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Head of the Class

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Some copywriters are geniuses when it comes to headlines (btw, some art directors are too). But, sheer talent aside, headlines are so important that they often need extra attention.

When you're short on time, or simply stuck in a creative rut, here are 35 formulas from legendary adman John Caples.

  1. Begin your headline with the words “How To”
  2. Begin your headline with the word “How”
  3. Begin your headline with the word “Why”
  4. Begin your headline with the word “Which”
  5. Begin your headline with the words “Who Else”
  6. Begin your headline with the word “Wanted”
  7. Begin your headline with the word “This”
  8. Begin your headline with the word “Because”
  9. Begin your headline with the word “If”
  10. Begin your headline with the word “Advice”
  11. Use a testimonial headline
  12. Offer the reader a test
  13. Offer valuable information
  14. Tell a story
  15. Warn the reader against delaying buying
  16. Speak directly to the reader
  17. Address your headline to specific person or group
  18. Have your headline ask a question
  19. Offer benefits through facts and figures
  20. Begin your headline with the word “Introducing”
  21. Begin your headline with the word “Announcing”
  22. Use words that have an announcement quality
  23. Begin your headline with the word “New”
  24. Begin your headline with the word “Now”
  25. Begin your headlines with the words “At Last”
  26. Put a date into your headline
  27. Write your headline in news style
  28. Feature the price in your headline
  29. Feature reduced price
  30. Feature a special merchandising offer
  31. Feature an easy payment plan
  32. Feature a free offer
  33. Use a one-word headline
  34. Use a two-word headline
  35. Use a three-word headline

Granted, some of these may seem dated, and you may be working in a medium that hadn't even been imagined yet in Caples's time. But, these prompts combine tried-and-true-and-tested direct marketing with what's foremost in the potential customer's mind.

And, that's a powerful formula — in 1931 (when he published this list in his Tested Advertising Methods) or today.

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