6 Ways to Boost Response with a “Johnson Box”

Legendary ad man Frank H. Johnson 60 years ago tested if he could boost response to his sales letters by a device known today as the“Johnson Box”—which states the offer in a headline at the top of the letter above the “Dear Reader” or other salutation. His tests showed the tactic produced robust response lifts. Today, however, the Johnson Box is often misused.

Copywriter Ivan Levison recently set down six tips on making a Johnson Box work right:

  • Put the right content in the box: Your copy should underscore your offer and main product benefit.

  • Use the Johnson Box in the right kind of letter.

    If you’re writing a non-personalized letter that’s going out bulk rate in a window envelope using teaser copy, a Johnson Box is likely to improve your results.

  • Make your Johnson Box the right size.

    If you’re mailing an 8 1/2” x 11” letter (folded twice down to 3-5/8”), you want the Johnson Box and at least the salutation line to appear above the fold.

  • Use an appropriate Box format.

    You can make the Box out of asterisks or use a fine-ruled line. For added impact, throw a screened-back second color inside the Box. Some contemporary advertisers report excellent results from using no asterisks or lines around the Box—which, they theorize, may improve readership of the letter.

  • Place a Johnson Box in the body of the letter.

    No law says that you can’t state or restate your guarantee in a small box somewhere within the letter. Or insert a few testimonials. Or a short excerpt from a glowing product review.

  • Show your fulfillment piece in a Box, usually at the top of your letter.

    If you’re offering a report, guide, White Paper, Executive Summary, or a similar document, picture its front cover.