When I heard this week that Herschell Gordon Lewis had died, I stopped for a few moments. I thought about his many contributions to direct marketing, and especially direct mail.
He was, first and foremost, a practitioner of the first order.
Some of the most memorable direct mail packages archived in Who’s Mailing What! were written by him, and for all kinds of products. He wrote for Red Cooper (grapefruit), Advanced Financial Services (home equity loans), and Omaha Steaks.
The letter for his Grand Control promotion for Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self-Healing (a newsletter) begins with one of his signature tactics: using handwriting script in the Johnson Box. It’s then woven throughout as he speaks one-to-one to the reader.
This is the opening:
A very good morning to you!
I know statistics are boring.
But this one should make sense to you, if you care at all about the caliber and reputation of anyone who gives you advice.
Here it is …
Engrossing, isn’t it?
I’ve read three of his many books on the craft of direct marketing writing. It’s impossible to capture the full breadth of wisdom that lies in them.
What follows is a handful of his communications rules and tips.
1. Every issue is emotional
From Hot Appeals or Burnt Offerings:
Every issue is emotional. Or should be, because of an absolute rule of human psychology: When emotion and intellect come into conflict, emotion always wins.
2. Make an immediate promise of benefits
From a 2011 Target Marketing Group webinar:
There shouldn’t be any head-scratching going on after reading your copy about the question, “What’s in it for me?” whether it’s a direct mail letter or email. The benefit should hit them in the face and they should be thankful for the knowledge.
3. Be imperative, not declarative
From a 2010 Target Marketing Group webinar:
Tell your target individual what to do. That’s why imperative outpulls declarative. For example, when you choose words and phrases for force-communication, clarity is paramount. Don’t let any other component of the communications mix interfere with it.
4. Good writing is lean
From his magnum opus, On the Art of Writing Copy:
Kick out extra words. Good copy is lean.
5. Remember the envelope’s purpose
The cardinal rule of envelope copy: “The purpose of the carrier envelope, other than preventing its contents from spilling out onto the street, is to get itself opened.”
Marketers, what are some of your go-to Herschell rules?