The Scent of a Successful Headline

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One of the great joys in the wonderful world of advertising is searching for and discovering mind blowing headlines.

Over the decades, like so many of us, I've built a vast collection of my favourites.

I have my top 7 all time crackers.

Anyway, my lifetime quest for more continues.

And just by chance I read a press article on the fragrant Gwyneth Paltrow and her "Beauty, Fashion. Lifestyle, How to do this... Have better that..." company.

As you might expect - they sell scented candles.

From a marketing view, fairly cheap to produce, very high profit margin - but stacks of competition with (almost) every imaginable aroma.

The company thought - lets do a candle which really and I mean really features the very "essence" of our lovely Founder.

All the ingredients are blended together the candle produced and packaged - all that's left are the stickers for the "Headline" name.

Then bung it on the website, if possible grab acres of media attention and sell warehouses of candles at top dollar.

Say you were the copywriter tasked with crafting the wonder "Headline."

Now after hours of research and with a bit of luck many in depth consultations you miraculously penned the winner.

But would you have the courage to tell your esteemed female client - "Here it is, and it's all about you"...


This Smells Like My Vagina


Anyway, mission accomplished the candles completely sold out.

By all means discuss this if you dare.

But please for the sake of the faint hearted - keep your comments pure and clean.


Steve
#headline #scent #successful
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    According to interviews given, Paltrow thought up the name herself...aftr smelling the new candle. So - neither an ad person nor a copywriter came up with the lead? Or is that just the story after the fact?

    If anyone other than a 'famous name' had promoted this - would the copywriting have sold it out?

    Elton John said he 'bought a lot of the candles' - and that's a story I probably don't care to know....


    Would the buyer demographic be interesting - or predictable? Don't know.
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
      Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

      Would the buyer demographic be interesting - or predictable? Don't know.
      You can count me out.

      The only headline that's ever tempted me into buying a scented candle was "This Smells Like Bacon."
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  • Hmm ... mebbe I oughta start marketin' Princess Balestra Fairy Cakes.

    "Cherries That Taste Like Home"

    Meantime, gotta figure bacon candles offer real incentives for crack-of-dawn yogah gals strugglin' with painful bendin' routines.

    See, cos Ms Trimmo says no pain without gain, an' you gotta maintain these evil headstands for like 20 minutes or underworld demons gonna pump your belly, butt & thighs with unsightly cellulite.

    Ain't no Unicorn Milk candle gonna help out here.

    You need serious torture, serious reward.

    So when the weight is bearin' down on your elbows an' your neck is near broke in half, what sweetah inspiration could there be than the smell of bacon waftin' from afar?

    HANG IN THERE, GAL.
    KEEP GOWIN'.
    FOR AT RAINBOW'S END, THERE BE BACON.

    For a real incentive, you could even figure some like actschwl bacon.

    An' mebbe a muffin.

    All I know is, I would naht want Essence of Paltrow waftin' about my apartment.

    Mebbe the thing to watch here is how sales pan out ovah time.

    How many people bought ONE candle jus' bcs they curious?

    Or is Paltrow's sensitive areah truly equal to Frankincense as an inspirer of spirits an' nostrils?
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  • Profile picture of the author chophien
    Really, what a surprise
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  • Profile picture of the author max5ty
    Thanks for the post Steve - not sure what to say about that headline. Guess it worked, but I'm wondering if just based on her name they would have sold out if they just had the headline "candle".

    Your post reminded me of another site that sells candles and soap and I think some other stuff.

    I always thought they had some decent copywriting to explain their products.

    https://whiskeyriversoap.com/collect...ry-servers-new
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    The sarcastic or suggestive copy will often make me read - but not buy.


    For the product described below, I have no doubt it was the copywriting that sold me on boxes of 'soap ends'. https://smile.amazon.com/s?k=The+Lit...=bl_dp_s_web_0

    Every batch of soap has 24 odd ends they usually party together in some corner or the studio feeling somewhat less valuable than the perfectly cut bars displayed neatly on shelves... these orphaned rugged rustic soap ends just want to be adopted to a loving home where they can be useful and appreciated. Listing is for 1 box filled with 8-10 soap ends (however many will fit based on their thickness) a mix of scents that we choose based on availability. Will you adopt these sweet little leftovers?
    I bought four for gifts - then bought one more for myself.
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    • Profile picture of the author max5ty
      Originally Posted by Kay King View Post


      The sarcastic or suggestive copy will often make me read - but not buy.
      I tend to agree with you. I've never bought there either -

      but, every holiday these guys completely sell out and their website just has a message that says they're sold out and to check back.

