Breakthrough Headline Formulas

If you often get stuck like me looking for a great headline for ad or a blog post, then you’ll find this list really helpful.

And where from this list?

I stole them from a master craftsman.

And who’s this craftsman?

He’s none other than the advertising genius Eugene M. Schwartz.

I’m reading his Breakthrough Advertising for the second time. The first time I didn’t finish it. But this time I’m determined to see the last page.

The book is quite instructive and revealing. It takes you through the planning stages of writing a winning ad. You get to know how to face any ad-writing challenge. How to start and how to finish your project. It teaches you how  to dig into your market to reveal what sells.

Right now, I wish to share with you thirty-eight headline formulas Eugene discussed in this book. Forget the excessive use of capital words and exclamation marks. Rather look for the gem of wisdom buried in each headline formula and see how you can use the lesson to write your next winner.

Here we go…

1. Measure the size of the claim:

“20,000 FILTER TRAPS IN VICEROY!”

“I AM 61 POUNDS LIGHTER…”

“WHO EVER HEARD OF 17,000 BLOOMS FROM A SINGLE PLANT?”

2. Measure the speed of the claim:

“FEEL BETTER FAST!”

“IN TWO SECONDS, BAYER ASPIRIN BEGINS TO DISSOLVE IN YOUR GLASS!”

3. Compare the claim:

“SIX TIMES WHITER WASHES!”

“COSTS UP TO $300 LESS THAN MANY MODELS OF THE LOW-PRICED THREE!”

4. Metaphorize the claim:

“BANISHES CORNS!”

“MELTS AWAY UGLY FAT!”

5. Sensitize the claim by making the prospect feel, smell, touch, see or hear it:

“TASTES LIKE YOU JUST PICKED IT!”

“THE SKIN YOU LOVE TO TOUCH!”

6. Demonstrate the claim by showing a prime example:

    “ JAKE LAMOTTA, 160 POUNDS FIGHTER, FAILS TO FLATTEN MONO PAPER CUP!”

 “AT 60 MILES AN HOUR, THE LOUDEST NOISE IN THIS ROLLS ROYCE IS THE ELECTRIC CLOCK!”

7. Dramatize the claim, or its results:

“HERE’S AN EXTRA $50, GRACE, I’M MAKING BIG MONEY NOW!”

“THEY LAUGH WHEN I SAT DOWN AT THE PIANO – BUT WHEN I STARTED TO PLAY…”

8. State the claim as a paradox:

“HOW A BALD-HEADED BARBER SAVED MY HAIR!”

“BEAT THE RACES BY PICKING LOSERS!”

9. Remove limitations from the claim:

“SHRINKS HEMORRHOIDS WITHOUT SURGERY!”

“YOU BREATHE NO DUSTY ODORS WHEN YOU DO IT WITH LEWYT!”

10. Associate the claim with values or people with whom the prospect wishes to be identified:

“MICKEY MANTLE SAYS: CAMELS NEVER BOTHER MY THROAT!”

“9 OUT 10 DECORATORS USE WUNDAWEAVE CARPETS FOR LONG LIFE AT LOW COST!”

11. Show how much work, in detail, the claim does:

“NOW! RELIEF FROM ALL 5 ACID-CAUSED STOMACH TROUBLES – IN 10 SECONDS!”

“RELIEVES CONGESTION IN ALL 7 NASAL CONGEST IN 10 SECONDS”

12. State the claim as a question:

“WHO ELSE WANTS A WHITER WASH – WITH NO HARD WORK?”

“COULD YOU USE $25 A WEEK EXTRA INCOME?”

13. Offer information about how to accomplish the claim:

“HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE!”

“HERE’S WHAT TO DO TO GET RID OF PIMPLES FAST!”

14. Tie authority into the claim:

“BOSS MECHANIC SHOWS HOW TO AVOID ENGINE REPAIR BILLS!”

“HERE’S WHAT DOCTORS DO WHEN THEY FEEL ROTTEN!”

15. Before-and-after the claim:

“BEFORE COLDENE A CHILD GOT OVER A COLD AFTER 5 DAYS OF ACHING, SNEEZING, WHEEZING, DRIPPING, SUFFERING, COUGHING, CRYING, GAGGING, SPITTING.’’

‘’WITH COLDENE A CHILD GETS OVER A COLD IN FIVE DAYS!”

16. Stress the news of the claim:

“ANNOUNCING! GUIDED MISSILE SPARK PLUGS!”

“NOW! CHROME PLATE WITHOUT HEAT, ELECTRICITY, MACHINERY!”

17. Stress the exclusivity of the claim:

“OURS ALONE! PERSIAN LAMB ORIGNINALS – $389.40!”

