Social media is the new direct marketing.

Years ago before social media marketing, there was a classic ad, written by the legendary John Caples, which was pointed out to me by my mentor, Ed Nash.  Here it is:


It tells a story about a guy named Jack who went to a party and sat down to play the piano. His friends, who knew Jack couldn’t play the piano, figured he was kidding, especially when he took out his silk handkerchief and dusted the piano keys.  Then, with a hush settling over the room, he played a perfect “Moonlight Sonata.”  After thunderous applause and accolades, Jack explained that he “saw an interesting ad for the U.S. School of Music — a new method of learning to play which only cost a few cents a day.”

John Caples made the long copy ad standard in direct marketing. Now that the world has changed, how would we approach marketing to a new audience and adapt it to social media? Here are some social media marketing suggestions:

Pique Someone’s Interest


The headline in this ad sets up a scenario where anyone who aspires to be musical can certainly identify with the suggested fantasy. This is not about learning musical technique, or the cost of the lessons. It’s about the feeling Jack must have had when his friends were so impressed and surprised with his talent. Interest becomes emotional, rather than rational.


Imagine that this headline was a tweet:

They laughed when I sat down at the piano – but when I started to play #youcanplaymusictoo

 Get The Audience Involved


The ad takes you through a long story. It could have started with the fact that Jack took lessons at home for pennies a day, but that would have diminished the reader’s investment in being involved with the story. By the time you get to the “Moonlight Sonata” part, you want to know how he did it too!


The U.S. School of Music could create a series of short YouTube videos with various customer testimonials and get viral videos of people of all ages playing musical instruments.

Make  Your Audience Connect


Everyone identifies with the underdog. The fact that Jack quietly overcame a lack of talent in a domain and that his friends were ready to laugh at him and not take him seriously, resonates on some level with the human desire to overcome adversity.


The U.S. School of Music would partner with youth groups and teach disadvantaged children to play music, thereby learning patience, perseverance and the feeling of accomplishment and then promote these stories through PR and social media.

Create a Desire


Later on in the ad, Jack talks about how easy it was to learn to play the piano, almost immediately, for pennies a day. Anyone (even you) can do it. By breaking down the objections to buy (cost, difficulty, time), it gives the reader an opportunity to imagine that he or she can achieve success in fulfilling this desire.


This is where Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. come in handy. By posting photos or videos of success stories with the type of instrument, time it took to learn, and cost for the program, the reader can associate someone else’s story with a desire of their own.

 Ask For the Order


The ad contains a coupon, which would be enclosed in an envelope to sign up for a free booklet and demonstration lesson, so this is a multiple touch acquisition strategy. There is an ambiguous immediacy incentive that this is a special offer for a limited number of new students (we’ve come a long way, baby.)


Download, download, download…from a QR code, text to code, an app, or directly from the website. Ask for credit card info up front and if you’re not playing “Moonlight Sonata” in 30 days, we’ll refund your money.

Join the conversation and let me know what you would do to update John Caples on where the world is now. All ideas are welcome!

Posted in Internet Marketing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Share This...