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There are right and wrong ways to go about marketing, and the pitfalls are many. A lot can be learned by seeing how not to manage your marketing. This original blog series weaves together an entertaining story that will help you navigate 21st-Century marketing with a view from “the dark side,” as “Screwtape” teaches his apprentice “Wormwood” via email how to sabotage your marketing. Enjoy…

To: Wormwood
From: Screwtape
Subject: Heading Off Headlines

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” David Ogilvy

My dear Wormwood,

Read and re-read this quote by the “Father of Advertising”; feel the cold shiver run down your spine. The power of the headline to stymie our mission of mayhem cannot be overstated. It is the content equivalent of Thor’s hammer, smashing through the cognitive filters by which people ignore most advertising. There are no words more critical in marketing content. With just a few words, an audience can be hooked—with the end result that articles, blogs and other content stand a good chance of being read, shared and talked about.

So I thought it prudent to share some things the patient must not be allowed to do:

  • Devote significant time to crafting a creative headline…first.

It’s usually a mistake to start writing advertising content before one establishes the flavor and theme of the piece with a good headline. That’s like mixing ingredients before you determine what you’re baking! The Enemy suggests that in many cases, he spends most of his time on the headlines when he is creating a content marketing campaign.

  • Focus your headline on values

We just love headlines that tout features of products or services because they are sure to turn people off. People aren’t buying products or services; they’re buying the end result. They don’t want a laptop with an X38T core processor; they want a faster computer that’s lighter in their computer bag. So a headline like, “We Taught our Laptops to Fly” would get more attention than, “Introducing the New X38T Processor.”

  • Be Compelling

Compelling headlines make readers curious. They lead readers to click or keep reading to find out more. Questions often make good headlines. For example:

Can Your Laptop Fly?

Compelling doesn’t always meet clever. Many a clever headline may get a chuckle (or an eye roll), but fail to stir the curiosity to find out more. The best headlines are both compelling and clever.

  • Expand on the Headline

Expanding on the laptop headline, this might look like:

We Taught Our Laptops to Fly

20% Faster, 50% Lighter—The New MacBook is Going to Fly Off the Shelves.

The headline should be short, attention grabbing and focus on value to the audience. The subhead can start introducing specific benefits and features. Do not talk about yourself till you have first highlighted the value of your offerings to the client. Starting out with features and talking about yourself is just asking to be ignored. Start your piece by answering the question, “what’s in it for me?” (“Me” being the reader.)

Of course, Wormwood, there is much more to say on the topic of headlines, but focus on preventing these few actions, and you will successfully keep the Patient’s content campaigns from getting off the ground.

Your affectionate uncle,


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