Which Headline Writing Style is Best?

January 11th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Here are headlines from two different promotions for two different products in the same category: prostate supplements designed to reduce prostate swelling and eliminate urination problems:

A. Male urination problems?

B. Pee like a firehose.

Which approach do you think works better … and why?

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31 responses about “Which Headline Writing Style is Best?”

  1. Solo Business Marketing said:

    I choose “B.”

    “A” states a problem, and no one wants to admit they have one.

    “B” aims straight at the solution using a phrase in which men identify.

  2. Jim Logan said:

    I’m writing this comment at a little past 7AM. It’s my first smile of the day. I love this post :-)

    I’ll go with B. Between the two headlines, the article titled “Pee like a firehose” sounds like the better read. If I had this problem, that’s the solution I’d be looking for.

    And what man doesn’t want to pee like a firehose? Even if you don’t have a urinary problem today…you still want to read the article.

  3. Suzanne Ryan said:

    Interesting. This might be a judgment call better left to men. The image and implication of peeing like a firehose did not quite do it for me. lol!

  4. Jonathan Kantor said:

    I’ll go with A.

    The term sounds too much like the often used expression “Drinking from the Information Firehose”.

    The thought of combining the two is too difficult to imagine.

  5. Chris Williams said:

    I’d go with B, for the same reasons stated in #1. I had this same problem with a client’s website today, in fact. Their headline stated the problem they wanted to solve for customers. But they didn’t mention the solution until 2 paragraphs down!

    If I want a solution for a problem – especially a potentially-embarrassing one – I don’t want to hear more about the problem. I want to get a solution, fast!

  6. Mike Sieber said:

    Bob, I’m definitely going with B. Not only does it hit men where it counts, but it’s intriguing enough that, even if I didn’t have any problems in that area, I’d still want to read it.

  7. Chris Moore said:

    I would definitely go with “B.”

    Admittedly, “A” identifies the content of the article better. However, what good is copy if no one reads it?

    On the other hand, “B” will entice readers to indulge in the text itself. And even if those with prostate/urination problems don’t see it, the headline should create some buzz and cause people to tell other people.

    In a word, “B” pulls people in, and the gets out the word.

  8. Julie Ann Waid said:

    I loved “B”, and if I saw that on a billboard, I’d definitely give it a longer stare than I would “A”. For me, it comes down to the benefit thing — “Have urinary problems?” is OK as a qualifier question, and maybe as an attention getter, but “Pee like a firehose” is better. Not only because it’s refreshingly frank, but it’s a straight benefit any male with this condition is going see, think “I wish…how?” and keep reading.

  9. Copywriting Services said:

    Hi Bob,

    I like Headline A as it flags down with a problem right off the bat.

    My choice is “A”,

    Edward Santosh

  10. Jodi Kaplan said:

    B, I guess. I agree with Suzanne that this is an issue best left to the men!

  11. Ben Settle said:

    Too bad they’re run by different companies.

    They’d make a great combined headline:

    “Male Urination Problems? Here’s How To Pee Like A Firehose”

  12. Alexey Novikov said:

    I believe, that the correct answer is “C”: test.

    But is testing is not possible, I’d choose “A” because it adresses to those who have such problems.

    I don’t think that all of us want to pee like a firehose. I don’t believe that people will gladly tell others “Wow! What a good headline, you should read how to pee like a firehose!”

    Somebody wrote that “A” states a problem, and no one wants to admit they have one. Okay, if a man does lost his leg, what’s best for him:

    A. Read where to find a good prothesis or
    B. Read “Jump like a kangaroo”

    ???

  13. Shamus said:

    I’m for A.

    If I have a prostate problem, the ad with Headline A will catch my attention. Because no matter how much I don’t want to admit to having prostate problem, deep down inside I still know the condition exists. By directly stating the problem, the ad allows me to know immediately what is it talking about, and then I’ll read the rest of it. Usually I’m not keen to spend time reading things that doesn’t address my needs.

    B is interesting, I agree. But I really wouldn’t be bothered with jokes when I’m having a medical condition. It’s very likely that I may not even associate it with my prostate problem, and thus I might just give the ad a miss. My conclusion is: B intrigues ad people. A works on the common guy.

  14. Alexey Novikov said:

    Shamus, You’re absolutely right!

  15. Robert Rosenthal said:

    I agree with Ben, who suggested a test with a combination of the two ideas. Also, I wonder if “racehorse” would beat “firehose.” (I’d move ahead with the former if I had to pick between the two without testing.)

    Last time I looked, the “Wall Street Journal” was capable of running three-way split run tests. So an a/b/c test could look like this:

    Test a: Male urination problems?
    Test b: Pee like a racehorse.
    Test c: Male urination problems? Pee like a racehorse.

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  17. Fern said:

    Only problem with B (besides the gross visual image I’m now having) is that woman can pee like that too. Really, we can. So is that a problem?

  18. CUBICLE RANT » Pee like a firehose said:

    [...] http://www.bly.com/blog/?p=221 Here are headlines from two different promotions for two different products in the same category: prostate supplements designed to reduce prostate swelling and eliminate urination problems: [...]

  19. Dave McCoy said:

    I agree with Shamus.
    A. will attract the attention of the target market.
    B. Is that even desirable???

  20. Dan Fletcher said:

    A for me.

    B sounds like too much hype. I don’t think making an over-the-top, unbelievable claim right from the start is going to gain the prospects trust. It’s the kind of heading I’d expect in a spam email, and how many of those get read, and *believed*?

  21. Bob Bly said:

    Guys, I have no data for A. But B is an enormously successful promotion!

  22. Jennifer Bennett said:

    I think B works because it gets into the head of someone with male urination problems. To most of us, going to the loo is a break in the day. Put yourself in the shoes of someone with urinary incontinence and you feel discomfort, shame, and self doubt. Being able to pee like a firehose may seem funny to people without the problem, but to a person with incontinence it sounds like a miracle. Hence good advertising.

    Girls are more insightful. (Had to score one for the team.)

  23. Christina said:

    What about C. Pee like a racehorse?

    It appeals to a man’s sense of virility “Mmm strong like stallion…”

  24. Charles Parisi said:

    No comparison – “B” by a wide margin if the promo is geared toward consumers. “B” works better for the same reason tabloids run engaging titles so you’ll buy them at the supermarket checkout!

  25. Rich Barber said:

    Heh. It’s gotta be “B” for so many reasons.

    1. It’s an active sentence.
    2. It’s got directness and charm.
    3. It’s attention grabbing.
    4. As someone pointed out, it communicates the solution rather than identifying the problem.

    Rich

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