11 Basics of Writing Headlines

1. They should suggest a quick and easy way out. It has the capacity to satisfy some need or want.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal 100 tea bags 200gLet me illustrate. You have heard about Taj Mahal Tea Bags (Dip, Dip, Dip). It has the capacity to quench the thirst. So the advertisement headline says: THIRST TEA DIP.

Similarly, Hawkins pressure cookers’, recent headline ‘You and Your Hawkins – the safest, fastest, way to tasty food, makes you realize immediately what it can do for you. No wonder they all want it.

2. Self-interest is created in every headline.

Wyeth Anne French (Crème Hair Remover with Moisturiser) Rose 40g
Warner’s Waterbury Compound promises that, “When vitality is low, Waterbury’s Compound brings back the glow.’

Anne French Hair Remover – The gentle way to cream hair away makes us so comfortable. We can say now goodbye to razor nicks and cuts.

3. News is included in the headline. 

We are always on the look out for new products, new ways to use an old product, or new improvements in an old product. The most powerful words in a headline are NEW and FREE. There are occasions to use FREE, but a few can use NEW.

The following list of words gives news value to the advertising.

  • Announcing.
  • Surprise.
  • Now.
  • It’s here. Just arrived. Amazing. Sensational.
  • Revolutionary.
  • Last chance.

Johnson's Baby Powder, Original, 9-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 6)4. The headline should always target the advertisement towards your prospective customers.

Thus Johnson’s baby powder headlines do have the word MOTHERS for whom it is meant. Never use a word that will exclude some prospects.

5. Many more people read the headlines. 

Nestle Cerelac, Rice with Milk, 14-Ounce Can (Pack of 4)All of them may not read the rest of the copy. So it makes good sense to use the brand name of the product in the headline.

So the Cerelac advertisements headline reads ‘Give your baby the Cerelac advantage from the first solid feed.’

6. Headlines can be made by imaginatively coined words (coinages). 

Calamine Lotion - 6 OzThe best example is Lacto Calamine’s headline “Skinnocence.” How wonderful! It is one word headline. But it promises an innocent, blemish free skin. It is so striking too.

Now let us take a simple product like an egg. You want to suggest that it is so exciting to take it. How will you be able to coin a new word, using the two? Yes, you will call it eggcitement. Thus, economics of eggs will be eggnomics and extraordinary qualities of eggs will be called eggstraordinary. So now you have eggsperienced it. So eggstatic… and so on and so forth.

7. We have to include the selling promise in the headline. 

Maybe, it makes the headline a little longer. But it sells if properly constructed.

See the 10 words advertisement headline of Fern Instobleach:
Every woman can be faster if only she knows how!

Here is another example where Bonny Mix porridge is described:
BONNY MIX
‘The new instant porridge with the goodness of cereals, fruits and nuts.’

8. Headlines sometimes arouse our curiosity. 

 They lure us to read further.

Aura American Diamond Jewellery headline questions you, “Can you keep a secret?” Here artificial diamond jewellery resembling the genuine ones is offered. So the copy goes on, “Ssh it’s happened.”

Can you think on similar lines and create some curious headline again for the same product artificial diamonds?

Here is a specimen:

”Yes, I buy diamonds every week (this what a woman says) and so can you.”

So not even the daughter of super-rich Khaggoshi or Madhvani’s Mumtaz can buy diamonds every week. Naturally, it is a very curious headline. But further reading directs you to Legend – the shop where American diamonds are sold.

However, curiosity by itself is not enough. It has only the pulling power. The further reading should convince us about the usefulness of product.

Chivas Regal is curiously advertised like this: ‘The Best things in the world aren’t free. Just duty free’. Since it is available at duty-free shops at the airport.

9. Some headlines play games. 

Here puns are used. Literary allusions are used. There may be other obscure things. These are called tricky headlines.

10. Though to be practiced with caution, negatives are used in headlines these days as a ‘No cholesterol oil’ etc.

11. Do not use blind headlines where on its own headline is meaningless, unless the copy that follows is read.

Most people do not read the copy.