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Yours FREE — My Gift to You!

August 3rd, 2007 by Bob Bly

In the mail today I received a bright red Monarch envelope.

The teaser — in large boldface all-caps — simply read:


Would that make you want to open the envelope — either because it makes you curious or you like to get free stuff?

Or would does it instantly warn you “this is advertising mail,” causing you to throw it away unopened?

In short, is “LIMITED TIME FREE GIFT OFFER” a good, bad, or terrible headline … and why?


This entry was posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2007 at 1:00 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

52 responses about “Yours FREE — My Gift to You!”

  1. Katie Cummings said:

    Hi Bob,

    I think it’s a terrible headline,

    1. because it seems to read oddly. Maybe it should read, “Free Gift for a Limited time!”

    2. It sounds like garbage. Why would someone go through the expense of sending something valuable to you for free.

    This brings me to my third point: It isn’t really a gift is it? We’ve all gotten these letters in the mail and what happens is you get a free gift after you sign up for something you don’t even want.

    I think the creator of this piece is banking on the limited amount of people who’ll do anything for something free, but that isn’t a whole lot of people and those individuals aren’t going to stick around. I posted on my blog about what it really means to offer something free. Check it out if you’d like.

    Good Luck,

  2. Jim Logan said:

    I’d throw it away. It sounds like a gimmick.

    Not long ago, I received an offer from a very well known marketing guru who claimed in bold print there is a free ticket to a pending live event inside the mailing. It turned-out that to get the free ticket I had to buy nearly $300 worth of information products.

    The headline you mentioned makes me think it’s an offer of the same ilk. A gimmick of some sort.

  3. Riel Langlois, comic book writer said:

    I think it’s a bad headline.

    The “limited time” part is to make people feel like they must open it immediately; however, the copyrighter should have realized that people would either open it as soon as they saw it or trash it immediately. So the “limited time” is not appropriate, and is a waste of two precious words.

    A better headline would hint at the kind of gift it is. Assuming you picked your free gift properly to match your target audience, the hint would trigger curiousity and a sense of mystery and even excitement.

    For example, if the free gift is a coupon for a free issue of “Knitter’s Weekly,” and you’re sending to the subscribers of “Knitting Magazine,” a headline like “Free knitting gift inside!” would be along the right lines (adapt this for whatever target market you are striving for).

    I think the free gift has to be tailored for a target audience, otherwise it’s a waste of time.

  4. Michael A. Stelzner said:


    Is it good or bad??

    Depends what you are selling…

    If it is a consumer type product, like vitamins, perhaps it might work (especially if there was an image on the outside of the envelope).

    I would open or not open based on those words AND the look of the envelope.

    We know free still works!!

    After all Bob, you still use it 🙂


  5. Heather Cook, The Writing Mother said:

    I think it’s horrible. “Free Gift”… what other kind of gift would there be?

    Straight to the trash it would go. It screams advertising and mass market advertising and makes me think that the sender isn’t really giving me a gift, but a gimmick.

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Heather, while “free gift” may be a redundancy, it works.

    A direct marketer did an A/B split test where the only variation in the copy was (a) “free gift” vs. (b) “gift.”

    Not only did (a) “free gift” pull more response, but a number of people who got (b) called and asked, “Is the gift free?”

    Grammarians hate redundancies, but there is a reason to use them: if you just say something once, many people won’t get it. Say it 10 times, though, and you eliminate any doubt.

  7. Michael said:

    Doesn’t really send me as a headline. It sounds like advertising hype. Plus, the bright red envelope repels me. It’s like a used car salesman with a sly grin, a really loud sports jacket, and neon tie approaching me in a used car lot. I see him and immediately brace myself for a sales pitch.

    I got an envelope with the teaser on it once that read: “Odds of finding a free gift inside? 100%

    You could see through the envelope and the only thing in it was a credit card sized card. No letter or anything. This was interesting enough for me to open it. It turned out to be a promotional card for an online casino for $50 in free credits. Not my type of thing, so I tossed it. But, the teaser did get me to open it.

  8. Suzanne Obermire said:

    Good question. I would open it if I knew who sent it and if that firm sold products I was remotely interested in. We all know that ‘free’ is usually a gimmick, but sometimes, if we already wanted the product, we’ll open, read and (gasp) respond.

  9. Sheri Cyprus said:

    Wouldn’t OPEN NOW — FREE GIFT INSIDE work better? More intriguing?

  10. Joseph said:

    I don’t like it because it screams; “Sales Gimmick!” and says a little less loudly; “For some kind of crap you don’t want.”

  11. Eric said:

    I’d open it, but I would do so over an open trash can. The moment I felt it was of no use to me, I’d relax my grip and let gravity take it’s course.

  12. jack said:

    I do a bit of direct mail. I want the receiver of my piece to read it. Hopefully they will retain it for some time. I would rather not have the addressee go through any exercise to get my message. A 5.5″ x 8.5″ postcard has worked very well for me.
    The life of a limited time mysterious envelope is over as soon as I see those or similiar words.

  13. Bob Bly said:

    Jack, I don’t want my recipient to retain my piece. I want him to RESPOND to it, right away — whether he has an immediate need for my product or not.

  14. Judy Kettenhofen said:

    Any time someone says “free gift” or free anything — I will at least taka a look. There have been enough times where I have, indeed, gotten something valuable or something I wanted, for free.

    I’m reminded of a friend of mine who received notification that he had won a timeshare down in Mexico. And, in fact, he had.

    However, I don’t believe the folks who tell me they’re going to split millions of dollars with me because the money, for whatever reason, now seems to be ownerless… 🙂

  15. Jennifer said:

    I think it’s not so great. As a consumer, I know that “free gifts” are rarely ever free–you usually have to buy something first, or at least agree to be on a mailing list or something. I’d probably throw an envelope like that out without looking.

    What works for me best in terms of direct mail are the plain, white envelopes that say nothing but my address and something like “time-sensitive information” on the front–not in large, flashy letters, but in small, official-looking print in the upper left corner. I open those because I think they may be important. Gets me every time.

  16. Mike said:

    Based on your description of the envelope I’d say I’d open it just to see who was trying to sell me something. And to give them a mental critique on the rest of their attempted selling job. To me, it’s an obvious gimmick.

    I prefer your headline: Yours Free–My Gift To You! It’s what got me to read the blog entry. If I got that, handwritten on a plain white envelop with “Bob Bly” on the back, I’d rip it open in a flash to see what I’ve gotta do to qualify for the free gift you’re gonna send me!

    Cheers Bob. You’re the greatest. Well, one of the greatest (depends on my mood! ;-)). You’ve got all my respect. I appreciate your work and the value you deliver free… and… for a fee! Thanks, Mike

  17. Shel Horowitz said:

    The longer I write copy, the less I find myself attracted to the screamy hypey stuff. I find that soft-spoken yet attention-grabbing is a very powerful combination, and that it attracts * a better class of prospect* than the traditional hype.

    Furthermore, I go for specifics, qualifiers, that tell me I am indeed the audience. Too general, and I assume it’s not directed at me and don’t waste my time with it.

    Thus, this envelope wouldn’t get much attention from me, as a copywriter OR as a customer.

    –Shel Horowitz, award-winning author of five marketing books including Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First

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