I just finished reading a recent issue of a trade magazine for garden centers and found myself struck by the huge percentage of bad headlines.
What makes a headline a bad one? In my book, a good headline selects out the appropriate audience and entices them to read further. Anything that doesn’t qualify as a good headline is a bad one. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to get to “bad.”
The most common is a headline that consists solely of the company name or product name, when the name itself is not a benefit. Of the 36 ads in the particular magazine I reviewed, 44% fell in this category.
Next on the list are headlines that don’t use the company or product name – but don’t offer a benefit or even a clue of what’s being sold. 17% of the ads fell in this category. Two examples: Wow! and High Quality Retail Products.
Some headlines make a stab at offering a benefit but just aren’t very compelling. Examples of these are Better…Not More Expensive and Watering Reinvented. They cry for more information to set up the problem and convince the reader that they offer a solution worth considering. Another 17% of the ads fell in this category.
Straightforward headlines that simply state what’s being sold can work for merchants selling unusual products. Two examples are Custom Trunk Mats and Oats for Cats Seed Starter Kit. For those with more common products, it’s not enough. Garden Seed For Garden Retailers is one example that just doesn’t cut it. 14% of the ads I reviewed fell in this straightforward category; some worked, some didn’t.
The winners? There were just three:
• Changing or installing a new POS software system?
• The industry’s first GC printer that prints both stand alone & connected to the PC
• The only azalea that blooms spring, summer & fall
The first selects out a small, targeted audience. The last two offer unique benefits – a task made easier by the fact that the products being advertised are truly unique.
A unique product isn’t necessary for a compelling benefit, although it helps. What I find astonishing isn’t the rarity of powerful headlines – it’s how commonplace truly bad ones are.