The Only Marketing Advice Gary Bencivenga Says He May Give on His Deathbed

“If I were on my deathbed about to wheeze my last breath,” says Gary, “and you asked me to

sum up in a single sentence the most important marketing secret I could bequeath to

you before I kick the bucket (or bedpan), here is what I would whisper in your ear,

hopefully without giving you anything contagious.

It’s a 9-word sentence I first read in the book Reality in Advertising by

copywriting genius Rosser Reeves. This one sentence made fortunes for Reeves’

clients, as well as my own, and for scores of other marketers wise enough to apply it


This was how Gary Bencivenga, one of the top-three copywriters still alive today, began his controversial blog post.

And then dropped the bombshell…

“A gifted product is mightier than a gifted pen.”

Many marketers argue the customer should be the preoccupation of the copywriter. But Gary says it’s the product that determines whether the ad will be a winner or not. The product must engage your attention as a copywriter.

And when you look deep enough, the wisdom of his statement begins to emerge.

Also, in Ghana there’s this saying that…

“A good product sells itself.”

It implies, once a product has its own inherent qualities that customers want, then the marketer’s job is easy. It’s merely researching and telling the whole truth about the excellent product, how it solves customers’ problems.

It’s the secret that propels journey of any copywriter into stardom. He doesn’t have to fake qualities which don’t exist; he merely tells the facts as they are – creating a smooth transition from one benefit to another.

Above all, the copywriter makes those benefits the product offers come alive.

Gary, master of metaphors, illustrated his point with an equestrian metaphor in this fashion…

“You are a jockey. If you want to win more races, by all

means hone your craft. But even more important, learn how to spot and get yourself

assigned to faster horses. That’s a big part of building your reputation and career


You want your name associated with winners, not losers! Cultivating a jockey’s

eye for winners and then campaigning to ride them is one of the most rewarding

skills you can develop…While you can’t carry a flawed product—or a slow horse—on your back to glory, great products, like champion race horses, will put you in the winner’s circle consistently.”

As marketers, our job is not to invent product qualities.

At best, we are to guide manufacturers into making great product, based on our understanding of the market; products that customers will crave for. Our main duty is to communicate the benefits of the product to customers…in plain and simple language.

Once you have selected your winning product, consider all angles of it. Saturate yourself with the product information.

If you can, strive to know the product more than its maker!

Gather at least three times more information than you need for creating your copy. The reserve material is a source of inspiration.

It will boost your confidence. It’ll ignite your creative powers.

But where should you start from?

Start by asking all possible questions about the product.

Here are 10 question Gary suggests copywriters should use to reveal all the benefits of a product.

These are the starting point of any assignment.

  1. Why is this product made the way it is?
  2. What consumer problems, desires, and needs is it designed for?
  3. What’s special about it—why does it fulfill a consumer’s needs better than the competition?
  1. Who says so besides you?
  2. What are your strongest proof elements to make your case believable?
  3. What are all the product’s best features and how does each translate into a consumer benefit?
  1. If you had unlimited funds, how would you improve this product?
  2. Who are its heavy users—the 20 percent who generate 80 percent of sales?
  3. What irresistible offers might trigger an explosion in sales?
  4. What premiums can be tossed into the mix to press your prospects’ hot


If you have a great  product to market, then you will find that you copy almost writes itself.

It flows.

It’s like running water. You only need to direct its course to the desired destination.

And it will get there.

Never invent features and benefits for any product when they don’t exit. That’s not your job as a copywriter.

Instead, identify a winning product and sing its praises.


Because when you do, you’ll realise your yoke is easy and your burden is light.





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