The Wolf of Weed Street

May 18, 2021

What’s in Kim’s Mailbox?

Well over a decade ago, stock-pumping direct mail promos ostensibly selling a financial newsletter subscription were constantly stuffing my mailbox.

Yes, I was “seeded” on many direct mail lists, including financial, which is probably why I was getting them. But it’s also because they were working.

Often they were magalogs with running sales letter copy and sidebars throughout building up an investing opportunity…and positioning one company in particular as the “go to” stock to maximize profits from that opportunity.

Then there was a call to action to not only buy the stock, but to also subscribe to the newsletter. And there was always some fine print disclosure buried somewhere on page 12 that mentioned how much an advertising firm was paid to produce the promotion…often some eye-popping amount.

Back when I was writing financial as well as health copy, I did get approached on a few occasions to write one of these promos. But I was always booked up and, to be honest, it just didn’t appeal to me…something about it seemed, well, a bit slimy.

Kind of like watching “The Wolf of Wall Street”…a movie I’m ashamed to say I went alone to see in a theater late one Christmas night the day it was released, because I honestly just needed to chill out and get some distance from extended family.

(It wasn’t exactly the most wholesome movie to watch on Christmas…)

In any case, turns out a former coworker at Phillips who went on to become a well-known financial commentator on TV got himself in some deep “doo doo” for violating his contract when he was a paid endorser for one of these direct mail promos.

I knew these stock-pumping promos just spelled trouble!

And in recent years, I haven’t seen that many of them.

Then suddenly I got one of them in my mailbox the other day. It’s an oversized newspaper-style magalog promoting a little-known stock that supposedly is positioned to be the next Amazon of the cannabis retail industry.

So let’s take a look at the front of it in all its unfolded glory (I had to spread it out on the floor and take the picture from above as it’s WAY too big for my scanner…)

It’s definitely using the tactic of “look valuable” by closely resembling an actual financial newspaper. The cover lines incorporate fascination-like copy with images designed to grab the eye and convey credibility (i.e., the use of celebrities like Richard Branson and Peter Thiel).

There’s a cover line right above the addressing panel that makes a big financial claim about “4 stocks skyrocket 1000% or more”, but that is later used to focus attention on the one stock it’s pumping.

Then there’s the main image of the Amazon store and the headline “Post-Pandemic Disruptor”, using an instantly-recognizable brand to cast some sheen on the next supposed “category killer”. The copy leads off talking about Amazon’s new “Go” stores, but quickly veers over to focusing primarily on the Chemisis opportunity.

It’s trying not to be too obvious what it’s doing, at least on the front cover. But once you get inside,aside from one short article at the bottom of page 2, all of the copy (oops, I mean “articles”) are selling the cannabis opportunity and positioning this company as the best way to play it…

Throughout this 20-page promo, there’s a variety of “articles” on every page, all of them having to do in some way with the market for CBD or medical marijuana. There’s an article about it being “a natural painkiller that will make pain disappear”.

There’s an article about “Three ways medical marijuana can strengthen your immune system”. There are stats about its use in the “mainstream healthcare system”…and the number of millennials and baby boomers driving sales growth.

But the main running article that continues throughout the promo is about the “Next ‘Category Killer:’ The Amazon of Cannabis”. This is the sales copy that’s selling investing in Chemisis hard.

There are also other shorter articles about Chemisis, including one on page 4 fairly early on that further flushes out the idea that it’s positioned to be the “Amazon Go Store of Medicinal Cannabis and CBD products”…

It’s definitely taking an educational approach to clearly explaining the opportunity in a way that’s very simple to understand.

And the mix of articles and topics (even though they’re all basically about the same thing: what a hot opportunity investing in cannabis is, and how Chemisis is the way to play it) keep the promo feeling engaging and interesting to read, and NOT feeling like a sales piece.

There are also articles throughout that feature celebrities like Sean Rogen and Gwyneth Paltrow (because, of course)…the leadership team at Chemisis…and top “political players”.

Then on page 16 as we get near the close, there’s a whole page devoted James Dale Davidson, the editor/guru for Strategic Investment newsletter, that elevates him as a top expert and endorser of the Chemisis opportunity…

The page that follows comes in for the close, very clearly outlining “What you should consider now”…the first step basically being, call your broker or go online now to invest in the stock. THEN the second step is to subscribe to the newsletter.

The third is to go online and read more, which seems like an extraneous step that could suppress response if they go there and get lost…though there are plenty of call to actions on that page to get them to subscribe.

Here it is below…plus you can see that fine print I mentioned earlier. In case you can’t read it, they paid advertising agencies a whopping $1,519,843 to cover all the promo costs (surely a big chunk is printing, postage, and list rental, but it’s likely copywriting fees and royalties are included as well).

The inside back cover spread that follows looks like the classic direct mail newsletter subscription offer. Two subscription options are offered–6 months or 1 year, with additional premiums to sway them towards the 1-year option.

One of the premiums is noteworthy since it’s not the typical special report. Instead, it’s an official Ronald Reagan commemorative half dollar (I guess it’s too soon–and too risky–for a Donald Trump one). Let’s just say Reagan’s a bit less controversial…

As far as one of these stock-pumping promos go, I think it’s well-done and will appeal to an older, broader audience. And that’s exactly who this kind of direct mail format works best with.

I still don’t completely understand how a promotion with basically two different call to actions (a newsletter subscription and purchase a stock) works well…I would imagine most people end up subscribing to the newsletter with the low price points, and then some of them are pre-sold and end up buying the stock later.

But maybe part of the reason this approach works is it also reaches the people who don’t want to buy a newsletter, but are more interested in buying a stock. And this gives them a way to do so.

It’s kind of like selling an alternative health newsletter along with a supplement it’s pumping. Hmmm…maybe that’s an idea worth testing out!

That’s all I’ve got today. Definitely this was something different that jumped out in my mailbox, and I hope you picked up some ideas from it.

And as always, if you have any promos that catch your eye that you think could be a good candidate for a breakdown, send them to me at