“ONLY GLEEM HAS GL-70 TO KEEP TEETH CLEAN ALL DAY LONG WITH ONE BRUSHING!”

18. Turn the claim into a challenge for the reader:

“WHICH TWIN HAS THE TONI? AND WHICH HAS THE $15 PERMANENT?”

“DOES SHE OR DOESN’T SHE? HAIR COLORING SO NATURAL ONLY HER HAIRDRESSER KNOWS FOR SURE!”

19. State the claim as a case-history quotation:

“LOOK, MOM – NO CAVITIES!”

“WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT – I HAVE A COLD!”

20. Condense the claim – interchange your product and the product it replaces:

“NOW! A RING AND PISTON JOB IN A TUBE!”

“POUR YOURSELF A NEW ENGINE!”

21. Symbolise the claim – replace the direct statement or measurement of the claim with a parallel reality:

“STARTING NEXT TUESDAY, THE ATLANTIC OCEAN BECOMES ONLY ONE-FIFTH AS LONG!”

22. Connect the mechanism to the claim in the headline:

“FLOATS FAT RIGHT OUT OF YOUR BODY!”

“FEEDS WASTE GAS FUMES BACK INTO YOUR ENGINE!”

23. Startle the reader by contradicting the way he thinks the mechanism should work:

“HIT HELL OUT OF THE BALL WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND,’ SAYS TOMMY ARMOUR!”

24. Connect the need and the claim in the headline:

“THERE IS ONLY ONE SOLUTION TO AN ADVERTISING PROBLEM: FIND THE MAN!”

25. Offer information in the ad itself:

“WHY MEN CRACK…”

“WHAT EVERYBODY OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT THIS STOCK AND BOND BUSINESS!”

26. Turn the claim or the need into a case history:

      “AUNT MEG, WHO NEVER MARRIED…”

     “AGAIN SHE ORDERS – A CHICKEN SALAD, PLEASE”

 27. Give a name to the problem or need:

“WHEN YOU’RE WEARY WITH DAY-TIME FATIGUE, TAKE ALKA-SELTZER.”

28. Warn the reader about possible pitfalls if he doesn’t use the product:

“DON’T INVEST ONE CENT OF YOUR HARD-EARNED MONEY UNTIL YOU CHECK THIS GUIDE!”

29. Emphasize the claim by its phraseology – by breaking it into two sentences, or repeating it, or a part of it:

“A MAN YOU CAN LEAN ON! THAT’S KLOPER-MAN!”

“NOBODY BUT NOBODY UNDERSELLS GIMBEL’S!”

30. Show how easy the claim is to accomplish by imposing a imiversally-overcome limitation:

“IF YOU CAN COUNT TO ELEVEN, YOU CAN INCREASE YOUR SPEED AND SKILL AT NUMBERS!”

31. State the difference in the headline:

“THE DIFFERENCE IN PREMIUM GASOLINE IS RIGHT IN THE ADDITIVES!”

32. Surprsie your reader into realizing that former limitations have now been overcome:

“SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CRUSH A HARTMAN DC-8? NOTHING!”

33. Address the people who can’t buy your product:

“IF YOU’VE ALREADY TAKEN YOUR VACATION, DON’T READ THIS. IT’LL BREAK YOUR HEART.”

34. Address your prospect directly:

“TO THE MAN WHO WILL SETTLE FOR NOTHING LESS THAN THE PRESIDENCY OF HIS FIRM.”

35. Dramatize how hard it was to produce the claim:

“WHEN JENS FINISHED DESIGNING THIS CANDLEHOLDER WE HAD TO INVENT A WHOLE NEW KIND OF CANDLE.”

36. Accuse the claim of being too good:

“IS IT IMMORAL TO MAKE MONEY THIS EASILY?”

37. Challenge the prospect present limiting beliefs:

“YOU ARE TWICE AS SMART AS YOU THINK.”

38. Turn the claim into a question and answer:

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S UNDER THE HOOD AND YOU COULDN’T CARE LESS AS LONG AS YOUR CAR RUNS SMOOTHLY. WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IF IT DOESN’T?…SOMEONE WHO CARES – UNTITED DELCO.”

Did you find anything you may use in writing your next killer ad or post? Share your thoughts.  I’d be combining two or three of these formulas to produce my winners. How about you?

 

Frustrations of a Writer

‘Am I fake?’

Dear Reader, have you ever stopped to ask yourself that question?

I’ve asked myself that question countless number of times.

Sometimes it feels like this whole enterprise of writing is a waste of time.

I have come a long way.

Back in 2011, I officially began my writing journey after dreaming about it for a while.

I began with a Comprehensive Writing Course with The Writers Bureau, Manchester, UK.

It happened like this..

I was browsing through the pages of one of the national dailies in my country, Ghana, when I saw an ad about

a freelance course offered at The Writers Bureau.

