UPDATE: THIS ENTRY HAS BEEN CROSS POSTED AT THE NEW BRANDSTORY BLOG WHERE I NOW WRITE. I'D BE HONORED IF YOU WOULD CLICK THROUGH AND ADD IT TO YOUR BOOKMARKS.
Last week, Martin Conroy, the man famous for writing the "two young men" letter for The Wall Street Journal, passed away (New York Times article). The letter was used by The Journal continuously for twenty-eight years and is revered by writers in direct response advertising for its creativity and success. It is the longest running direct response letter ever used, and has been called the most successful advertisement ever run. I still have a copy of the letter in my swipe file.
Why was this letter so successful? Because it tells a compelling, relevant story. And it sold subscriptions. Millions of them. One source says it was directly responsible for bringing in more than a billion dollars.
The letter begins:
“On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both — as young college graduates are — were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.
Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion.
They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.
But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.”
The letter then goes on to ask and explain, what made the difference?
Read the whole letter here.
The Times quotes Direct Response Guru, Alan Rosenspan, who uses the letter in his direct response seminars, saying: “I ask people to read out loud the first paragraph of the letter. And what’s astonishing to me is that they never stop at the first paragraph. They keep on reading. And I tell them: ‘You have just proven why this letter’s so powerful. It’s a story.’ ”
Sifting through the stack of junk mail (credit card solicitations, non-profit fund raisers, cable subscription offers) on my desk this morning, I wish there were more writers like Martin Conroy who believed in telling a relevant story. Sadly, they are, very literally, a dying breed (no pun intended).
Hat tip: AdJab.