THE LEVISON LETTER
Action Ideas For Better Direct Mail,
Email, Web Sites & Advertising
Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriting
Volume: 18 Number: 1
How to make headlines make money -
A guide to creating winning direct mail marketing letters
What is the function of a headline? To entertain, tease,
I don't think so.
A headline's job is to get the prospect
to read the body copy.
The body copy is where all the hard work gets done.
That's where the direct mail marketing does the selling and calls for
immediate action. A headline stops prospects from turning
the page and motivates them to keep reading.
There are basically two kinds of headlines:
1. The teaser headline which tries to pique the reader's
curiosity. The teaser headline serves as an intriguing
puzzle that can only be solved by reading the body copy.
2. The benefit headline which instantly promises a
solution to a real problem that the reader faces.
Let me give you some examples of both kinds of headlines
so you'll understand just what I'm talking about.
TEASER HEADLINE from Northrop Grumman:
Bring on the pulsing zombies.
TEASER HEADLINE from Wachovia Securities:
What can bagpipes teach us about raising capital?
TEASER HEADLINE from Access Industries:
Sh-H-H-H grandpa! It's secret!
BENEFIT HEADLINE from Forbes/Wolfe Nanotech Report:
"Get our new 2002 Profit Forecast FREE"
BENEFIT HEADLINE from Prudential Financial:
Bring your retirement dreams closer with a
Strategic Partners annuity.
BENEFIT HEADLINE from The Santa Cruz Operation:
Want to cash in on the exploding UNIX market?
SCO makes it easy! Here's how . . .
If you've read "The Levison Letter" before,
you can guess which set of
headlines I prefer - the benefit headlines for sure!
Why? Because I believe that teaser headlines suffer
a fatal flaw - they are essentially a bet, and a bad one
at that. The writer bets that the reader will check out
the body copy simply because the headline is so darned
intriguing. Sadly, this is a bet that is often lost.
You see, by definition, the teaser headline states no
benefit. The writer's simple prayer is that the reader
will want to see how the cryptic headline pays off in the
body copy. For example, in the Northrop Grumman ad
mentioned above, the headline reads:
Bring on the pulsing zombies.
What does this mean? By itself, absolutely nothing.
whole "bet" is that you will want to solve the mystery by
reading the body copy which begins this way:
"They attack in small bursts, these paralyzing
multiple sources against a single target. And before you
know it, they've devastated an entire computer network.
>From critical information protection to systems
management, Northrop Grumman is prepared for the prospect
of cyber warfare . . ."
The ad might have been a lot more effective if it had
used a more intelligible headline like:
How your network can be targeted for destruction.
And what you can do to prevent it.
Five ways cyber warfare can destroy your network -
And how you can protect yourself NOW.
Northrop Grumman protects fourteen
U.S. Defense networks from cyber attacks.
Here's how we can protect YOURS.
The point is, readers don't have the time or interest
play games or try to solve puzzles. They want to know
what you can do for them.
So don't be seduced by ad agencies, copywriters,
creatives, etc., who talk about building "awareness" and
establishing an "image" with clever teaser lines. If you
want to generate leads, sales, and profits, insist that
they provide headlines with real benefits that speak to
the reader directly and immediately.
The alternative is to bring on the pulsing zombies.
I can help you improve your sales letter - Contact
Direct Mail Marketing Tips By Ivan Levison
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