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7 more great headline formulas

In my last post, I outlined seven sure-fire headline formulas for when you’re pressed for time. Here are seven more.

Headline formula #1 – use shock and awe

Too many pieces of copy are generic and predictable. Once in a while a quirky, enigmatic or outrageous headline can make your audience intrigued enough to want to know more. But this tip comes with a warning. You have to make it relate to the key benefit of the product or service you’re writing about, if you want to keep your credibility.

Headline formula #2 – use a threat

Some people are orientated to move away from what they fear rather than towards what they desire. To get their attention it’s useful to dramatise an undesired outcome of not using the product or service you’re selling e.g. ‘Why your husband lies to you’ or ‘25% of cars over 10 years old are deathtraps’.

Headline formula #3 – keep it simple

If you’ve got a great deal on, or a new product in store why not shout about it e.g. ‘30% off all children’s clothing’. Sometimes this is all you need to attract your customer’s attention particularly if they’re already educated about the product and are looking for a good opportunity to buy.

Headline formula #4 – be commanding

Although it would rude in everyday conversation, barking a command in a headline works really well e.g. ‘Never pay bank charges again’. Sometimes copy fails to convert because it’s simply too indirect to convince the customer to take action. Commands are dictatorial but are one of the clearest ways to communicate your message. Adding the word ‘Now’ really helps to engender a sense of urgency too.

Headline formula #5 – promise the moon

The promise needs to be almost unbelievable, but you have to be able to deliver on it e.g. ‘Get clear, glowing skin in just 3 days’. When a headline like this addresses a core problem which your target audience has, but sounds unlikely to be true, it’s almost impossible to resist reading on. The audience feels it just has to find out.

Headline formula #6 – promise to surprise

Often this is as simple as using the word ‘surprising’ in your headline e.g. ‘The surprising solution to insomnia’. It communicates the idea that the solution you’re offering is out of the ordinary, and makes people curious. It’s another way of saying that what you’re offering is new, a new idea, or at least new to the reader. Another way of conveying this is to call your benefit a ‘little known secret’ or a ‘lifehack’.

Headline formula #7 – use social proof

What most people in your target audience fear is making a mistake. In the case of your product or service, it may prove a costly or time consuming mistake. Social proof convinces them that what you’re offering is trustworthy, and less of a risk should they decide to take the chance. This is the obvious strategy with celebrity endorsements, but highlighting the fact that groups of authority figures relevant to the product or service endorse it is also a powerful way to convince e.g. ‘The electric toothbrush 75% of dentist use themselves’.


There are lots of ways to write a good headline. But if none of them are working for you, let Oxygen help you out by writing headlines that will get you noticed. Call us today on 0845 2606 255 or email us at enquries@oxygenagency.co.uk



Steve Lodge :Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.

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