable things you can do is get an outside perspective.

When you put fresh eyeballs on your business, “obvious” things that you’d never see on your own become visible.

In my business, many of my biggest breakthroughs came from master direct marketer Dan Kennedy, and the people I’ve met through his organization.

Dan has a knack for looking at a situation and zeroing in like a laser on the ONE thing that makes all the difference.

True masters can do that. They’ll give you a single sentence — short enough to fit on an index card — that’s worth tens of thousands of dollars to your business.

I’ve had this same experience from studying at the feet of masters whom I’ve never met.

Great copywriters like Robert Collier, John Caples, Eugene Schwartz, and even the genius behind the Schlitz Beer turnaround, the legendary Claude Hopkins.

These guys have more than a century of combined experience selling everything from trainloads of coal to spark plugs and memory aids. Any business problem you can think of, they’ve solved it a dozen times over.

Recently I discovered a tool that helps me look at my own writing through the eyes of Collier, Caples, Schwartz, and Hopkins.

It was created by a friend of mine, Richard Boureston. Richard is a copywriter and fellow student of direct marketing, and he’s spent more than 10 years studying these masters.

What he’s done is distill their 100+ years of marketing and copywriting wisdom down into a deck of 115 cards that you can hold in one hand — and review in just minutes.

Here’s how you use this tool…

When you’re sitting down at your keyboard, you spend a minute thinking about your audience and your product. Then you pick up the deck and start to flick through the cards, letting your eyes absorb the pithy wisdom of the advertising masters.

And then — BAM! Something clicks and you’re looking at your business from a whole new perspective.

This deck of cards is like masterminding with the greatest advertising minds in history.

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