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The Marketing Lesson of Grandpa, AKA “Bear”

How Genuine, Heartfelt Marketing Messages Can Work Far Better Than Anything Your Advertising Team Could Come Up WIth for a Promotion

By David WyldPublished about a month ago 10 min read
Top Story - January 2024
The Marketing Lesson of Grandpa, AKA “Bear”
Photo by Colin Maynard on Unsplash

“Take 50% off EVERYTHING, Today Only!”

“Flash Sale for the Next 4 Hours!”

“This is Your LAST CHANCE to Save”

“Millard Filmore’s Birthday Sale!”

“Big Savings, Today Only!”

“Our Once a Year Sale!”

“This is a Once in a Lifetime Opportunity to SAVE!”


If you’re like me - and admit it, you are - this is what waaaaaay too much of you inbox looks like. Every company that you ever happened upon their website got you with the pop-up ad that asked you to provide your email address to save 10-20-30% on your first order and maybe, if you’re lucky, get free shipping! Maybe you might win a prize in the contest advertised in that pop-up that had a disclaimer displayed in a size 2 font. To get your “savings” or your “free” prize, you gave them your key information - your email address - the gateway to our digital souls today! And from that time on, you get a weekly, daily, twice daily email from that company with a subject line like those above offering you the opportunity that you have been waiting for to finally take the leap and whip out your credit card to buy from that retailer’s online operation.

By David Matos on Unsplash

If you totaled up the digital acreage and mental space that the Walmarts and Amazons and Best Buys of the world down to the office supplies, apparel, and, yes, wine merchant, took up in your email and, yes, in your brain, each day, well, you’d quickly see why it is that it is taking you longer and longer to get your work done when you have to “work” through your inbox each and every day! That’s why every expert out there - of course, they all ironically have their free newsletters that they want you to subscribe to if you will just furnish them with your email address - tells you to take the time to do a periodic purge of your email and click that “Unsubscribe” button or link that yes, should be there somewhere (again, often in size 2 font) in every commercial email.

By Justin Morgan on Unsplash

And yet, I’m glad that I’ve been busy enough to not have time yet in 2024 to go on my “Unsubscribe Bender” for a few hours and purge all the unnecessary, mostly unread emails that clutter my inbox with waaaaaay too many sales offers that are offering me unbelievable “deals” and waaaaaay too many newsletters that I'm sure have nuggets of wisdom in them - if only I had more hours in the day to actually read all of them! That’s because I had one email come this weekend - from the Holtz Leather Company - that accomplished “mission one” of what any company’s sales email should hope to do: Open it and actually READ it!

The admittedly non-sales oriented email “worked” as a sales email because it had a subject line that got my attention (the first step in the sales process) - but it was a subject line that had nothing to do with the company, its products, or even any special, sale, or offer. Rather, it was a subject line that spoke to the portion of their prospective sales audience who are, as the saying goes, “of a certain age.” The subject line posed a question that all of us will hopefully get to ponder in our lives - a real philosophical conundrum for those of us approaching - or worse, “in” - AARP-status: “Can you really pick your grandparent name?”

By Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

The Grandparent Name Email

There I was, “working” on my writing on a Saturday morning, distracted by the need for coffee, the dog’s needs, and my need for constant information with the TV running in the background. I was doing what I do first on 9 out of 10 mornings (the other hopefully asleep!) - namely, going through and deleting all the unnecessary emails that had filled my inbox to the “digital brim” overnight and earlier that morning. Yes, I am overdue to perform that “digital purge” and unsubscribe to probably half - or much more - of the sales-oriented emails and emailed newsletters that I currently freely subscribe to!

Author supplied photo

And so on this Saturday morning, first cup of coffee in hand, while dogs barked at imaginary squirrels in our yard and the TV updated me on all the “breaking” Trump news (what else is there these days…), I dutifully went down the line, checking the box for each and every email that I was going to delete unread. Every email with a subject line like those listed at the opening of this article was checked to go into the trash - “easy peasy!” However, I did stop in my frantic clicking on boxes to delete messages when I came to this one particular email that had a far different subject line than I expected, given its sender - the Holtz Leather Company. Now, I can’t tell you exactly when I provided my email address to this company, but I’m sure in my seemingly Quixotic quest in looking at leather weekender bags when ads appear for them online (Thanks, Google! Thanks, Facebook!), I have absolutely no doubt that I did give my email to Holtz for the prospect of 10% off that first order that I ended up not making. But, I’m glad I did so once upon a time for the chance to read this particular email with that subject line: “Can you really pick your grandparent name?”

