My Marketing Thing

A headline mistake that’s a real doozy

Headline mistake cartoon

What did you think of my headline for this post?
Want to find out what the headline mistake is?
Well, keep reading because I’m about to tell you…


Here’s a little story to explain it…

Imagine you are in the residential development business looking to do some advertising. You are selling plots of premium land (enough for a decent-sized house, near public transport, schools, etc.). You are also offering a ‘Land + House’ package. If the client chooses the latter they get $5000 off some building features. House or no house, the offer promises to be a good investment.

Put all that in a headline? No way.


What is the purpose of a headline?

Answer: to grab a person’s attention enough get them reading more. That’s it. And usually the most powerful way to do this is to tap into their emotions.

What is the emotional hook of this post’s headline? (i.e. ‘A headline mistake that’s a real doozy’). It’s about making a big mistake. Have you ever made a big mistake? Me too. Awful feeling isn’t it?


So what is the mistake that’s a real doozy?

The mistake is giving all your key information in the headline. In the case of this post, it would be having the headline: Don’t have all your key information in your headline!. Seduce your reader with interesting bait. In short, use the headline to draw interest first.


What other emotions are there?

As headline readers, we respond to all kinds of emotional hooks. Apart from not liking the feeling of making a big mistake, we also don’t like the feeling of missing out on a great opportunity. Another emotional hook is wanting the inside scoop that gives us an advantage others don’t have. We want to feel secure. We want to feel free. And we want to feel connected to others. In short, we’re all schizophrenic.

The land/house headline could say: Prime land, Great house, $5,000 off.

It’s okay, but it lacks the emotional intensity and ‘punch’ you are looking for. Here are some other possibilities…


You almost missed out…

Missing out on a great opportunity is a feeling we don’t want to have. Using the word ‘you’ immediately helps to engage the reader. Notice that there’s no mention of ‘land’ or ‘house’ in this headline.

Are you wondering the following?:
“But don’t you need to mention ‘land’ or ‘house’ to attract people who are interested in buying land or a house?’

Not necessarily. There are people out there who haven’t even considered buying land or a home who could become a client. So having ‘land’ or ‘house’ could actually alienate potential business. HOWEVER, if you hook their interest with emotion they do relate to, they might change their minds about buying some land after reading the rest of your ad.


Want to save 5,000?

Who doesn’t? $5,000 is an awful lot of money for most of us. Using questions in headlines helps to immediately engage your reader. Questions start a conversation. Again, no mention of ‘land’ or ‘house’ here.


No decent land left?
Don’t listen to them.

Who is ‘them’? I don’t know, but they are saying there’s no decent land left. ‘Them’ means there’s more than one person saying this. And ‘No decent land left’ is a common assumption apparently. But there is someone else who knows something that ‘they’ don’t. I want to be in the know too, so I’ll read on…


A ‘grounded’ investment for you…

This headline is appealing to those open to the idea of investing but want something secure in these crazy economic times. Why is ‘grounded’ in inverted commas? The word relates to ‘land’ – being the ground upon which we walk. It is unlikely for the reader to successfully make this connection yet, but they know there’s a reason for the inverted commas. And the three dots at the end say ‘read on and you’ll find out’.


‘We’re in.’

These are the sounds of people
who have bought…

This headline is appealing to those wanting to feel as inspired and secure as these people obviously do. We want to feel good like they do. In fact, we want to be part of the ‘I feel good’ group of people, to connect with them. Sounds like they’re having a good time. Of course, it’s only a headline, so we’re tapping into deep-seated emotional reactions, not necessarily intellectually logical ones.


Let’s also consider how the headline could look visually:


It’s a buyer’s market .
That means you.

This headline almost has an Uncle Sam feeling about it. It’s like the headline is pointing it’s finger directly at you.

‘Me?’ you ask.

‘Yes, you,’ it replies.

Putting that second line directly under the first and bumping up the size creates extra punch. KER-POW!



   Great land
+ Quality house
= Your nest egg

Obviously this headline is a simple maths equation.’ Buy This’ + ‘Buy This’ means you get ‘That’. You are taking the person by the hand and leading them through, step-by-step. Staring with a light colour for the first line, a medium tone for the second and a dark tone for the result defines the steps visually. The tones are also symbolic. Start light (easy feeling) but end up with something solid-looking, something substantial.



One investment that
tick all the boxes 

How many times have we heard the line ‘It ticks all the boxes’. Too many to count. However, this headline actually plays on the cliché in order to sound different. Having the word ‘does’ in a highlight colour says ‘Yeah, we know – but this one’s for real’. The text that follows would be in tick box format, walking the headline’s talk.


Headline concept

Once you have a piece of ____ land with a ___ home
you’re going to want to keep it.


The red cross marks aren’t indicating a ‘sold’ sticker. So what’s going on? That’s what you want the reader to ask – and then find out more.

The graphic designer could make the cross marks like pen strokes to give the visual extra intrigue. Or you could have a link chain and padlock instead. However you design it, the value of the headline is not in the words but the visual concept.


Okay, that’s enough psychological manipulation for one day. But please feel free to share with us any creative headlines – or any tragically bad ones (the bad ones are usually funnier) via ‘comments’ below.


This post was written by Megan Hills.  Megan is a writer, cartoonist and marketing consultant who often wishes she was better at manipulating graphics than minds. Find out more about Megan


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