Ask copywriters: What's the one thing that can insanely improve the copy? And before you could finish, they'll scream in unison — "Headlines".
Think about it.
How many times have you read a blog, clicked an ad, played a podcast, or scrolled to the bottom of the website just because the headline lured you?
Correct, quite often.
Since the headline is the first thing your readers see, it should grab attention. It should be like an oasis in the desert; a chandelier in the hallway; a Victoria's Secret billboard at a signal. You got the point.
But how do you write such attention-grabbing headlines?
Well, use this time-tested 4 U's formula.
The 4 U's stand for urgent, unique, ultra-specific, and useful. This is a simple and effective technique used by copywriters for decades. Here, let's take a look.
The 4 U's headline formula
Urgency is among the most used marketing techniques in copywriting.
The idea here is to make the readers act now — be it clicking your ad, reading your blog, or placing the order.
Marketers often create a sense of urgency to drive sales with limited-time deals. Here, they create urgency is created using scarcity.
This technique is equally effective when writing headlines — drawing the reader in to read the rest of the copy or article.
Say something unique or say something usual in a new way. This will make your headline cut through the clutter and convey to the readers that your offer is something unique.
Your headline is fighting for attention amidst hundreds of other content. You gotta stand out to cut through the clutter, and you can do it by saying something unique.
Look at this headline. It's considered the most famous automobile ad ever written.
“At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in the New Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”
You see how the feature of the Rolls-Royce is presented in a unique way?
3. Ultra Specific
Your readers have questions. If your headline can answer them and feed their curiosity, you can persuade them to read. And being specific...(scratch that) — being ultra-specific helps with that.
‘How to tour the U.S.A. for £35 a week’
This headline by David Ogilvy is a part of the American tourism campaign. And it made the U.S Travel Services offices work overtime to handle the inquiries.
The headline worked because it addressed the Europeans exaggerated impression about traveling the U.S.A. They thought it was too expensive. And the ad headline directly attacked their notion with a very specific figure of £35 a week.
“The best headlines appeal to people’s self-interest, or give news.”
— John Caples
When you offer something useful that benefits and appeals to the reader's interest they are more likely to read it. Useful can be anything that provides value to the readers or solves their problems.
A classic example of a useful headline is How to Win Friends and Influence People, the title of the book by Dale Carnegie. It's simple. But it works. It promises you'll be able to make friends and persuade people — appealing to a common human interest.
Applying this formula
Next time you write the headlines consider these 4 U's. Ask yourself if your headline creates a sense of urgency, is it unique, ultra-specific, or useful. You can evaluate how strong your headline is by ranking it on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 being weak and 4 being strong). Your headlines might not score 3 or 4 on all U's but if it does on any 3 U's, it is indeed a strong headline.
By Goldy Benedict