Frank arrived in Moscow Idaho in 1928 and within only ninety days had written his first set of lessons and borrowed $2500 from local acquaintances. After being refused by advertisers in Spokane Washington as being a bit too weird, Frank placed his first ad in 'Psychology Magazine paying $400.
A million pieces of mail went through the Moscow Post Office each year (enough that the old post office moved from its small storefront site to a building that took up half a block and made it a 1st Class Post Office). Number of total students was reported up to two million.
Frank advertised in 140 newspapers,180 magazines, and at 60 radio stations at one time, while receiving 60,000 pieces of mail a day. He had a very sophisticated sense of media and business, making it on Time, Newsweek and Walter Winchell.
The information which Psychiana sold was in the form of bi-weekly lessons which were paid for either in advance or by the lesson. Frank also wrote 23 books, along with newsletters and hundreds of small single page announcements.
His straight-forwardness, media savvy, and simple philosophy struck a chord at the right time. A trade publisher was quoted as saying, ". . this man, without a doubt, is one of the cleverest advertising copy-writers in the world today."
Frank Robinson was unusual in that he shunned followers. He didn't want the focus to be put on himself, healing, or anything which didn't relate to your relationship with the life force.
Frank was a salesman. If he wouldn't have been, he never would have gotten his word out. As a 1949 Spokesman Review article stated, "He wrested religion from the temple and put it in the marketplace."
His 'I Talked to God' ads (64K) were placed in a number of different media. Frank was very organized in his marketing. All responses were analyzed for demographic profiles. Magazines that dealt with the future seemed to get the greatest response.
Where before, religion was usually equated with a church or a revival tent, Frank Robinson had found a new way to communicate, give his version of the sermon, and help people, all built with words and paper.
There were from 50 to 100, usually female, workers, who efficiently received requests for lessons, correspondence, questions and of course checks; and sent out lessons, newsletters, responses for help and letters with a piece of string attached, to remind the student of lack of payment.
In the photo, you can see the lazy-susan-type device where the assembly line of information was assembled.
Once an inquiry was made, material was immediately sent out with routine followup if necessary. Anyone answering an ad received 67 pieces of mail over a 22 week span. You could pay for the lessons biweekly, in monthly installments, or a lump sum. At first, they tried to use a donation system, but that didn't work, Frank had to pay for printing and advertising. Still, many lessons were sent free to the needy. Frank really didn't want to charge for his lessons, and always said that when a wealthy benefactor came along, it would all be free. Frank offered his lessons with a money-back guarantee.
His spiritual views also helped him with his business; >
"Here comes a temptation along - immediately I start to smile. It may be a business deal of some sort; it may be that there is a large advertising account to be paid, and some of our students have disappointed us in their payments; or for some other reason it may be that there is not enough cash in the bank to pay that firm. Here is a temptation - it's a temptation to doubt - it's a temptation to get worried - it's a tmeptation to DOUBT GOD. And many would do so; but I just smile - and then smile some more - and the obligation is met, and it will always be met, even though it takes a so-called miracle to meet it."
Frank and his Dusenburg
Health, wealth and happiness were what he promised and he did benefit from his own preaching. But here again there is a contradiction. Though he might brag of his power it seemed he only needed a good car, modest home, a little security for his family, and the freedom to give help to those who needed it. He bought a park for the county and started a youth center in Moscow. He was always the first person asked if there was some kind of fundraising in town. "There is nothing to be proud of in amassing a fortune for one's self."
In the forties Frank took only a $9000 salary. He did have three drug stores, a newspaper and some real estate. When he died it was reported that he had no more than $10,000 in his account.
Marcus Bach asked him, "What happens if students are careless in their payments, do you dun them?"
"We sure do!" Frank replied, "They have entered into an agreement and I expect them to keep their end of the bargain. Oh, I know that some reporters have made fun of our system and have said it smacked of big business. I think it's only good business. Honest business, if you please . . ."
Mailing lists and name brokers were also a major part of the marketing strategy. They got names of people who had responded to other direct mail campaigns, millions of names were eventually collected, all done with meticulous record keeping practices.
There were many articles about Psychiana. Frank appeared in Time, Colliers, Pic, John Gunther's Inside USA, Newsweek, Magazine Digest, The Editor and Publisher, and Advertising Age.
As Keith Petersen states, "He did not apologize for advertising his faith; advertising was not evil. 'Advertising is educating the public to who you are, where you are, and what service you have to offer,' he wrote. 'The only man or organization who should not advertise is the one who has nothing to offer.' Frank robinson strongly believed that, and because of his conviction in the power of the mass media and his adroit advertising skill, he nurtured the largest mail order religion in the world. Thousands of people in dozens of countries subscribed. Some were merely curious; others found solace."
Before he died, Frank was starting another marketing idea. He was printing 100,000 buttons which would read 'I'm trying God'. He was trying to get influential people to wear the buttons in public and to also start clubs around the country which sounded like 'John Doe Clubs'.
At first Frank didn't want students to know about other students in the same town. He didn't want to be the center of his religion and he thought that by keeping students apart, he would avoid the worship pitfall.
But he found that this limited his growth, so he was playing with the idea of clubs or churches of some sort in different cities with his own clergy which he was teaching through the Master Series of lessons.
from 'He Talked to God' by Marcus Bach