How to Write Hypnotic Headlines
"Dr. Scott Lewis is a comedy-hypnotist performing at the Riviera Hotel every Monday night in Las Vegas. He called me one day wanting a truly hypnotic ad to run in the local newspapers to pull in college students to his show. I asked him to tell me what he already had in mind for the ad. Here's what he told me:
"I'm thinking of using the headline 'Come do outrageous things at the Riviera next Monday night'."
What do you think? Me, I didn't think it was a very hypnotic headline.
For one thing, it's not engaging. It just sits there. It's slightly active, in the sense that it says "come do outrageous things," but that's not enough to truly mesmerize busy readers of newspapers. Not today. And not college students.
For another, his headline would eliminate all the shy people from going to the show. They might be afraid they would get hypnotized and look stupid in front of their friends. After all, far more people want to be spectators than performers. Scott would miss his target audience.
I advised Scott to try the following headline instead:
"What outrageous things will you see your friends and others do next Monday night at the Riviera?"
Now we have something truly hypnotic.
First, the question involves the mind. It forces you to begin thinking of WHAT you will see next Monday. And it begins the process of having you IMAGINE outrageous things.
Second, this new headline isn't confrontive. Good hypnotic headlines sneak in under the radar and deliver their message. This new ad says what will "your friends and others" do, not what will YOU do. See the difference? It makes it safe for you to go to the show. Your friends "and others" are going to look like fools, not you.
All headlines can be improved by doing just three things:
1. Make them engaging.
My favorite way to engage people is to ask an open-ended question. How can you use an open-ended question when writing your next headline? (I can hear your mind whirling.)
2. Make them curious.
People are naturally curious. Appeal to their curiosity and you can hypnotize them into doing almost anything. What can you make them do with a curiously hypnotic headline? (Note how your mind is again buzzing.)
3. Make them short.
When Scott asked me to review the ad with my new headline, I realized we could add a shorter headline before the longer one. This way we could telegraph our message and then pull people into our hypnotic headline. So I advised him to make the main headline, "Think you've seen outrageous?" We then used the longer headline ("What outrageous things will you see your friends and others do next Monday night at the Riviera?") as the secondary headline. Don't be afraid to use two headlines, as long as the first one is short and leads into the longer, more hypnotic one.