The Boron Letters - Chapter 19
Saturday, 9:27 AM
June 30, 1984
Today, as I promised, our subject will be "You Never Get A
Second Chance To Make A First Impression."
Listen to this: When a person goes for a job interview, the
interviewer decides whether or not to hire that person in
the first 40-seconds.
And this: In a jury trial, the members of the jury make up
their minds as to whether the accused is guilty or innocent
during the first half hour or so (during the opening
argument) and they spend all the rest of the time the trial
takes in finding ways to justify the decision they have
And this: When a person falls in love it happens almost
instantaneously. After that, minor things like the truth
about the newly beloved are cast aside unless those "truths"
happen to reinforce the wonderfulness of said love subject.
And this: You either hook a reader or lose him when he very
first looks at your ad or DM piece. Not when he reads it,
but when he first looks at it.
Now, of course, this rule is not 100% accurate. Sometimes a
person will suddenly fall in love with a person he or she
has known for years; sometimes a jury will change it's mind
after the opening argument; sometimes an interviewer will
decide to hire an applicant he had originally (in his mind)
rejected. And, sometimes, a reader will read and order from
your ad, even though he was turned off by it when he first
But don't count on this. Most of the time a person will
never alter his original impression. Most of the time he
will simply "edit" all new info that comes to him and
"process" it in such a way as to validate his original
So; what does this mean when it comes to creating
advertising? What it means is your ad or DM piece should
give your prospect a life; should cause his pupils to dilate
as soon as he sees it.
Did I ever tell you that good poker players often watch
their opponent's eyes when they draw new cards? What they
are looking for is to see the reaction of their opponent's
eyes to the cards they draw. If their eyes widen, that is if
their pupils dilate that means that they liked the new cards
they received. If their pupils constrict it probably means
that what happened is that they received cards of which they
are not fond.
This is a totally involuntary reaction. Apparently, what
happens is that when we see something we like our eyes open
up so we can let in more light and see more of it. And,
conversely, when we see something we don't like we do just
the opposite; we try to cut down the flow of light so we
don't have to see as much of it.
Well, I have a theory about all this and what I believe is
that most (or many) of our decisions about how we like or
dislike something are made not in 40 seconds or the first 4
or 40 minutes but rather in the first fraction of a second
that we see something new.
And, I further believe that we unconsciously spend the rest
of our so called decision making time not really making a
decision after all but instead searching for justification
for the decision we have already made.
And, that's why I'm so careful about the "look" of my DM
pieces and MO ads. You see, I believe the "sale" or "no
sale" decision is largely made the instant a prospect sees
your ad and reads your headline.
I think that if your prospect gets an instant "lift" from
just looking at your ad, then he will start reading it and
looking for reasons to convince himself that the promise of
your ad is true!
And, if you don't disappoint him then you have a really good
chance of closing the sale.
Now, what kind of look will give the reader a lift? It's
short of tricky, really. But I think one thing that helps is
if your promotion has a "crisp" look about it. In other
words, the layout should be clean, there should be a lot of
contrast and it should look easy and inviting to read.
If you use pictures they should be, as a general rule, of an
upbeat nature. Do you remember that ad with the before and
after pictures of Christi Dean? You know, almost everybody
liked the look of that ad because the "after" picture of
Christi Dean was so uplifting.
By the way, before I forget one little-known fact that is
kind of interesting is that women like to see pictures of
women in ads and men like to see pictures of men.
I forget why. I just remember that surveys show this to be
Oh, here's something else. That writer that I told you about
who wrote for Printer's Ink? Anyway, his pen name was Old
Incidentally, when it comes to direct mail, there are a
number of things you can do to make your package more likely
to give the reader a lift. First of all, you should use good
crisp white paper, both for the pages of the letters and the
envelopes you are mailing.
If you are using label addressing (and later we will discuss
when you should or not) you should use a tight white label
on a matching envelope.
If you are using stamps (and if you follow my advice, you
almost always will) you should, whenever practical, use
large colorful commemoratives.
Your letterhead should be dignified and non-distracting.
Your type face should be a serif face and you should make
sure your original letter (the one you are going to use for
camera ready art) should be typed with a carbon ribbon.
If you are going to use a second color in your letters to
underline words or something you should use RED. If you
enclose a photograph or a simulated photograph you should
make sure it does NOT look cheap, limp and soggy. Instead,
it should look crisp, clean, glossy and clear.
All those rules also apply to your enclosures.
I Love You And Good Luck!
Copyright © 2005 Gary C. Halbert. All Rights