The headline above (Do you make these mistakes in English?) is one of the most famous ad headlines in history.
Written by Maxwell Sackheim, this headline – for a mail-order course in English – ran for 40 straight years.
Now keep in mind that in mail-order, ads and offers and headlines are consistently tracked for results. As part of this process, new ads, offers and headlines are always be developed and tested as a way to produce better results.
In mail-order, advertising decisions are entirely based on the response numbers – something that non-mail-order businesses should try for themselves.
So for four decades, this headline continually beat back all challenges and remained as the “control” headline – an amazing feat.
So what makes this headline so powerful? More than anything else, a headline is supposed to draw the reader into the text. This headline does it by asking a question which is always good technique for engaging the reader.
But the headline also heightens the reader’s curiosity – and it does with just one word. (Care to guess which word it is?)
Unlike most Yes/No question headlines, this headline moves the reader to the text by using the word “these.” The reader is motivated and intrigued to see what mistakes the ad is talking about.
Imagine if the headline read “Do you make mistakes in English?” or “Do you make any mistakes in English?” The reader could simply answer “Yes” or “No” – and move on.
But by using the words “these mistakes” in the headline, curiosity takes over and the reader is powerless to resist the temptation to read further. Now that’s what a headline is all about.
Written by Bob McCarthy
This article may be reprinted without permission as long as the article includes the following credit: Bob McCarthy is a freelance copywriter and consultant specializing in direct marketing and lead generation. His website is www.mccarthyandking.com. He can be reached at 508-473-8643 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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