Why do so many alleged marketing experts ignore the absolute basics of writing?

Here’s the silly reason why so many e-mails fail

Because you’re reading this I suspect one thing about you.

You’re interested in marketing, because other than the stupid things I see around me that’s what I know best and write about most.

That being so the odds are you don’t just follow my advice. You study others.

So do I. Even at 78 I’m eager to learn.

And here’s an important fact I have discovered.

The things that make the difference between being read and replied to – or ignored – are so simple many experts don’t even think about them.

This has struck me the great force in the last few days as I’ve been reviewing the hundreds of emails I get in preparation for a talk I’m giving in October. Few are any good. Most are very bad.  Some are absurdly bad.

What kills your sales?

A good example hit my inbox not long ago.

It was yet another ludicrous promise from a coach/guru/genius to show me how to sell anything you like to anyone you care to think of. These rogues often do well not because they deliver what they promise, but because people believe what they want to believe

His first sentence was 55 words long – all about him. The word “you” – what you are most interested in – appeared nowhere.

If you want to kill readership and comprehension, any sentence longer than around 25 words is hard for the average reader to take in. The easiest length to take in is 8 words.

Two days ago I got another email from a very famous expert – you know his name for sure.

Not long ago he was called a “Titan” of Direct Response. And he teaches, among other things, how to write.

His email contained two successive sentences – one of 38 words, one of 44 words. His P.S. – often the most read thing in a message – was 38 words long and contained four separate thoughts.

This sort of thing kills readership – and sales.

People do not concentrate when they read. And if it’s the usual guff you get in emails they concentrate even less.

If your sentence is very long they forget what it was about before they get to the end.

They find it hard to take in more than two thoughts in a sentence, never mind four.

Read any successful thriller and see how long the sentences are. These writers know if their book isn’t easy to read it won’t sell. People pick it up at an airport book stall and if it looks like hard work, they put it down again.

People don’t want to work at reading, whether it’s for fun or profit.

Most of what you just read was brought to my attention by David Ogilvy in my offices at 20 Soho Square in early 1985. It has yet to penetrate the skulls of many who claim to write and sell.


The talk I mentioned will take place at The Churchill War Rooms on October 20th. If you already receive my emails you will be all too well aware of this, but what you have just read is one reason for making time to be there if you can.




About the Author


In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.

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