I gave them an email and got a reply.

It was then I realised  they offered a Comprehensive Writing Course for people who wanted

to have a taste of the different forms of writing that one could do to earn some money.

I wrote letters, articles, stories and others.

Their promise was that you qualify for first diploma once you’ve earned your fees back by selling your writing.

I had one huddle.

My biggest challenge was that I was living in a developing country. And market for freelance work was almost non-existent.

The few newspapers available didn’t accept freelance work. I couldn’t find magazines for my work either.

So I decided to try oversees.

And you know what?

I met some challenges there, too.

There’s one principle in freelance writing.

Here it is: Know your market before you pitch an idea to them.

Going by this rule, I had to study at least three consecutive issues of a magazine before pitching them an idea.

I scraped some money together and bought magazines from the UK.

Each time, I had to wait for about a month to receive my copies.

With time, I couldn’t sustain this practice. So decided to send ideas and finished articles to magazines

and newspapers on ‘spec’.

Some were gracious enough to give me a sorry-not-for-us-this-time reply slips.

My rejection pile grew huge – embarrassingly huge – despite countless praises from my writing tuitors.

Finally I got $26 from an article I wrote for a client on Elance.

Nothing again after that.

Then in 2012, one of my articles was accepted for publication in the US for a fee of $50.

I got six copies of the magazine without the $50. I was thrilled nonetheless.

And I crossed to the fiction side of my writing course.

My tuitor said my short stories improved after each assignment.

Again, I had to look beyond the shores of my country for market.

It was during this period I spent money in paying for short story competition fees.

I didn’t win any.

Then I stumbled into the American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI).

This was in 2012. They offered a test-drive of their popular copywritng course.

And I paid for the first month, but I couldn’t continue the subscription.

But the one month was enough to arouse my interest in copywriting.

So subscribed to various copywriting blogs and newsletters…including another one month with  Dan’s GKIC.

Meanwhile, I started saving various sales letters I laid hands on.

I followed the first advice to any student of copywriting: write good sales letters down by hand.

A new route of possibility was opening before my eyes.

I thought if I became a good copywriter I could easily write for businesses within Ghana.

This time no more newspapers and magazines.

My first ‘spec’ sales letter went to the marketing manager of a chiropractic centre.

He said he liked it. That was the end of it.

Further follow-ups by letters and phone proved futile.

I didn’t know where else to turn. So I continued to learn from scraps of information on copywriter.

At the same time, I continued to write my short stories.

After a while, my writing course with The Writers Bureau got challenging and challenging.

When I got to writing stories for radio, I lost all enthusiasm for the course.

I was left with four assignments to complete the course.

These included writing stage drama and TV scripts.

I didn’t see how I was going to surmount this challenge.

After trying other jobs for a while, I came to back to copywriting full time.

I gathered some small money and registered my business, Persuasive Advertising.

I then sold my fridge. I added that money to a little from my dad to run two

ads in two newspapers.

Today for Paper A and tomorrow for paper B; that was how it run.

I received about 10 calls from business owners.

They thought I was going to work some sales miracles for them.

But my concept was confusing to them.

Some wanted a meeting with me, but I was far from them. About 690km, 11 hours by bus.

They were in the capital, Accra, but I was in the farthest nortthern part of Ghana.

In addition to this, I had poor mobile phone reception.

The result?

Nothing happened. No business.

But I continued to send letters to the CEOs of companies in the capital.

The first call came from the CEO of a life insurance company.

I hopped onto a bus for Accra.

The meeting lasted for about 15 minutes. He promised to talk with his marketing team about me.

Upon follow-up, he said they had an agency that handled all their advertising.

Bottom line, they wouldn’t need my services.

Second call came from the CEO of a shoe manufacturing company.

He was thrilled. He’d get back to me ‘after discussions with his team’.

He never did.

Third call came from the CEO of the insurance man again.

He suggested I handle his wife’s costume jewellry business.

I was to be paid 15% of the amount sales I bring in. I was to handle collating the of calls and replies from

interested buyers. And I was to design my ad in exactly one week.

We had meetings and phone conversations back and forth. And I lost interest in the whole thing.

Now, my third call has come from one of the major foreign banks in Ghana.

They want me to write a sales email for their specialised MasterCard for them ‘to see.’

After a deep thought, I decided to advise them to use a sales letter instead.

The advertising market is still green. I doubt if 20 people even know what copywriting is all about.

And what’s more, the Ghanaians are yet to fully trust and embrace internet transactions.

We still have people who read their emails monthly. How can you market to such people using emails?

So I sent them a four-paged sales letter and advised we use the email as lead to the sales letter.

I posted the drift letter today. You imagine that. Why not email it?

Because it might never be read.

The story continues…