When creating a headline, you’ll need to base it completely on how you answer three important questions: What’s the mass desire the product (or service) has in the market, how much (or how little) does the market know about how your product/service answers their needs and how many other products/services are currently available on the market (or have come previously).
The first answer is the general, nation-wide need of the market. However, answering the second two questions will help in the creation of the headline and how it connects with the target market.
One of the biggest misconceptions is it’s the headline’s job to sell a product. While the headline does generate the most attention, it doesn’t need to sell anything. Instead, it is the job of your headline to stop, attract the customer and draws them in to seek out further information. You want the headline to force the customer to read the first sentence of the description. Then you want the first sentence to propel them into the second sentence and so on.
State of Awareness
Is your target audience aware that they have a problem? If they know, they’ll seek out a solution. If they don’t, you’ll need to explain to them the issue they have. All of this impacts the headline. To determine this though you’ll need to identify their state of awareness.
If the customer is most aware, they know of the product, what it does and whether he/she wants it. Basically, they know they want to buy it but haven’t gotten around to buying it. In this case, the headline is there to simply push them over the edge. For the most part, in order to prove successful for this headline all that’s needed is the product and the price. For example, someone knows they need to buy toilet paper. By telling the customer the name brand and a sales price, it reminds the customer and shows what they can save. That’s all that’s needed. Additional copy isn’t going to do any more good.
The new state of awareness is the customer knows of the product but doesn’t want it yet. Perhaps they don’t know everything the product does, how well it does it or how it can help him/her out. This is where most advertising takes place. In this instance, the headline needs to reinforce the customer’s desire to buy the product, to improve their impression of the product, to show off more features of the product, to demonstrate how the product will improve their lives, to change their mind or to highlight new and improved features.
In the instance of a customer knowing about the product but not knowing they actually want it, every single point of emphasis relies on the same general sales tactics. The first is to display the product name within the headline (or to use a large logo). The customer knows of the product already, so this reminds them of the product. From there, the headline needs to point out why it’s better than the rest of the competition. Then, the rest of the body can point out why it’s better (using mechanization, visualization, and documentation). Car companies do this all the time. A person knows of the company and likely of the car. But by telling the consumer it’s the safest rated car on the market, has the best gas mileage on the market, or the highest resale value on the market; it helps illustrate its superiority over other cars in the same market.
Introducing New Products
The target market either knows of the product and instantly identifies it, or they don’t know what it is or how it can help them out. The purpose of the headline is to name the solution to a given problem within the headline, prove the solution can be accomplished and show how it is accomplished.
In order to connect with the customer who doesn’t know of the product or know if he/she wants it yet comes with a three-step process.
The first step is to analyze. This is where the copywriter looks at the target market (including location) and to determine the best way to drive home awareness of the product.
The second step is to intuition, which is sensing a potential trend when it begins. The copywriter and marketing department will need to monitor the trend and determine when to jump on top of it.
The third step is to verbally create a sense of hope, desire and even fear using a headline, slogan or catchphrase. In other words, the copywriter will need to focus emotion within the headline and to give it a goal.
Introducing Products That Address Current Needs
This kind of a product addresses not a desire of the customer, but a need, and the customer knows this is an immediate need. However, the customer also may not know the connection between the product and the need. The headline is designed to illustrate this connection with a simple statement (such as a visual of toothpaste and a headline that reads, “Look mom! No Cavities!”
The entire purpose of this ad is to solve a problem. The customer knows there is a problem (or the possibility of a problem). The ad addresses this. Are feet sore? Try these shoe inserts. Suffer from yellow teeth? Try these teeth whiteners. Spending too much on cable? Try this cheaper TV option. It’s all about identifying a problem and quickly pointing out the answer. This can usually be done right in the headline. When a customer sees the problem, and solution, within the headline, they are more likely to continue looking into the product and how it can really help them.
Opening a Completely Unaware Market
This is where the market either doesn’t know their need, won’t admit there is a need, or it isn’t identified within a single headline. They are still the target audience but may not have any mental connection between the product and themselves.
