Whatever Works: Where Product is King
It’s a given that if an ad is working, you don’t monkey around with it, so for years the foot had six toes. In a few months, the partners had acquired 200,000 customers and enclosed a Dr. Leonard’s catalog in every shipment of the toe-straighteners. Money started rolling in.
Brown put a humorous slant on his copy, and all the models were 10 years younger than the target audience. “Nobody wants to see a guy with back pain in tears,” Brown says. “They want to see a happy guy with no brace and a smile.”
In short order, the company became very profitable, with a return on investment that exceeded that of many Fortune 500 companies, and profits of 13 to 14 percent.
The partners were four guys who loved one another, loved doing their own thing and had no interest in going public. But eventually, one of them retired. And Brown, who had had it with the healthcare business, asked himself: “What can I say new about commodes that I haven’t said before? Or how can you be funny about people with hammer toes?”
In short, after 15 years of working under harrowing deadlines and pressures, Brown was burned out. Dr. Leonard’s was sold to a venture capital group, and after investing his money in a software company, Brown spent two years learning golf and traveling with his family.
Brown soon lost interest in passive investments, and grew bored. His partners invited him to rejoin their company—and run one of its top money-making divisions: Professional Products, a company that sold merchandise to other catalogers at wholesale prices.
Brown certainly missed the camaraderie, the work and, last but certainly not least, the money. In fact, it dawned on Brown that the only money he ever made in his life was on 20th Street in Brooklyn with Feldman and Bob Notine (who runs the manufacturing divisions), and John Vayianos, vice president of sales for Professional Footcare.