Timeless Marketing Truth When Headlines Really Draw Who Needs Pictures

Timeless Marketing Truth When Headlines Really Draw Who Needs Pictures

“A great title is​ a​ work of​ genius,​” said E. Haldeman-Julius in​ the​ 1920s.

Haldeman-Julius sold 200 million (really) of​ his “Little Blue Books.” His headlines were his product,​ because he sold his books by the​ title. About halfway through his brilliant marketing career he wrote a​ book called “The First Hundred Million,​” in​ which he shared some of​ his secrets…

EHJ had a​ system.  if​ a​ title didn't sell over 10,​000 copies in​ a​ year,​ it​ was sent to​ a​ place in​ his office called "The Hospital" to​ be given a​ new title. And if​ the​ new title bombed,​ then it​ went into "The Morgue." as​ an​ example,​ "Art of​ Controversy" didn't meet his 10,​000 copy quota. the​ title was changed to: "How to​ Argue Logically" and sales soared to​ 30,​000 copies. He changed nothing about the​ book—just the​ title.

Haldeman-Julius discovered that certain words could increase the​ sales of​ almost any book. in​ 1925 "Patent Medicine" sold a​ measly 3,​000 copies.  Haldeman-Julius changed the​ title to: "The Truth About Patent Medicine" and sales rose to​ a​ respectable 10,​000 copies. 

EHJ found that the​ words "The Truth About" had some sort of​ magic. But far and away the​ best was “How To.” “How to​ Psycho-analyze Yourself” out-sold "Psycho-analysis Explained" and "How I Psycho-analyzed Myself" almost four times over. He found that the​ words: Life; Love; Sexy; Romance; Self-improvement; and Entertainment also worked well in​ titles. Small changes in​ his titles resulted in​ massive differences in​ sales.

Has the​ crafting of​ learning-laden and benefit-promising headlines gone out of​ style? Gary Halbert was a​ copywriting legend of​ recent times in​ the​ way that EHJ was in​ the​ ‘20s. Here’s what he said: “Go read a​ copy of​ ‘The First Hundred Million.’ it​ is​ where I learned my magic words… the​ ones that make copy SIZZLE and my headlines impossible to​ ignore.”

In the​ “Information Age,​” facts drive the​ internet. Think that’s new? Good old EHJ found that “The Facts you​ Should Know About…” was a​ massive hit again and again. the​ more things change,​ the​ more they stay the​ same. Yet so many advertisers run any headline at​ all,​ or​ no headline at​ all,​ because their creators think it's trendy or​ clever. Seldom will such an​ ad succeed.

Arguably,​ the​ most famous headline of​ all time was written by John Caples:  "They Laughed When I Sat Down at​ the​ Piano—but When I Started to​ Play...."  This ad was written for the U.S. School of​ Music and people are still copying it​ today. Caples was a​ past master of​ the​ headline that promised both learning and benefit—and of​ copy (and products) that delivered them.

Maxwell Sackheim was a​ great ad writer from E. Haldeman-Julius’s era. His most famous headline was “Do you​ Make These Mistakes in​ English?” you​ may well have seen that classic headline before,​ but you​ almost surely don’t know that the​ first draft was “Are you​ Afraid of​ Making Mistakes in​ English?” See how one word changed the​ product from boring to​ exciting—“these.” That one demonstrative pronoun promised specific information and real benefits.

Pardon a​ somewhat personal question: What Mistakes Do you​ Make in​ English With Your Headlines?

Timeless Marketing Truth When Headlines Really Draw Who Needs Pictures

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