EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m republishing this post to bring attention to the success of Barack Obama’s most successful subject line during the 2012 election campaign. That subject line was “Hey.” We might be tempted to imitate that success. The bottom half of this post explains why that won’t work for you. And Brian Clark expands.
Work in the copywriting field long enough and you get a knack for picking up on what works. Actually measure what you write and you get to be dead on.
Take the headline, for example.
John Caples calls it the most important part of an advertisement. That’s why he dedicates four out of eighteen chapters to headline writing in his book Tested Advertising Methods.
I recommend you read that book if you have any interest in improving your copywriting chops. In the meantime, I’ll sum up those four chapters for you in one hyphenated word: self-interest.
Not your self-interest. Your readers.
The Most Seductive One-Word Headline. Ever
Zero in on a need or want that your reader has and craft a headline in such a way that catches their attention and draws them in. The key is knowing your audience.
Exhibit A: college men.
One of the most successful headlines ever written for this audience simply said, “Sex.”
That one word stopped late adolescent, early twenty-something men dead in their tracks because it pinpointed exactly the most pressing thing upon their mind.
Have any idea what they were selling? Would you believe textbooks.
Two Other [Less Successful] Ways to Write Headlines
There are two other ways to write headlines: news and curiosity.
- Introduce breaking news and you’ve got yourself a good headline.
- Twist somebody’s ear with a little steamy mystery and you’ve got another good headline.
Neither, however, are as strong as self-interest. That’s why “How to” and practical lists dominate the covers of just about every magazine on the racks.
People want solutions to their problems.
They don’t want clever or cute, (unless we’re talking about women, but that’s another post).
Clever or cute won’t cut it on the web. If you want to write those headlines that divert people to your blog, article, magazine ad or book, then dangle exactly what they crave in front of their noses with every headline you write.
They won’t resist.
P.S. Have you seen my new podcast Rough Draft?