THE LEVISON LETTER
Action Ideas For Better Direct Mail,
Email, Web Sites & Advertising
Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriting
Volume: 18 Number: 2
Nine ways to boost response rates with a "Johnson Box"
How to write marketing letters that get results
Sixty years ago, a direct mail copywriter named Frank
Johnson was looking for a way to increase the impact of
his sales letters.
He decided that instead of forcing readers to wade
through a mass of copy before making the offer, he would
highlight the offer in a centered rectangular box placed
at the very top of the letter above the salutation.
The results were terrific, and the "Johnson Box"
going strong ever since. And no surprise. The box stands
out at the top of the letter, and the eye goes right to
the headline floating within it. I have seen claims that
adding a Johnson Box to a plain letter can shoot response
rates up by 40%. (This seems a little steep to me, but I
know from personal experience that a Johnson Box can work
Here are some tips you can use for putting a Johnson
to work the RIGHT way:
*** 1. Put the right content in the box.
What should you include there? The offer. The main
product benefit. The phone number to call or the URL to
visit. The expiration date of the offer. The guarantee.
Mix and match these as appropriate.
*** 2. Use it in the right kind of marketing letter.
If you're writing a non-personalized letter that's going
out bulk rate in a window envelope using teaser copy, a
Johnson Box will fit right in. After all, it's part of
the "classic package" format. (Don't scoff at it. It
still works!) But if you're writing a first class letter,
in a close-faced envelope riding first class, the Johnson
Box will look cheap and out of place.
*** 3. Make it the right size.
If you're mailing an 8 1/2" x 11" letter (folded twice
down to 3 5/8") you want the Johnson Box and AT LEAST the
salutation line to appear above the fold. 2" deep by 3
1/2" wide is reasonable, but there's no firm rule here.
*** 4. Use an appropriate box shape.
You can make the box out of asterisks (************) or
use a fine-ruled line. For added impact, throw a
screened-back second color inside the box. It's also
perfectly fine to omit the actual ruled line and simply
run a bold headline and subheadline at the top of the
*** 5. Use a box in the body of the letter.
There's no law that says you can't throw your guarantee
into a small box somewhere within the letter. Or a few
testimonials. Or a short excerpt from a glowing product
*** 6. Show your fulfillment piece in a box or at the
of your letter. If you're offering a report, guide, White
Paper, Executive Summary, whatever, use a photo of it at
the top of the letter and use call-outs to highlight
benefits. Making the fulfillment piece "real" with a
photo can really help your lead generation efforts!
For an example of a fulfillment piece photo with call-
outs, check out a marketing letter I wrote at:
(It's an Adobe Acrobat PDF file)
*** 7. Include a Johnson Box (without the sides) in
email for extra impact. For example:
This is a version of a Johnson Box in an email.
See how the two sentences stand out?
*** 8. In an email, the Johnson box should fit easily
into the reader's auto-preview box. You don't want to
make people start scrolling in order to see it.
*** 9. Use a box at the top of a seminar or Webinar
invitation. The top of the letter or email is the
perfect place for a box that tells the reader
What/When/Where/Why they should attend.
The take-away message this month? If you want to boost
direct mail response rates, sometimes it makes sense to
think inside the box.
I can help you improve your sales letter - Contact
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