The letter in this blog post was written by a legendary copywriter Gary Halbert back in the 70’s. This deceptively simple one-page letter was mailed over 600 million times and was responsible for building a direct-mail empire, which was sold years later for around $90 Million.
It was so profitable over the years it was mailed, that at one point the company had 40 employees who’s job was just to deposit the checks that came in the mail. This was of course before taking credit cards was the norm.
This classic was definitely one of the most successful sales letters of all time and should be studied thoroughly.
Here it goes…
Dear Mr. Macdonald,
Did you know that your family name was recorded with a coat-of-arms in ancient heraldic archives more than seven centuries ago?
My husband and I discovered this while doing some research for some friends of ours who have the same last name as you do. We’ve had an artist recreate the coat-of-arms exactly as described in the ancient records. This drawing, along with other information about the name, has been printed up into an attractive one-page report.
The bottom half of the report tells the story of the very old and distinguished family name of Macdonald. It tells what the name means, its origin, the original family motto, its place in history and about famous people who share it. The top half has a large, beautiful reproduction of an artist’s drawing of the earliest known coat-of-arms for the name of Macdonald. This entire report is documented, authentic and printed on parchment-like paper suitable for framing.
The report so delighted our friends that we have had a few extra copies made in order to share this information with other people of the same name.
Framed, these reports make distinctive wall decorations and they are great gifts for relatives. It should be remembered that we have not traced anyone’s individual family tree but have researched back through several centuries to find out about the earliest people named Macdonald.
All we are asking for them is enough to cover the added expenses of having the extra copies printed and mailed. (See below.) If you are interested, please let us know right away as our supply is pretty slim. Just verify that we have your correct name and address and send the correct amount in cash or check for the number of reports you want. We’ll send them promptly by return mail.
Nancy L. Halbert
P.S. If you are ordering only one report, send two dollars ($2.00). Additional reports ordered at the same time and sent to the same address are one dollar each. Please make checks payable to me, Nancy L. Halbert.
First time I read this, it didn’t really strike me as a “masterpiece” and that’s why it’s so brilliant.
13 Triggers Of Gary Halbert’s Coat Of Arms Letter
1. Looks Like Personal Mail
It doesn’t look like an attempt to sell. The letter came in a plain #10 white envelope, with a real LIVE stamp. So it immediately passed what Gary called the A pile-B pile test.
Gary used to say that when people get their mail, they sort it over a garbage can. Everything that looks like personal mail or bills goes into the A pile. Everything that looks like “junk mail” goes into B pile, which often doesn’t even get opened and simply ends up in the trash.
That’s probably pretty accurate.
The letter itself doesn’t look “threatening.” It doesn’t look like it’s trying to sell you anything.
There’s no headline screaming with HYPE.
3. It Speaks To The Reader
It addresses the reader by their name, so it looks personal. It feels like Nancy is talking to you personally.
The opening question of the letter instantly creates curiosity and implies that the reader’s last name is important.
5. Hits On A Major Desire To Be Important
The special report about their last name really plays on curiosity our deep held desire to be special and to be important.
“…its place in history and about famous people who share it.”… Who wouldn’t want to find out if they share a name with famous people?
“This entire report is documented, authentic and printed on parchment-like paper suitable for framing.” Yeah, you get to show it off to your friends, stating to the world that “I am somebody.”
7. Reason Why
“Framed, these reports make distinctive wall decorations and they are great gifts for relatives.”
This gives the reader a valid reason to purchase more than one. Instead of getting them to think whether they should buy it, it shifts their focus on buying several.
Saying that it was “researched back through several centuries” and “as described in ancient records” adds a layer of proof and also hints that there’s a story behind your name. It’s almost possible to NOT want it at this point.
9. Social Proof
“The report so delighted our friends that we have had a few extra copies made in order to share this information with other people of the same name.”
Social proof is a powerful persuasion trigger. If others are doing it, it must be good.
As you read the letter, look at some of the details which paint a visual picture in your mind and make it more concrete and believable.
Here a few examples…
My husband and I discovered this while doing some research for some friends…
The bottom half of the report tells the story of the very old and distinguished family name of…
he top half has a large, beautiful reproduction of an artist’s drawing…
Framed, these reports make distinctive wall decorations and they are great gifts…
This drawing, along with other information about the name, has been printed up into an attractive one-page report…
11. An Irresistible Offer
For just a couple bucks you can get the the report and a reproduction of the coat-of-arms framed. All the work has been done for you and it costs almost nothing to get it.
The P.S. is important because it restates the offer AND gives them a 50% discount if buying more than one. Truly a no-brainer.
13. Simple Language
This 381 word letter uses very simple language. Gary said it took him 18 months to write it. Each word has been chosen very carefully and serves a purpose.
There are probably more hidden lessons in why this letter so successful, but these 13 points are what made this letter a profit-pulling machine for a couple decades. Which is why it’s worth studying every word of this classic sales letter.
Even though it’s been 40+ years since it was written and first mailed, these triggers are as applicable today, as they were back then. This letter, and Gary Halbert’s other sales letters should be studied by anyone who wants write compelling, money-making sales copy.
The words might change, the offer, the product and the delivery mechanism could all be different, but human psychology hasn’t changed.
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