Nobody said writing great headlines was going to be easy. But wannabe attention grabbers often make it harder work than it needs to be. See if this sounds vaguely familiar…
The line is needed by 5 o’clock, no excuses. You turn to the computer. Doodling on the keyboard a line appears:
Our latest offer is our best yet.
Our latest offer is our greatest yet.
Our latest offer is our greatest offer
Writing the same line out again and again, changing one word at a time, is a painful way to create a great headline. Actually, it’s never going to result in a great headline – any creativity gets killed in the tedium of the process.
To create great headlines you have to embrace diversity. Zig then zag. Write hundreds of different lines, not the same one again and again. So we thought we’d do something to help.
We created the Fantabulous Thousand Monkey headline generator to encourage experimentation, failure, surprise and … great lines.
Here’s how it works.
We believe great headlines are a product of two factors:
a powerful insight + a proven technique
Let’s say you’re writing a poster for a spicy new BBQ sauce.
Our headline generator features a 6×6 grid on one side. That’s going to be where you write 36 wildly different headlines in a trice. There’ll be some shockers, some ‘meh’ lines, and maybe a couple of crackers.
Let’s get started. In the column down the side you enter a series of insights you think will strike a chord with the target audience.
In the case of our sauce, these could be to do with the sheer spiciness of the sauce, the sociable nature of a barbie, an ingredient story, the fact that it’s new to the market and so on.
Along the top you pick six proven headline techniques you’d like to try. To help you choose, we’ve picked 17 different approaches with examples and reasons why on the back. And you can add a few of your own favourites.
So let’s say your techniques include: highlight the benefit, problem solution, the power of three, contrasts, surprise and social proof.
Now all you have to do is combine the two.
When we run this in workshops, we do it in pairs and get one person to shut their eyes and pick a square.
Imagine the fickle finger of fate lands on the intersect of problem solution and spiciness. Then a quick thought might be along the lines of ‘Dull BBQ? Spice it up with our new sauce’. Or maybe you try power of three and seasonal use: ‘Sun, sea and a sizzling BBQ’
Now, we’re not going to claim you’ll write brilliant headlines immediately. In fact there will be probably be some absolute howlers in the mix.
But in workshops we find that people generate lots of different lines very quickly. And that some of those lines show real potential.
Oh and it’s a lot of fun. Unlike staring at the computer.
If you like the sound of having your own headline generator, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you one.
This post was written by Richard Spencer