Gary Bencivenga’s 2-word copywriting lesson

When I was 12 years old, I moved from a very unsophisticated horse-and-carriage marketing environment (Croatia in the early 1990s) to a hyper sophisticated neon-and-platinum marketing environment (Southern California in the 1990s).

I remember the effect it had on me.

Every cereal commercial, every movie trailer, every piece of direct mail claiming that I might already be a winner of $10 million…

Had me ABSOLUTELY convinced.

All the big claims, marketing gimmicks, and psychology tricks really worked — and I wanted to buy everything that I saw being advertised.

This lasted about 6 months.

After tasting some disgusting Kellog’s Frosted Flakes… going to see Hocus Pocus with Bette Middler… and entering but not winning a $10M magazine-subscription sweepstakes presented by Ed McMahon…

I realized that the reality often doesn’t match the shiny and glossy marketing.

And I learned to tune out or even mock most advertisements.

Which leads me to Gary Bencivenga’s incredible, amazing, jaw-dropping, little-known, billion-dollar persuasion lesson.

Gary is frequently called the “greatest living copywriter,” and his sales pieces have been mailed millions of times.

This lesson of his is short. In fact, it only consists of two words:


You’re better off remembering these two words than the dozens of marketing “power words” such as “amazing” or “jaw-dropping.”

In fact, according to Gary, these two words are even more useful than marketing classics such as “free” and “now.”

That’s because we’ve all been exposed to enough advertising in our lives.

And we’ve all been disappointed with the reality which lies behind much of that advertising.

It’s become hard to convince people simply by increasing the hype and the flash and the promises you make.

And the more you promise and the more you hype up, the more likely you are to trigger the “Yeah, sure” response, and get your message dimissed and discarded.

So what should you do instead?

As Gary puts it in his Marketing Bullet #3:

Never make your claim bigger than your proof. And always join your claim and your proof at the hip in your headlines, so that you never trumpet one without the other.

There is no more powerful nor consistent way to explode your response. Surround your claims with stronger, bolder proof and watch your response soar.


By the way, I spend a lot of time reading about marketing and persuasion (like digging up everything I can find that was written by Gary Bencivenga).

I digest it all into easy little lessons like the one above, but I mostly share these lessons through my emails, and only occasionally on this blog.

If you want to get these emails, you can sign up by clicking here.