Products are usually made to address a set need, and this need is almost always known. Customers go to the store knowing what they need. Along the way, they might remember a need and address the issue as well. With this, it’s necessary to help them identify and learn of their need and the importance of addressing it all at the same time.
There are different times a product may run into this problem throughout the course of its life. While this does occur when a new product (or company) is released, it also happens to established companies that are “old-fashioned” and have passed out of public awareness. Products often go through levels of acceptance. Eventually, its target market might age and no longer need it. Or better products might come out and leave it in the dust. Whatever the cause, the product and business need to redefine it and connect in a new way to customers. In a sense, it is opening a completely unaware market.
In order to begin attracting customers unaware of their need, there are several steps to consider. First, there’s no need to include a price reference in the headline. They don’t know of the need, so mentioning the “great deal” has no impact on them. Second, the name of the product doesn’t mean anything either. Third, the mention of what the product does will not help either. To sell to this group, it’s necessary to promise nothing, but instead creating an emotion that connects with the group. It’s about connecting with who the person is. In this instance, the only purpose of the headline is to propel the unaware client to read the next sentence.
The content is to focus on a broader picture. By starting with who the person is, connecting on the wider spectrum, and then each sentence moving in closer and smaller until it eventually lands on the product as its final target. Sometimes, it’s necessary to start even wider. To not just start with the person but the entire key demographic. A person knows what demographic they are in when it’s identified. So they stop and look into this product for people like himself or herself. From there, each sentence moves in closer until it’s obvious the copy could be specific about the reader. In this kind of context, the product isn’t selling anything or promising anything. It’s simply connecting. In order to connect with a completely unaware market, it’s necessary to connect and establish this connection. Only then is it possible to proceed and begin to eventually sell to the demographic.
There are a number of ways to begin connecting with a completely unaware market. The first is to exploit a hidden fear. It can be anything from death to waking up in the morning without coffee. The next way is to lead to an unacceptable problem by using a universally accepted image. For example, proclaiming how bad a woman smells isn’t going to sell much copy generally, and isn’t the easiest subject to broach. But by using a universally accepted image of a woman’s arm, talking about it, how hard it works, and how that hard work leads to sweat, can help open and educate the audience.
Another way to connect is to project a hidden desire, which may not be easily put into words (think cigarettes and the cool Marlboro man). There’s also the tactic of using a common resentment or protest to connect, and likewise, projecting the ultimate triumph, which someone can connect with (such as a parent watching their child go off to college, or even sitting down to learn how to play an instrument and succeeding with it).
An additional method for creating a connection for this demographic is to project a final result for the customer who has a problem in a way that isn’t direct. Many people reject direct statements if they don’t want to admit there is a problem. However, identifying the desired result can help illustrate why the product should be used, even if they do not want to admit the issue. For example, calling someone out for having bad breath might not be possible, or the person may not even realize they have a bad breath problem. However, projecting the desired result of fresh breath can help bring a customer about, even when they did not realize they had the issue.
Another successful method to connect within this category is to project the desired result for someone who might be turned off at the amount of work it takes. This can include making more money. Who doesn’t want to make more money? It projects an accomplishment without necessarily highlighting the amount of time or work it takes (like going to college).
Advertising Copy Never Remains the Same
It’s important to note that advertising copy has never, and will never, remain the same. There will always be the three different kinds of people marketing material needs to target. That isn’t going to change. However, the way content connects with them will change not only decade to decade but often year to year. Looking back, headlines written in the 1920s is far different than in the 2010s, and yet the three different kinds of potential customers remain the same. It shows the importance of evolving with the times and understanding what’s important to a target audience.
In order to connect with the ever-changing mindset of the market, it’s important to understand the current mood of the demographic. Thankfully, while the style of the written content will change, the strategy for creating it will not. Writing a headline to connect with a customer, to involve the inner desire to address an issue (or to discover an issue) will remain constant in a consumer. It’s simply discovering what the inner desire is and how (and why) a consumer has it is what’s necessary for the writer of an exceptionally selling headline.