The headline that works but which you will never have used!

Most attractive headline ever?

DO THIS When You Have A GUN Pointed At Your Head

Now of course in my opening line (which was the subject line when this message was sent out by email) I am using the word “attractive” in a particular way – not to mean beautiful but rather to have the ability to gain attention.

And I deliberately chose “attractive” because I felt it might encourage more to read the article, just as I hoped that the headline would.  Not least because if you have read my ramblings before you might recall I have said,  “Never use red”, and “Don’t underline”.

Plus, if that were not enough I also always argue that one should not use BLOCK CAPITALS and should most certainly not have a capital letter for each word.

And yet this headline breaks every since rule.  So what’s going on?  Why does it work, but why do all these rules still apply?

The point here is that this is a one-off headline, totally out of the norm in terms of my regular emails about selling to schools.   Second, as a headline it seems to have nothing to do with selling to schools at all.  

In short the utterly unexpected nature of the text is so powerful, that it overcomes all the disadvantages of using red, underlining and capitalisation.  Which tells us that although the little twists and turns of copywriting in terms of colour use and the like are important, nothing beats a dramatic headline.

Except… having done it once, everyone of the regular recipients of your email will know the trick, and that means if you want to go on and use the approach again you are really going to have to make what you write exciting, unusual and beyond everything, something the recipients want to read.

But one can’t use the same trick over and over.  If my next email to you leads with “When standing on the edge of a crumbling cliff in a snow storm never ever take a step back” might work, but unless the writing really is of interest to the recipients, you’ll quickly lose their interest.

So in short, yes a dramatic headline can work, but you can’t just go putting one in and in effect then say “right now I have got your attention I want to tell you about our new A Level Chemistry book.”  It just reads too much like straight manipulation.

Yet if you do it just once, then it looks odd and disconnected with your general advertising.

The solution in fact is that you really can use unexpectedly dramatic and quite possibly disconnected headlines in order to get readership, but you can’t ever make it look like a trick to get readers.  There must be a connection – as I hope you have found in this piece.

If you would like to come up with ideas and thoughts about how you might increase the response rates you get to your emails – without going overboard on red headlines with violent connotations I’m very happy to do so.   Just send us either a copy of a recent email advertisement you have written, or a link to your web page, and I’ll see what I can come up with.

I won’t go into the wild and whacky approach unless specifically asked to (it can work, but I know many companies feel it is not appropriate for them), but I can normally come up with a few changes which don’t seem that extravagant but really can generate higher response rates.

If you are interested, just email a copy of a recent email you’ve sent and/or a link to your web page advertising a product or service of yours, and I’ll email my thoughts back.  No charge, no pressure, no follow ups about “have you used my idea yet”.  All really relaxed.  Honest.

Tony Attwood

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