‘FREE!’ Is Indeed a Magic Word
John Stevenson—a close friend of Grolier president Elsworth Howell—hired copywriter Fred Breismeister from The New York Post and the two of them turned Greystone into a direct marketing behemoth that cranked out multi-volume encyclopedias—gardening, photography, handyman's, decorating and automobile repair among others—and multi-millions of dollars.
Their secret was to offer the first volume FREE! This was not just any low-key free! offer. Breismeister screamed FREE!
Take a moment to click on the first image in the mediaplayer at upper right. This was an early Breismeister ad that used FREE. Notice the book is being held by a man's hand with fingers curled around the bottom.
The Greystone direct mail packages arrived in giant 9" x 12" envelopes that contained a long letter in typewriter (Courier) type and a full color "bed sheet" circular that unfolded out to a huge 17" x 22". The cover illustration of these amazing brochures was the FREE book thrust directly at you and going back into deep perspective. In the distance was a human thumb holding the volume. The book was purposely slightly larger than the real thing and the thumb was smaller, so the reader got the impression that this thing was enormous.
The headline: "FREE! SEND FOR VOLUME 1! No obligation."
It was Breismeister, and his colleague Paul Michael, who came up with the "lift" letter—an extra insert designed to "lift" response by hammering home the FREE offer. On the outside of this small folded piece was the message that said, "Read this only if you have decided NOT to respond to this offer."
Inside was the headline in a handwriting font: "Frankly, I'm puzzled ..." The letter said that the offer is really, really FREE with no obligation to buy anything and you are nuts not to take advantage of this terrific offer.