Whatever I’ve learned about headlines started with John Caples.
Caples was an advertising man. After leaving the United States Naval Academy in 1925, he searched for a good job until he found one working at a mail-order agency, cranking out newspaper and magazine ads. Caples was a fast learner, and soon created the ad that changed the face of advertising. It’s one of the most famous headlines around and you’ll still see it in play today under various guises.
The headline was created for the U.S. School of Music, advertising their home study course. And here was Caples’ headline:
They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano But When I Started to Play! ~
Overnight, it was a smashing success. Vaudeville comedians made jokes about it. Other copywriters shamelessly stole the idea, copied it or paraphrased it.
Behold, the power of the headline.
Caples rigorously studied headlines, analyzing them within an inch of their life, trying to figure out what made one headline work while another one failed miserably. Adding one word to a headline sometimes made all the difference in the world.
There are four types of headlines that Caples identified as the best types of headlines that would grab attention.
- Quick and easy way (but has to be believable)
Today we’ll look at the self-interest headline. Caples said this type of headline was the most important out of the four.
What is a self-interest headline?
It’s simply a headline that appeals to the reader’s self-interest. It speaks to a desire the reader has, such as getting rich, finding love, being successful at work, being viewed as smart or hip, etc.
It clearly focuses on that desire and pulls the reader in to learn more, which is exactly what the headline is supposed to do.
Examples of a self-interest headlines:
Get Rid of Money Worries For Good
Is $200 a Day Worth a Postage Stamp?
The Secret of How to Be Taller
Each one of these headlines appeal to a desire: to be free of money worries (and save more money, meaning a possibility of getting on the road toward becoming wealthy), to make more money (and become wealthy), and to look better (and be seen as more important by others).
How to write a self-interest headline
Learning to write self-interest headlines is one of the most important copywriting tasks to perform. When you discover what it is about your product or service that will truly meet your reader’s desire, you’ll have a powerful, irresistible formula for getting their attention.
You need to make your headline shout, Here is something you want! Stop and take a look!
When writing your headline, figure out what would make you buy the product or service. What argument would make you, the writer, pull out your wallet and purchase the product or service you’re selling?
Whittle down the reason for the purchase to a few words . That is your headline.
Your headline also doesn’t need to be short, unless you’ve created a way to grab a reader’s attention well with a few words. What’s important is that your headline says what it’s supposed to say, even if it takes 12 or 24 words to do so. Sometimes a complete story in the headline is exactly what you need:
This Summer The South Is All Yours For As Little as $823
Receive Up To $200 Credit On Your All-Inclusive Trip
Don’t make your reader guess at what you’re trying to say, either. Clearly write what they can get if they read the rest of your copy. Whatever the headline promises, make sure the rest of the copy delivers it.
People don’t care about your product or service. They only care about themselves. If your product or service will help them achieve what they want, then they’ll read it. If it doesn’t do that quickly and clearly, your reader will move on.
The Headline Deep Dive Series: