Catching Headlines — Lessons From 49 Years Experience of Legendary John Caples

In 1925, John Caples was commissioned to come up with a headline for an advertisement for a music school course. Caples had no experience in advertising, but he had a natural talent. He sat down at a typewriter and created the most famous headline in advertising history:

Catching Headlines — Lessons From 49 Years Experience of Legendary John Caples
Catching Headlines — Lessons From 49 Years Experience of Legendary John Caples
Source: campaign

This title was so successful that a century later, marketers around the world continue to use it. And the advertising agency BBDO, in which Capeles worked, became famous.

What is the secret of these headlines? They contain a story with intrigue. Intrigue grabs attention and awakens curiosity. But curiosity is not yet the strongest quality of good headlines.

Caples conducted many experiments. In the same newspaper, he ran the same advertisements, with only the words in the headlines and the return address differing. And when the client contacted the specified address, Caples could determine exactly which header worked and which didn’t.

Image for post
Image for post
Source: AZ Quotes

Caples claims the headline has up to 75% impact on the end result. And the most important quality of a catchy headline is the viewer’s personal interest. The headline must contain a benefit. Examples:

The rule may seem trivial, but very often companies highlight the details instead of highlighting the benefits. They point out so many virtues that they forget to say the most important thing — why we should buy. They forget to clarify the benefit of the benefit.

Here is a list of topics with personal benefit:

Over the course of his 49-year-old career, Caples has made many other amazing discoveries and has written the book Effective Advertising Techniques, which provides practical advice on writing catchy headlines, capturing images, and keeping attention.

Written by

Bioinformatician at Oncobox Inc. (@oncobox). Research Associate at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (@mipt_eng).

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