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Do Your Ad Headlines Inform Or Bark Orders?

by | Mar 11, 2021

From the moment we can understand language, we get told what to do. Parents and guardians, then teachers and then bosses. It’s irritating, right?!

“Don’t touch that hot plate!”


“if you touch that you’ll hurt yourself.”

 People respond better when they are informed. It’s human nature.

Yet lots of business owners bark orders in their headline copy. ‘Do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. They tell people what to do with no clear benefit or consequence.

Give your message a fighting chance

Again, if people just get told to do something from the off, their backs will go up. OK, most people’s backs will go up. Some people are sheep and actually respond to that authority, but they are in the minority and that’s a whole other blog!

In business, the result is your message won’t sink in. It won’t get the chance to. It will get dismissed out of habit. Don’t tell me what to do.

A recent example I highlighted in one of my Marketing Monday emails was the New Zealand government’s Covid messaging. They didn’t tell people, “Wash your hands.” They informed people, “Washing your hands kills the virus.”

MASSIVE difference.

Focus on the outcome

Another example, one I’ve always used with the Codebreak team, is the old ‘drink driving’ campaign from the 1970s and 80s. Way before their time, the lucky buggers.

The reason that campaign never worked is the strapline was, “Don’t drink and drive.”

A direct order.

A direct order with no immediate benefit or consequence.

This is why the ad campaign switched to showing what could happen if you were to drink and drive. You’ll save a child’s life. You’ll avoid going to prison. And the strapline became, “Drink driving wrecks lives.”

So if you’re running an ad, focus on the OUTCOME rather than simply barking an order at people.

“Get your Will written professionally.”


“A professional Will ensures your children don’t lose out.”

All people want to know is What’s in it for me? And no matter whether you’re B2C or B2B, you’re still needing to appeal to people.

What will they enjoy if they use you? What will they risk if they don’t use you?

By informing rather than shouting, your message has a much greater chance of resonating and sinking in.

Acceptance leads to familiarity, which of course leads to trust and then SALE!

What else can be done to maximise the performance of your advertising? Book a Discovery Call with us and unlock the potential of your campaigns!

Stay safe, stay hungry.

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