How many direct mail packages in the alternative medicine market can boast two decades of mailing?
This one, written by Eugene Schwartz and first mailed in 1979, had more stamina than the Energizer Bunny.
It finally stopped mailing in the early 1990s, but not before it raked in untold millions.
The ad sold the book by Dr. Stephen T. Chang: The Book of Internal Exercises.
It’s not to be confused with the ad he wrote for Rodale’s The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing, which sold two million copies of that $25 book — though I often confuse them myself.
If you want to really understand what it takes to create a winner, then this package is worth your while examining. Here it is in all its glory with the teaser copy on the front and back of the envelope, 6-page sales letter, lift letter and reply card. (10-page, 2.2 megabyte PDF)
A big thank you to my friend in Switzerland, Christian Godefroy, for sending it to me. Christian was a colleague and confident of Eugene Schwartz’s for over a decade.
To many, this package looks like a barrage of unbelievable claims:
- “How Modern Chinese Medicine helps both men and women BURN DISEASE OUT OF YOUR BODY Using nothing more than the palm of your hand!”
- “Flushes Fat Right Out of Your Arteries”
- “How To Rub Your Stomach Away”
Throughout his career, there have been a fair share of critics who attacked Gene’s advertising approach. The main criticism was he “hid” under 1st Amendment protection offered to authors of books by deriving their claims in his ads. Though his ads may have been challenged, I don’t know of a single instance where even one was judged to have been anything other than legal.
Gene not only believed in Dr. Chang and the ad he wrote for his book, but credited him with saving the use of his arm after suffering a massive stroke. As he mentions in this interview from the now defunct publication, The Capitalist Reporter, he never wrote an ad for a bad product and even turned down a huge fee when he was flat broke because he did not believe in the promotion.
I doubt the ad would do so well today.
Schwartz’s style of “giant claim” copy has been mimicked so often, the market is less sensitive to it. Additionally, the alternative medicine market has mushroomed many multiples more than where it was in the 1980s and 1990s.
Greg Thompson says
I’m not completely convinced when people say Schwartz’s style wouldn’t work so well today. Gene is one of 5 copywriters who have heavily influenced my own style and I’ve even mimic’d his ALL CAPITALS IN THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE as well as his heart-pounding pace/rhythm and seemingly crazy claims, and here is typically what happens:
1. I get a lot of “hate mail” from people whom my ad bothers. (And after I talked to some of them and thought about it for awhile, I realized it wasn’t because they hated me for writing it, it was because they were so agitated from wondering “what if this really IS the solution” their belief/skepticism waged war inside the mind, causing them to direct it’s energy at me. A portion of these people converted to a sale after I more “rationally” explained the pitch through e-mail or video. So a technique I’ve been experimenting with lately is combining a “Gene-style” pitch alongside a more “rational” video.
2. More trackable sales than my split-test between an ad that had a much more “toned down” approach. The second ad seemed a lot less “magical” and therefore bland. I did not try to make it bland on purpose, but I just removed all of the elements of derived claims (stuff that was true, but didn’t “sound” true to the critical person)
I’m convinced the best ads are when you’re able to create a private little bubble of reality containing you and the prospect. Inside this bubble is a world of possibility, intrigue, and abundance. Outside the bubble lies the grey, bland, undesirable world of “reality” – but you show them that this dull reality is not YOUR reality, nor need it be the prospects. Over the course of the pitch you draw them into your reality and make them see it and believe it. Then when the pitch is over, the bubble pops and life is boring again. To get this wonderful feeling back, they must buy the product.
But you have to be careful. How a lot of people mess these types of pitches up is they’ll just go crazy and over the top without any regard to pace, rhythm, countering objections as they occur, and following a logical progression of sales argument. You gotta walk a fine line.
Great breakdown of the sales letter Lawrence.
I think Schwartz style ads can be effective as well
If a claim is made that sounds too good to be true, regardless or whether or not it is true the claim becomes an objection that needs to be handled in the copy.
Thanks for providing all these great swipes by the way.
I can attribute a sizeable chunk of my knowledge to this blog.
Lawrence Bernstein says
coming across this blog is one of the best things to happen to me
Lawrence Bernstein says
Hey, I like that Manny, No bullshit, just sales!