Designing great headlines

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, a good copywriter might argue that it rather depends on the words.

Great body copy can tell the story of your product or service, cleverly bringing the consumer round to your way of thinking. Great headlines can begin this seduction by engaging, informing, surprising, charming or amusing the reader into submission. So, what’s the secret to a brilliant headline? Here are a few guidelines we like to follow at Fluro.

Engage
It might sound obvious, but the number one rule is that you must engage your reader. You have to capture their attention, and this is way more important than all the other rules and considerations put together.
Recent surveys claim that we are bombarded by upwards of 3,500 advertising messages every day: that includes a multitude of social media ads, other digital comms, point of sale and billboards. Of those messages, apparently around 99% of them have no impact on our conscious minds whatsoever. The challenge for the copywriter is to write a headline with enough stand-out to become one of the 35 ads that does gain your attention that day. To be one of the 1%.

Be relevant
OK, here’s an engaging headline for you: ‘THE WORLD WILL END AT 6.03PM ON FRIDAY’.
Captivated, and no doubt a touch disturbed, you start to read the body copy that runs underneath this headline: ‘Actually, we were only joking about the world coming to an end on Friday, but now we’ve got your attention, and you’re going to have the chance to do some shopping on Saturday after all, how would you like to buy a new toaster from us?’ I don’t think so.

Yes, you need to grab attention, but you also have to be relevant or else you’re just wasting people’s time. Over-promise and under-deliver and you’ll soon discover that disillusioned readers will never forgive you or whatever it is you’re trying to sell. It’s worth remembering that, essentially, we’re salespeople not entertainers.

Great headlines like this one from David Ogilvy stand the test of time

Tell the whole story
It’s a long-held marketing belief that only 10-20% of the people who read any particular headline will then go on to read the body copy.

That means your clients will be wasting a large chunk of their investment if the headline and accompanying visuals don’t spell out exactly what you’re offering.

Bearing in mind, your headline should use as few words as possible, this can be quite a challenge. But that’s what you need to try to achieve as a writer and, equally importantly, to assess as a Creative Director or a client.

The argument that your headline is so captivating the reader will feel compelled to go on and read the body copy is a dangerous one. (Remember, the poor shell-shocked consumer hit by those 3,500 marketing messages every day.)

Best practice demands that your headlines need to be engaging, relevant and self-sufficient. So, if you’re not sure about a headline that you’re considering using, bounce the concept (headline and visual) off a few of your colleagues and ask them what they glean from it. If their answer isn’t close to the proposition on the brief, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Don’t just say what you see
Headlines don’t need to do all the work on their own; unless, of course the concept in question uses a simple typographic execution.

In most cases, your headline will be working together with a visual and ideally both will pull their weight. The whole, as they say, should always be greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Put another way, we’re not playing catchphrase and you’re not Roy Walker, so don’t just ‘say what you see’. If the headline is not adding to the visual communication, then it isn’t the right headline.

Great headlines work hand-in-hand with the visual execution.

If you’re looking for marketing with a compelling combination of eye-catching design and incisive headlines, then why not give us a call on 01628 525 449 to find out what Fluro could do for your business.

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