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georgette pann

"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..." This letter, written by Martin Conroy"

where can I get to see the rest of this letter/story?

David Garfinkel

Hi Georgette,

You can find a copy of the original Wall St. Journal letter at:


But just to show you how these ideas travel and adapt, take a look at the letter from the Clown Marketing Institute about two young clowns graduating from the same clown college 25 years ago.

You thinking I'm clowning around? I'm not:


Mauricio Martinez

Seems like that should be so obvious to all of us. If I grab a book and begin to read my five year old a story it won't be long before my nine and eight year old arrive to squeeze in to the couch and listen. Even my 10 month old will crawl her way there and squeeze in to find out what the commotion is all about.

Funny thing is that we do the same as adults. That may explain the popularity of daytime soaps and prime time sitcoms.

Thanks David. Makes the thought of writing copy a lot more fun.

Ray Edwards


Bravo! I firmly believe the story is the most important thing - and can overcome almost any other limitation in an ad (assuming the story is strong enough).

Too often, copywriters and marketers get caught up in the TACTICS of great ads and don't even recognize the STRATEGY.


Hey Man,

Yeah, stories rock ,I don't use em enough.

I noticed you kinda swiped the wall street story on your recent promotion featuring Ben Mack.

It was nice.


David Garfinkel

OK Caleb,

You're right on one count. The letter I referred readers to in my email on Thursday kinda swiped the WSJ letter.

But I didn't write it. Killer Rewrite Man Mike Morgan did.

Tony Ostian


What books would you recommend we read to hone our storytelling chops? It's amazing that a letter without a headline, bullets and other gizmos can sell $2 billion in subscriptions. I heard not too long ago that another letter beat out that WSJ control. Do you know if it was more of a direct response sales letter or another story-type letter? And, do you happen to have the link for it?


Tony O

David Garfinkel

Hey Tony,

I have a number of books I like. First, Story, by Robert McKee. Another is Stealing Fire from the Gods by James Bonnett. Annette Simmons wrote a great book for business storytelling called The Story Factor. And for sales stories, check out Unlimited Selling Power by Kenneth Lloyd and Donald Moine.

I don't know of the letter that beat the WSJ control, but if any readers of this blog do, please tell us.

Derrick Markotter

Seth Godin's book, "All Marketers Are Liars : The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World" is about stories that marketers tell, and how to tell stories that people will embrace. He has a blog about the book at http://www.allmarketersareliars.com

The book goes into the reasons people buy things they want, and not just the things they need. And one reason is that the story around the things they want makes them feel good.

David Garfinkel

Great suggestion, Derrick. Thanks.

Jim Van Wyck

RE: the Wall Street Journal Letter.

Conroy's was NOT the first version of that letter... the form of two parallel stories
surely reaches back to ancient times.

The oldest version,
as a pure salesletter,
that I have found,
is about 2 soldiers who
returned from the civil war,
one who did XX,
and the other who,
miracle of miracles,
took a certain business
home study course.

I pointed this out
to my highly-respected
colleague, Dr. Harlan Kilstein,
and he wrote the story there,
far more brilliantly than
I could ever dream of....

Kilstein: Steal This Book


As for the letter that
beat Conroy's control,
it's hard to say it's a
new letter at all.

The WSJ was undergoing
a massive renovation,
changing their front page...
putting a little color in...
and so they hired
Mal Decker to "freshen up"
the letter.

He made only cosmetic changes,
and changed the paper-size
to allow some nice picture
cut-outs of shots of the new layout.

To say that Mal Decker
beat Conroys control
is like saying that
an Elvis Impersonator
sings better than the King.


Jim Van Wyck,
writing this,
on a beautiful spring day,
25 years from my final successs...



Your blog is absolutely my resources...

Mal Decker

The full story of how I beat the old WSJ control with an update and redesign of Conroy's package rather
than the other one we presented to the Journal, has never been told, and may never be, but David Gordon, the designer, and I were gratified by the results -- and beating the control is what direct marketing is all about.
----Mal Decker at maldecker.net

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