I can almost hear some of you out there snickering, and I want you to stop right now.

As most of you who read my stuff with any regularity know, I love to write about branding, sales, and, well, writing. And I am always getting and—and sharing—ideas from others.

Today’ post is about the Johnson Box. Some of you may even recall what it is from a marketing or sales course you took in the distant past.

According to Ivan Levison, one of the best direct marketing writers I know of, a Johnson Box was invented some 70 years ago by a direct mail copywriter, who wanted to jazz up his sales letters. His solution was to highlight the sales offer in a box at the top of the letter. How simple. How brilliant.

Writers still use Johnson boxes because they work. People who are interested in a marketing offer get it right up front. Those who aren’t just pitch your pitch a little sooner.

So, how, in Mr. Levison’s words, do you put a Johnson Box “to work the right way?” He offers seven tips, not all of which appear here. But you can check out his site for the June 2013 newsletter in which the rest of his good advice appears:

  •  Put the right content in the box. That means information like the offer. The benefit. When it expires. (“Lose 10 pounds of ugly fat in 2 days with our fabulous weight-loss elixir. But act fast! This great offer expires on July 30.)
  • Use the right box shape. You don’t have to use a fine-ruled line or create a box out of asterisks. All you really need to do is put a bold head and subhead at the top of the letter.
  • Make sure the box fits neatly into the auto-preview box. That way, e-mail recipients don’t need to scroll to see it.

Another point Mr. Levison makes is that you can put a box in the body of the letter as well. This is a great location for testimonials, your guarantee, or a snippet of a product review.

I love Johnson Boxes. They may seem a little corny, but they do get your attention.

Post to Twitter