Gary Halbert’s Coat Of Arms letter written in 1971 was mailed 600 million times and he was bringing in today’s equivalent of $300,000 per day.
The crazy thing was it contained less than 400 words and was just 1 page.
So, what made the letter work?
Here’s what I found:
“Dear Mr Macdonald” feels like a neighbour or friend or someone who knows you or is at least concerned about your welfare writing to you.
We hear every time about how important it is to show empathy or at least try to understand people when selling to them.
This is it.
2. It opens up with CURIOSITY
“Did you know that…?”
Whether you like it or not, nobody will buy what you’re selling if they’re not at least curious about it.
The sale starts from getting their attention.
And getting their attention comes from tapping into that deep-seated need to know things – The Garden of Eden Phenomenon.
Or why do you think the serpent managed to deceive Even in the Garden of Eden?
3. Lots of Americans are immigrants.
It’s probably the country on Earth with the largest number of immigrants.
This means ancestry is a big thing.
You’re talking about pride plus curiosity. Especially when you notice the name Macdonald is most likely from England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales.
The letter even kills it when it says, “very old and distinguished name.”
Plus, the possession of a coat of arms meant the family was important.
One word: EMOTION
This ties into the next point.
4. A deep aching need for connection.
Have you ever wondered why African Americans take trips to Africa?
Or have deep sentimental attachments to films like Black Panther?
People want to know their history – especially immigrants.
It gives them a sense of identity.
5. Helpful & non-threatening
“We stumbled on it” + “I want to share it with you”
The cool thing is paying for this letter becomes an act of reciprocity: “Oh, she saw this helpful information and decided to do me a favour. I should pay her for that.”
No hard sell.
Less than 400 words long.
No special writing tactics.
No breaking up of words into one sentence or using parenthesis.
No tricks, no gimmicks.
Nothing special on the surface.
7. Social Proof
(Some friends who have the same last name as you do) + the possibility of the long lost family (famous people who share it)
Who wouldn’t like to be family members with some famous people?
8. More information + extra curiosity
(other information about the name)
Are you trying to sell something?
If there’s more information, tap into this.
Curiosity always works.
9. Addressed by his wife.
This part is super charming and just spectacularly brilliant.
Now let me explain.
You see, this is a case of double jeopardy.
If a man opens this letter, he’s easier to sell to because women find it easier to sell to men (beauty, feminine nature etc.).
But if a woman opened it, it felt like gossip.
Gossip she was going to tell her husband.
Plus, let’s not forget that as much as men have the buying power in the house, women make most of the buying decisions.
Also, some wives might likely not know their husband’s immigrant family history – a solid recipe for dinner conversation.
Plus, “My husband and I” also speak deeply about family values.
(You don’t have to buy it, you can gift it to someone)
This already sets up the possibility of more than one order.
(Use it as a wall decoration)
Tapping into pride again.
11. The offer
Doesn’t sound like a hard sell (just pay for shipping).
Price almost comes last (feels like an afterthought). More like I could have sent it to you for free, but I’m just an old lady who doesn’t have a lot of money, lmao 🤣🤣🤣
The coat of arms was scarce already.
Yet he still injected some form of scarcity making it even more scarce.
At the root, people like things they can’t have or hard to reach.
It’s how humans are wired.
This is why scarcity works all the time.
But above all, everything about this letter to end was PERSONAL.
Nothing looked like a sale.
Add the handwritten signature at the end.
Mad, mad, mad stuff 🙌🏿
Gary Halbert was a fucking genius 🙌🏿
In his own words, “in the heyday of the family crest promotion, we were using a semi-truck to haul our mail from the Donnelly Corporation in Oakdale, Illinois to the little town of Bath, Ohio where the letters were actually mailed.”
Gary Halbert would eventually sell his direct response marketing business for 70 million dollars (90 million dollars today).
But what would have happened without this coat of arms letter?
We’ll never know.
“When I became interested in direct response marketing, I was obsessed. I wrote copy during the day, studied copy in the evening and dreamt about it at night.” – Gary Halbert
Top ad writer Paris Lampropoulos may have put it best when he said…
“In the world of copywriting, all roads lead back to Gary Halbert.”