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How to Write Head-Turning Headlines - Part 3

Don’t Tease and Not Deliver –

Make Your Intentions Clear

"I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.
When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product."
-David Ogilvy, On Advertising

In the first part of this trilogy, you read about David Ogilvy’s tried-and-true 80/20 headline rule and the 12 most impactful words in a headline. You also learned that length matters

In Part 2, you read about the U – in fact, 4 of them:

  • Urgent
  • Usefulness
  • Unique
  • Ultra-specific

You also learned to “F” your headlines and subheads to match the psychology of your prospect’s reading habits.

At this point, it’s easy to think that writing headlines is, well, easy. Size doesn’t matter and make sure it has 3 of the 4 necessary components.

What could go wrong?

Plenty, as you can see below:

Teaser Headlines: Wordplay Doesn’t Always Pay

It’s become the norm in many respects. Everyone just wants a click. For the sake of advertisers, not for the sake of informing or motivating readers.

Thus, many writers fall in love with teasers when they write a sales page or letter. They’ve even seeped into emails, brochures, and flyers.

Don’t fall victim.

Marketers fall in love with the teaser headline because it relies on eye candy: salacious, eye-catching wordplays to entice the reader into ignoring its lack of uniqueness, benefits, and usefulness. Juicy, embellished promise that hook the reader into clicking.

It’s a self-gratifying mechanism, especially when the content doesn’t fulfill the promise that the headline proclaims. This is becoming a common problem.

By using this method, your business can lose a lot of money.

Teasers Work (When Done Right)

Let’s be clear – this is not to suggest that teaser headlines are ineffective. Or that you should never used them …

They are fantastic when used correctly and written with purpose not for the hope of virality.

But there’s a fine line.

A genius headline that rouses curiosity (“I want to know more”) is not far removed from one that falls flat from lack of clarity (“Wtf is this trying to tell me? Next…!”).

You want the former not the latter.

So write good headlines.

Stir curiosity. Make a promise. Offer a solution to a problem.

But go overboard to take advantage of irrational impulses, especially too regularly, can fatigue your prospect.

The copy or content that follows often doesn’t live up to the headline, so it’s anti-climactic. And your prospect does a digital mail 2-step: delete and next.

Eventually, if you continue this method, your prospect completely tunes you out, a death knell.

Let’s take a look at one of the most famous headlines in copywriting lore. It was long, it teased, it aroused curiosity, it gave specifics, and what it promised (and how) was unique.

It was written by Porter Stansberry and it headlined his sales letter for The Oxford Club:

There's a New Railroad Across America

And it's making some people very rich…

In fact, one ex-bond trader with a mixed track record
made $1.8 million per day for 540 straight days

With this headline, an ordinary sales letter is transformed. With a generic headline, prospects merely turn or click to the next page.

It arouses curiosity: what kind of new railroad is this?

It’s unique: it’s making people wealthy

It’s specific: a trader made nearly $2M for nearly 550 straight days

It’s useful: a new investment that’s making people a lot of money

In this case, the teaser takes a curiosity-piquing headline – a new railroad across the country – and adds what made this promo break records.

The prospect’s curiosity was piqued, and then the teaser reeled him or her in.

So, teasers work – but not if they’re created for the sake of showing off humor or wordsmithing skills.

Hint: if your copywriter claims to be a "wordsmith", you may not be getting your money’s worth—wordsmith doesn’t always equal money-magnet.

Unnecessary Embellishment, Vague Promises, and Empty Copy: Bad Practices in Other Marketing Media

This applies to on-air commercials such as Kashi’s:

“Don’t just chew something awesome, let’s do something awesome!”

Seriously? Someone got paid to write that? It could be referring to a sandwich.

Or cud that a cow munches on.

While it has good intentions...

Do you want to pay for intentions...?

Or for fantastic ROI?

Write Not to Be Understood But So As Not to Be Misunderstood

That’s a paraphrase of Epictetus (or of William Howard Taft or Robert Louis Stevenson, if you prefer).

However, it’s attributed, you should live it. All of your copywriting and business writing should follow this premise.

But headlines in particular.

Be clear.

For example, if you write headlines or copy that’s like this:

“Cosmetic Surgeons, Drs. Dave Marshall, Arthur Manigault, and Simon Bruton, Calm Melted Face Fear in Santa Monica, CA with Non-Invasive Treatments”

If this sounds like your company’s copy, you need professional copywriting in your life.

This headline makes no sense.

First of all, how many doctors are we talking about? 3? 4? Or more?

And who exactly is calming fears of melting faces?

“Three Santa Monica Cosmetic Surgeons Use Non-Invasive Treatments to Calm ‘Melted Face’ Fears”

We still don’t know what a “melted face” is, but we want to know and we can figure that it’s related to cosmetic dermatology.

It’s still ultra-specific, unique, and useful; plus, it absolutely piques curiosity.

Damala Copywriting Clarifies Your Intentions and Teases with Purpose So You Won’t Be Ditched

Don’t be a tease or make your intentions vague. There should be no word written or method taken without a specific purpose that is backed by evidence.

Your CTA doesn’t always have to sell something. It could be to call or visit a landing page.

But it should never be done randomly. Or because you think it’s cute or witty.

Unless, of course, you just like wasting money.

To get in touch, call 323.438.9939. Or email us. Or contact us here.