A correspondent to AdBriefing, my monthly newsletter, has posed a very sticky question. How, she asks, can you tell whether a headline you have written is a good one…or not? What she means by this, I imagine, is whether headline will actually help to make sales, rather than just act as a passing amusement to its readers.
The latter precept, that a headline should actually try to sell something, is not as universally known as it might be. The vast proportion of headlines actually say nothing whatsoever about product and benefits of owning it. And reason for this is that good, selling headlines are not easy to write. So majority of so-called copywriters take easy route and produce something which they think is humorous or eye-catching and hope that this will do job. That it won’t and doesn’t can be witnessed day in and day out in press ads, brochures and websites worldwide. But I digress.
There is sadly no absolute test that a headline will do job it is paid to do. If there were, we benighted copywriters would be earning ten times what we are earning now, on grounds that our work would be foolproof. Every headline we conceived would be irresistible; and products would move off shelves like Spring snow off a dyke.
But there is a test – a very good and worthwhile test – that you can apply to any headline you create. I call it ‘So What?’ test.
Allow me to give you an example of ‘So What?’ in action. If you produce a headline that says: Our Widget works twice as fast as any other Widget, and then ask yourself ‘So What?’, it immediately becomes clear that line is bereft of a sales proposition. Because there is no obvious benefit to potential customer.