Nine good headlines and why they were so profitable

1. They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano . . . But When I Started to Play! 

Melissa & Doug Learn-To-Play Piano 
The granddaddy of great advertising headlines; often imitated but rarely equaled. Is there anyone among us who has never longed for or relished an opportunity — when people doubt our ability — to prove them wrong? Plus, people love to root for the underdog, as the main character of this ad so obviously does. This is an action-oriented headline that promises an uplifting story, and we’re compelled to read further. Also worth remembering: The before-and-after angle can be effective in many headlines.

2. A Little Mistake That Cost A Farmer $3,000 A Year. 

Dirt FarmerA highly successful ad that ran in a number of farm magazines. An excellent idea of how sometimes the negative idea of offsetting, reducing or eliminating the risk of loss is even more attractive to the reader than the prospect of gain. A fellow copywriter and good friend likes to illustrate this point with the following analogy: Imagine it’s 3:00 in the morning and your best friend comes banging on your front door. “Bill, Bill, wake up! I know how we can both make an extra $500 apiece today — guaranteed!” Chances are, this would be a severe test of your friendship. On the other hand, let’s say that same friend came banging on your door at 3:00 in the morning, except this time he’s saying, “Bill, Bill, wake up! Somebody’s in your driveway stealing the hubcaps off your car!” You wouldn’t mind that interruption at all, would you? In fact, you’d be grateful you had such a thoughtful friend. That’s because human nature is such that people will fight much harder to avoid losing something they already own than to gain something of greater value they do not own. Another key factor in this ad’s success is the attraction of the specific. Note that it wasn’t just a mistake; it was a little mistake. What farmer could pass up reading the copy under such a headline? What farmer wouldn’t be compelled to find out: “What was the little mistake? Am I making it? If I am making it, how much could it be costing me?”

3. How To Win Friends And Influence People. 

How To Win Friends and Influence PeopleYes, the title of the book was also the headline for the ad that sold a million books via mail order in less than three years during the latter part of the Great Depression. The key to this ad’s success is its strong basic appeal. Who doesn’t want to know how to win friends and influence people? The key words are “how to.” Without these two words, the ad lacks power, punch and, most importantly, the promise of a benefit. Certain words and phrases are inherently involving and attention grabbing and can be used effectively in just about any headline. Such words and phrases include: How To, How, Here’s Why, Which, Who Else, Where, When, What These, This, Which of These For better advertising results, look for a way to use these and other effective words in your headlines.

4. “I’m impressed — Shell’s Caprinus R Oil 40 keeps my EMD’s in better condition than any other oil I’ve used in 20 years.” 

TIN SIGN NOSTALGIC ~ SHELL LOGO GAS AND OIL“They say” advertising copy has substantially greater impact than “we say” advertising. That’s why the above testimonial quote makes a highly effective headline for this business-to-business advertising effort. Above the headline is a four-color photo of the man who provided the quote. He’s standing in the engine room, and he’s identified as A. E. “Bud” Dacus, chief engineer for the company. The first two paragraphs of the ad’s body copy continue in the same vein as the testimonial headline. Do you think we have some believability and credibility working here? You bet we do! Testimonial headlines can help your ads generate a high response, particularly when they come from recognized experts in well-known companies. So be sure you stay close to your customers and regularly spend time reading the mail they send you. You just might find an excellent headline, a natural and highly believable spokesperson and the basis for a very profitable ad campaign.

5. “If you were given $4,000,000 to spend — isn’t this the kind of Health Club you’d build?” 

Health and Fitness Club TycoonInterrogative headlines like this help entice readers into the copy, and there are many ways they can be put to effective use. This headline is a self-incriminating and highly adaptable technique to have readers help specify what they would value most in such a product. The copy follows through along these lines: Surely you would put this feature into it. You would be sure that it brought you this advantage — and so on. The payoff to the ad is: “We’ve already done it all for you.”

6. “Do You Make These Mistakes In English?”

This is a direct challenge made provocative and effective with the inclusion of one vital word: “these.” “What are these particular mistakes? Do I make them?” Notice also its promise to provide the reader with helpful information.

7. “Do You Do Any of These Ten Embarrassing Things?” 

This question is similar to number six as it preys on our insecurities and makes us wonder, “Which ten are they? Do I do any of them?” The bottom line is, “I better read and find out.”

8. “How Much Is “Worker Tension” Costing Your Company?” 

This one uses a similar approach to number seven, this time from a business-to-business perspective. Notice the quotation marks around the words “worker tension.” Don’t they add a certain element of intrigue?

9. “Six Types of Investors — Which Group Are You In?” 

The Intelligent Investor: A Book of Practical CounselAnd finally, this headline appeals to our innate curiosity about us. These last five headlines all have similar characteristics. And one factor that comes through loud and clear is that they are all written from one primary viewpoint: “The point of you.” Each of them, in fact, contains some version of the word “you.” Even though millions of words have already been written about the point of you, let me remind you again to always keep your prospects and customers at the front and center of all advertising you do.