What a Prince song can teach you about getting your copy read

Issue #87—December 6, 2019

I may be showing my age, but I remember at least a few decades ago when a certain song by the late legendary musician Prince came out.

And in today's issue, I'm going to show you how this song can significantly boost the chances that your emails, sales pages, VSLs, magalogs, and other promos get opened and read.

What is that Prince song I'm talking about? Controversy.

In his nearly four decades of making music, Prince was no stranger to controversy. In fact, "Controversy" was also the name of his fourth album (here's the cover):

Prince's hit song with the same title addressed the speculation surrounding him about his sexuality, gender, religion, and racial background...all hot button topics at the time.

In one line from the song, Prince sings, "I can't understand human curiosity."

But clearly he did.

And "His Royal Badness" used it to make a boatload of money and sell lots of music.

A little "controversy" can do the same for your promos!

The advertising world, especially in recent times, is full of stories about huge "blunders" that supposedly damaged companies...but ended up selling more of their products.

The recent dust-up about the Peloton bike commercial is a case in point. (If you've been hiding under a rock lately, here's a link to the video of the ad. For extra fun, you might want to look at some of the highly entertaining ad parodies out there as well.)

While it had its supporters, the Peloton ad sparked a torrent of criticism for being sexist, creepy, and even abusive. The backlash was so massive, the company's stock plummeted in recent days...resulting in a loss of $1.6 billion in market value to the company and its shareholders.

Chances are it's going to bounce back from this as consumers forget about the whole dust-up and move onto the next controversy (time to buy the stock?)

What's more, all the recent media attention could end up helping the company boost its revenues, as many people who had never heard of Peloton or were unfamiliar with their products now know about them and their brand.

The company probably would have had to spend at least double or triple the amount it lost in market value to get that level of increased brand awareness. The thing is, it's highly likely the Peloton ad wasn't intended to be controversial. And I'm not suggesting that you purposely make your promos controversial, either.

But "controversy" is a great word to slip into your email subject lines, headlines, and bullets...along with some of its cousins like "forbidden" or "banned". Just like Prince's many racy and controversial songs, it can pay off big-time in getting your copy read.

It's a tried-and-true tactic I've seen (and used) for decades in direct mail, and online as well. Here are a few quick examples from my email inbox just in recent weeks...

What's in Kim's Mailbox?

Let's start with the subject line of an email from I got from INH (Institute for Natural Healing). It read: So controversial it could get BANNED! [Your copy inside]

Hmmm...double whammy---"controversial" AND "BANNED!"

I'm so curious I just have to open it. Here's what I see when I do...

Notice how the photo of the book cover is intentionally blurred? Not only does this create curiosity about what it says on the cover,  it continues the masquerade. It conveys "this is so controversial, we were forced to blur the front cover".

Aside from the brief transitional intro from the INH spokesperson, the beginning of the second letter picks right up where the subject line copy left off.

And while it hints at a controversy that has to do with the president, instead of taking a political angle---which could alienate half the audience---it focuses on a "common ground" fear that the target prospect has regardless of political beliefs: the fear of losing the retirement they've worked hard for.

Starting with that fear as the main angle in the email subject line may have been too depressing or otherwise off-putting to get the prospect to open it. But stirring up some curiosity about something that's been "banned" gives you a way in.

Let's take a look at another example that landed recently in my email inbox. This came from a financial publisher with the following subject line: Controversial Message on Stock Trading Just Released

So after reading that in the subject line, I'm curious just what this "controversial message" is. However, I open to find this (which continues on with several "mini" articles about different trends and multiple points of entry)...

I'm feeling a bit of a disconnect and even mild disappointment, as there's not a continuation of the so-called "controversial" message here.

Instead the copy at the beginning seems vague and even evasive, and doesn't motivate me to click. It says it will be removed tonight, but it doesn't hint at why, so it's not intriguing enough or believable. More specifics, please!

Here are some more examples of "controversial" email subject lines that landed in my inbox. See if any of them generate ideas for your copy:

--Controversial video shows you how to "rub" away your ED (from Real Dose)

--My most extreme and controversial stance on people (from Ben Settle)

--Controversial Video Exposes “Dead Water” (from Early to Rise...a good example of how using the word "exposes" can further dimensionalize the idea of a controversy)

--(Controversial) 13 traits of relentless competitors (from copywriter Roy Furr...a good example of how you can simply put "Controversial" in parentheses at the start of your subject line to make whatever you say after it more curiosity-provoking)

--Pumpkin/Pecan Pie Debate Controversy Resolved. Just In Time for Thanksgiving (from The Grappa Guy, who also happens to be my husband...think he's taking a page from my play book!)

Speaking of Thanksgiving, if you happened to be reading your emails that day or a few days leading up to it, you may have seen the unique and rare opportunity to get a copy of Brian Kurtz's new one-of-a-kind compilation, "Read This or Die: The Lost Files of Jim Rutz".

(Jim Rutz was a master of using controversy to grab eyeballs with his direct mail promotions. When "Read This or Die" came out in big block letters on the front of a digest-sized self-mailer, it quite likely raised a few hackles---but it also made it one of the most successful alternative health promos of all time).

The opportunity I shared with you was this: when you get your copy of this goldmine of copywriting swipes and insights at the above link, you'll get to participate in a LIVE call with Jim's "secret weapon": his sister, Ginger Rutz, and yours truly.

Ginger was the one Jim turned to with agonized late-night phone calls for headline and big idea feedback...and the one person he trusted to diligently read and do line-by-line reviews and edits of his drafts of copy before they went out the door to become blockbuster promotions.

Jim charged upwards of $100,000 to write a single promotion, and made much more in royalties. He appreciated his sister Ginger's help so much, he sent her through med school using some of his proceeds.

Since this special opportunity to join us on the call ended on Thanksgiving night---and if, like me, you had fallen asleep early due to a turkey and pumpkin pie-induced "food coma"---I'm giving you one more chance to join Ginger and I next week.

It's happening this Thursday, December 12th, at 4pm Eastern time. When you order you copy of "Read This or Die: The Lost Files of Jim Rutz" no later than this Sunday, you'll not only be invited to join us on the call, you'll get to have Ginger (Jim's "secret weapon") and I do a LIVE critique of your copy or promo.

But to get your copy "Rutz-i-fied", we need to receive your copy by this Sunday and you need to grab a copy of Brian's collection at this link.

This is such an incredible opportunity to get Ginger's brilliant insights (and my feedback, too) on your copy, I'd hate for you to miss it.

And getting your hands on these lost Rutz files will give you access to more than 200 successful health, financial, and other swipes of promos Jim wrote or felt worthy of collecting, along with insights on what made his brain TICK so he could come up with the massively profitable "big ideas" he consistently hit home runs with.

Forward your order confirmation to me at and I'll get you all the call details. Remember, you must act by this Sunday night at midnight Pacific time.

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. I'm fine-tuning all the details for my brand new "Fast Track to A-List" group mentoring program that's starting in mid-January. Those on my priority list will get the first shot at 10 spots that will also include individual copy critiques and other valuable coaching perks.

To add your name to the priority list, reply back to this message and let me know you're interested. You can decide once you get all the details if it's for you. It's going to be unlike anything else out there, and I can't wait to share more with you soon!

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