The Levison Letter

How to write a winning headline for your 

email, web page, ad, or letter 

March, 2013


What is the function of a headline? To entertain, tease, or amuse?


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 copywriter 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 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 from a fatal flaw - they are essentially a bet, and a bad one at that. The copywriter 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. The 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 bugs, from 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 to 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," consultants, 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?


Bring on the pulsing zombies.




Instead of trying to write winning headlines yourself, how about letting me do it for you?


Feel free to get in touch any time if you want to discuss having me write your emails, home page, landing pages, direct mail, and more. Give me a call at (415) 461-0672 or email me right now.


Want to see the kind of results I get for my clients? 


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How to get in touch . . .
Phone: (415) 461-0672
Fax: (415) 461-7738
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Ivan Levison. Direct Mail, Email & Advertising Copywriting
14 Los Cerros Drive, Greenbrae, CA 94904
Phone (415) 461-0672      Fax: (415) 461-7738

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