Famous Last Words: About Headlines
I used to know Sheldon Hearst, whose business was putting racks of 5½˝ x 8˝ take-one brochures in supermarkets. A marketer had a fraction of a second to catch the shopper's eye with a headline. The most powerful, most successful headline that was used for years:
The offer was a special report on how to deal with bed-wetting by children and adults.
"The headline selects the reader," said direct mail guru Axel Andersson.
My wife and I were in Bermuda recently, and I came across this display box of bookmark-sized take-ones offering gifts, excursions, restaurants, etc., all over the island. Success in this medium depends on a strong headline that selects the reader—one to four words that telegraph the offer.
Look at the close-up of these take-ones. If you want to fish or need a gift store, here is the answer. All others in the display box require work and are not immediately easy to read.
Headlines that stand out from the crowd are elsewhere in the box:
Segway Tours; Sea; Treck Island Tours; Rent a Scooter; Fly Fishing; Fishing Parties; and Ride Bermuda (with a horse illustration)
Headlines that do not make immediate sense:
HOG PENNY; OVERPROOF; HENRY VIII; ONION JACK'S; Brown & Co.; 10% OFF!; and Pickled Onion
You have to remove the card and read it to know what is being offered. "The customer doesn't give a damn about you, your company or your product," said Seattle direct marketing guru Bob Hacker. "All that matters is, ‘What's in it for me?'" (Or "Always listen to WII-FM.")
Many years ago in these pages I wrote a cover story about Marty Edelston and the company he founded, Boardroom, publisher of newsletters and books. The secret of Edelston's success was the world's slowest copywriter, Mel Martin, who could take a week to come up with a headline or the teaser on an envelope. It was Martin's brilliant, painstaking copy that grew Boardroom into a $125 million-a-year behemoth.