Author supplied photo - Rick Holtz, Holtz Leather Co.

The text of the email from Rick Holtz of Holtz Leather was heartfelt, as he had just crossed one of life’s big milestones - the birth of he and his wife, Coleen’s, first grandchild. Yes, he was distracted from writing his advertising email by his grandchild, but he ended up writing an email for the ages:

I’m a new Grandpa AKA BEAR (my grandpa name): When Coleen and I found out we were going to be grandparents, there were hard decisions that had to be made… What were we going to be called???

As we began announcing our excitement to family, friends and… well complete strangers 😂 we found that there were basically two ways a grandparent receives their “grandparent” name. The first, which I think is the higher road, the grandparent selects their own name. The second way, is more of a crap shoot… Basically, you wait in perpetual anticipation for the moment that your little one is able to combine syllables and utter something that sounds intelligible… Then you are forever called geemaa…

Interesting to me are the strong opinions on this topic. There were several grandparents that we spoke with that were emotionally wounded, that we would somehow think we could pick our own grandparent name, and others that laughed and said, “you won’t get a choice…”

Coleen and I have decided to take the “high road” on this one and select our own grandparent names. I don’t notice it as much with the current generation but when I was a kid it was pretty common to be given nicknames by your teachers, friends, or coaches. Coleen as a kid was always called “Coco”... I had nicknames too but we won’t disclose those here. Coleen has forever loved being a mama and it just seemed to naturally evolve that she wanted to be called “Mama Coco”. I was pushing for HOT COCO… because she’s my smoking hot beautiful wife but I lost that one.

Ok… Bear? No, it’s not after “Bear” Bryant because we live in Alabama, even though he’s a legend. I didn’t fully get to choose my grandfather name… the family choose it for me and I think they based it heavily on my personality of extremes. I was once told by a friend of ours that I’m not passive aggressive but rather aggressive aggressive… I was like heck yeah!

I’m a fighter, I take every challenge head on, I remain poised under pressure, I’m commanding, persuasive, steadfast, extremely loyal, and LOVE BIG…did I mention I’m very humble…haha. I can be the grizzly bear when I need to fight for justice or a loving teddy bear. Of course there’s been some other bear references mentioned in whispers… like Care Bear and Pooh Bear. I love the name BEAR and I hope it sticks… time will tell if you can truly pick your own name.

Has anyone successfully picked their own grandparent name?

In the end it doesn’t really matter how our grandparent names come about but that we give love and are loved by these dear little ones.

Written by Rick Holtz, Owner & Founder, Holtz Leather Co.

By Isaac Smith on Unsplash


Wow! I was bowled over - to say the least - by this new granddad’s - or “Bear’s” - sincere email, aimed at all of us who are in - or close to - that stage in our lives. I’m sure that he will get plenty of email feedback from all the “Grandmas,” “Nanas,” and “Mimis,” “Mee-Maws,” “Yayas,” and yes, “Cocos.” Likewise, I’m certain that he will get a number of email suggestions from the “Grandpas,” and “Papas,” and “Paw-Paw’s,” and maybe a “Bear” or two as well. But, the bottom line - business-wise at least - is this central question: Was it effective as a marketing email?

Now, to me, as a strategic management professor and consultant who is, yes, “of a certain age,” Holztz’s email, which may not have been a classic sales-oriented email, worked - and worked brilliantly as such, even if that was not the main purpose of it. His email got me to click on his site and browse through his company’s merchandise. His email got me to forward it to friends and family. And yes, his email got me to write this article that features Jim Holtz and the Holtz Leather Company. Mission accomplished! Accomplished far better than he ever could have likely imagined for a really non-sales-oriented email that worked as a sales email - without a percentage off or free shipping offer.

