titansLogoI was browsing through the giveaways from The Titans of Direct Response this morning…

A friend had asked me a question and inadvertently sent me on a quest.  It led to an interesting discovery…

I was looking through the Greatest Hits of Direct Mail bonus, featuring a library of 15 direct mail promotions that each mailed a million or more pieces each.

Just the copywriters whose work is featured in this Greatest Hits collection reads like a Hall of Fame of our industry: Gene Schwartz, Gary Bencivenga, Clayton Makepeace, Bill Jayme, Jim Rutz, Jim Punkre, Mel Martin, and others…

This was in addition to the collection of promotions from the writers Brian named his current Mount Rushmore of Copywriters, David Deutsch, Parris Lampropoulos, Arthur Johnson, and Eric Betuel.

I was browsing through Brian’s notes when I found this…

One of Boardroom’s rare internal copywriters — and a secret weapon, at that — was Mel Martin.  He’d managed to make a book on estate planning sexy, with the “fascinations” he perfected and made famous.  (A “fascination” is a Boardroom internal term for a certain type of titillating and completely irresistible bullet.)

“What nobody told you when you made your will.”

“How to hand down money to your heirs so creditors can’t touch it.”

“Your big charity can be your relatives.  Tax deductible if you use the right words.”

And so on…

Pure copywriting gold, from an era where Martin’s bullets were almost unbeatable.

In fact, Mel Martin had the control for the book from 1980 to 1998 — 18 years!

And until David Deutch came along in 1998 — five years after Martin passed away — and unseated the control, the only tests that led to new controls were variations on Martin’s own package!

Here’s the story of a control-beating test, with an unexpected inspiration…

In introducing Mel Martin’s control for the Greatest Hits collection, Brian recounted that Boardroom’s founder Marty Edelston had been courting the great Bill Jayme for years, trying to get him to write a package.

Jayme had politely declined for years, insisting he didn’t want to compete with Boardroom’s finest.  And yet, Marty and Bill maintained a close friendship and regular correspondence.

Then one day, Marty received a letter from Bill, with the words “Deeply and irrevocably personal” typed on the outside.

Noticing that he couldn’t help but to tear into the letter to find out what was inside, he decided to test it on the plain outer envelope of Mel Martin’s letter.

As Brian noted, “Sure enough, it won.”

They made it bigger, and it won again.

Bigger still — covering the full width of the envelope — and it won again.

Mel Martin ended up with an even stronger control.  Marty wrote a check to Bill Jayme with a thank you note for the copy he’d unintentionally written for Boardroom.  (And Bill promptly ceased writing more than the address on the outside of envelopes to Marty!)

And we ended up with a Greatest Hits piece of copy in the Titans swipe file that’s both compelling and has an exciting and informative back story.

In fact…

There’s a couple lessons to be learned here!

First, it’s that inspiration can strike from anywhere.

Marty was a true direct mail genius.  And yet, he would always argue that he was just “Mickey from Newark,” and had no innate talent that made him a direct mail success.

Rather, he was a student of the industry, and a student of human nature.

As he developed his interest in direct mail and built Boardroom, he also honed his instinct for what makes a great direct mail package.

He knew that if he found a piece of copy that made him tear into an envelope, it might make his prospects do the same.  It didn’t matter if it’d come in another ad or direct mail piece, or non a piece of personal correspondence.  If it “made him vibrate” — a description he used for the effect of good copy — he’d consider using it.

And so when he found a great phrase of copy on a personal letter from Bill Jayme, he had the inclination and motivation to find a piece where it would work.

The result was that his company made a small fortune.

Second, there’s power in the personal.

One of the greatest copywriters ever to walk this planet, who influenced Marty and Boardroom (even though he didn’t work with them, as far as I know), was the late, great Gary Halbert.

Gary is famous for his A-pile, B-pile speech, in which he comes to a simple conclusion.

If he were to have a gun to his head, and had to create a direct mail piece that worked, “or else…”  One of the most important things he could do would be to get that direct mail piece opened.  And the best way, he figured, was to make it look and feel like personal (not commercial) mail.

The Mel Martin package was a simple #10 envelope already — a standard business-size envelope, with “typed” mailing and return addresses on it.

It mostly satisfied the personal feel Gary would go for when trying to get A-pile treatment for his direct mail solicitations.

And yet, when Marty received that personal letter from Bill that said, in a bit peculiar language that it was “Deeply and irrevocably personal,” it struck that chord on another level.

And so, they tested.

And they won.

There will always be a unique attention-grabbing element to anything that truly FEELS personal, whether it’s sent to one or one million recipients.

The DVD package of The Titans of Direct Response does include the Greatest Hits collection plus a ton of other goodies — it’s a lifetime reference work both in terms of the content and the examples given.  Click here to learn more and get your copy.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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