So, what is the lesson to be taken away from this simple act of a proud new grandfather who also happens to head up a company and has the ability to send out an email to every one of the company’s customers and prospective customers to share with them just how proud he was to become a grandfather - or a “Bear” as the case may be - for the first time? It should be one thing: Genuine emotion works far better in marketing messages than offers, gimmicks, promotions, holiday sales, etc. Sometimes, just saying what’s in your heart will work better - far better - than any percentage off you could offer (well, 100% might work…but that would bankrupt you!).

Bottom line: If you have something worthwhile to share - share it! You may create far more buzz about your company on social media, attract more attention to it, and ultimately, yes, move more merchandise by being honest in your approach. What you have to do is not use the “honesty card” too often. If your marketing message becomes all about the company or the owner/CEO, the storyline will get old (trust me, your company is not your customers’ main focus, ultimately, it’s what you can do for them with your products and/or services!). But every once in a while, using genuinely heartfelt messages such as this to put a human face on your company and your brand that trigger emotional reactions is, bottom line, a winning marketing move - as well as a way to celebrate a personal or company milestone.

Well done - and yes, congrats to Mr. Holtz on becoming a “Bear!”


Professor David C. Wyld

About David Wyld

David C. Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness. You can view all of his work at You can subscribe to his Medium article feed at:

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About the Creator

David Wyld

Professor, Consultant, Doer. Founder/Publisher of The IDEA Publishing ( & Modern Business Press (

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  • PK Colleran30 days ago

    Well described, universal experience of email ads. BTW my favorite grandfather's name ever was for a dear friend who passed away recently: Abubobby. A combination of abuelo and Bobby. Absolutely darling when said by a toddler. 🩷💙🩷

  • Shamreenaabout a month ago

    Interesting article, thenksss!✨

  • Jeremygamesabout a month ago

    It is worth knowing and knowing what are the ways of advertising. This is really very important.

  • Jay Bunkabout a month ago

    Hey David, Your article about Grandpa, aka "Bear," really hit home. Loved the way you painted the picture of our overflowing inboxes and those relentless pop-up ads. The reminder to keep marketing genuine and heartfelt is spot-on. The touch of adding "Bear" to the mix made it all the more relatable. Hope it will be helpfull in my business - (772) 979-0468 Best, Jay Bunk

  • Mujahid Hassan Khanabout a month ago

    Fantastic article! Your in-depth insights and clear presentation made for an engaging read. Thank you for sharing your expertise on this topic!

  • Oneg In The Arcticabout a month ago

    “ If you have something worthwhile to share - share it!” The goal of probably most of us here on vocal too! But hey, we’re just striving for some sort of connection at the end of the day

  • L.C. Schäferabout a month ago

    It is a truth universally acknowledge that when your engagement is down, you just post a picture of your dog, or cat. Et voila! Similar premise, I guess. Tug on the ole heartstrings.

  • Caroline Janeabout a month ago

    Wait.... there's an unsubscribe button? No way! My trigger finger is ready to fire! Great article. ❤️

  • Dana Crandellabout a month ago

    A genuinely worthwhile read and I couldn't agree more with your observations, with, perhaps, one exception: applying the term, "worse" to AARP status. (cancelled the membership, but loving the status) I've always found allowing glimpses into my personal space to be good for business. Great article, and congratulations! ***By the way, with 15 grandkids and one great-grand, the only name that stuck other than "Grandpa" is "Papa Dana," awarded by the first of the step-grands.

  • Naomi Goldabout a month ago

    You are exactly right in your observations, David. I used to share personal stories all the time on a YouTube channel, and that’s how I got all my clients. But I didn’t intentionally start doing it to make money. I didn’t even think people would find the channel. I was talking to myself initially. People love authenticity, no matter what you’re promoting.

  • JBazabout a month ago

    You covered more then your title suggests. I found myself agreeing and noting the similarities in your story to my life. As I kept reading I saw the depth in this article. Congratulation on a well deserved Top Story.

  • Judey Kalchik about a month ago

    Such a wonderful article. And I am so happy to see it get Top Story recognition. I, also, believe that there is a place for business, leadership, management, and marketing content on Vocal. Thank you for proving that point so eloquently.

  • Naveed about a month ago

    Kudos! Keep excelling in your work—congratulations!

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Super!!! Love your line, "It should be one thing: Genuine emotion works far better in marketing messages than offers, gimmicks, promotions, holiday sales, etc."

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