      Not sure if it's a younger crowd they cater to or exactly who it is.

      Added: Their website also reminds me of the old Woot.com that used sarcastic copy to build a huge business that was later purchased by Amazon.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    Been thinking about this and there are subtleties that I'm sure expert copywriters strive for as they write for some of these products.


    I say I don't respond to the snark - but there is a certain type of dark humor that pulls me in. An example is despair.com - been a fan of that site for a long time and it's not exactly feel-good positivity. It is, however, often a reflection of real life attitudes...



    It may sound tight laced but to me if you have to use foul language or sexual references to sell your product - how strong is that product? Could Paltrow sell out candles without the anatomical reference? But then, would the women in protest marches still be ugly without their 'suggestive' pink hats'?
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  • My thoughts were...

    A "beauty, fashion, let's have a passionate lifestyle etc." hollywood celebrity has a good chance of selling out her candles which apparently smell like her you know what.

    Possibly the clever thing which seemed to make it less profane and gimmicky was using the "matter of fact" word "vagina."

    May not have worked as well - but who knows - if she/they had used other colloquialisms.

    After all you don't want to demean the "brand."


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author DABK
    Just to keep it clean, I will only ask: how does she know how it smells, what kind of a pervert is she?



    Does anyone know how many were made/sold (If you make a small number, you sell out easily if you're her because you have a bunch of followers that will buy anything you make; in other words, the headline is meaningless).
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  • Good question.

    I think I read the company makes over $200 million.

    That would be a lot of candles (people might get over intoxicated with the aroma of...).

    But there are multitudes of other and very expensive fashion, beauty and "have great fun in the sack" products.


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author max5ty
    Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post


    But please for the sake of the faint hearted - keep your comments pure and clean.


    Steve
    My favorite line from your post - gave me a good laugh.

    Anyways, I wanted to add this.

    There have always been different schools of thought when it comes to headlines.

    Some say give a benefit. Some say make a promise. Some say make it newsworthy...

    and on and on.

    I'm in the camp that says to just use a headline to grab attention.

    Follow me for a second with this thought...

    A big bold headline that just says something like "Fake" or "New Idea", or something like that. Big and bold.

    Then, use a subheadline that actually delves into the subject more and aims it more towards the target you're after - with the purpose of sliding them into the first sentence - which keeps sliding them to the bottom of the ad.

    I've written stuff before where I've gotten comments from readers who said they had no desire to buy my product, but they were drawn into the story so much that they reconsidered buying - if for no reason than just out of appreciation for what they read.

    What I guess I'm trying to say in a long drawn out way, is that there really is not hard and fast rules for writing a headline.

    If the one you mentioned worked, then it served its purpose. And that's a good thing.
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  • Totally agree Max.

    It's the old adage - every line in the copy should be designed to make the good people read the next line.

    And they won't even start doing it unless the Headline "forces" them to.


    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author max5ty
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      Totally agree Max.

      It's the old adage - every line in the copy should be designed to make the good people read the next line.

      And they won't even start doing it unless the Headline "forces" them to.


      Steve
      There was a guy (and I'm too lazy to look up his name, plus I'm getting old and have a bad memory) that had a list of over a million people from running ads in newspapers. And this was all before the internet.

      Anyways, he usually used one-word headlines. Maybe someone can remember his name - pretty sure it started with Max (no relation with my avatar name).

      He ended up going to prison for some shady stuff ... but then again so did Gary Halbert which is where he wrote his Boron Letters because he was in the Boron Federal Prison.
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  • I think I know who you mean, his name might not have been "Max" but I'm not all that sure.

    Could it have been Ralph Ginsburg?

    Mel Martin one of the worlds best "bullet" writers (in those days they were called "fascinations" - what a great word) said he had been a great copywriting influence.

    Anyway, I remember reading a collection of the headlines - and yes many one word wonders.


    Talking about words.


    It was Ted Nicholas who always said a Headline should never be more than 17 words.

    Back in the day he said his most successful Ads were bang on 17 words.

    But...

    One of his best Headlines was 4 words.


    The Ultimate Tax Shelter


    Been swiped sooo many times.


    However, if one word does it.

    One it is.


    Steve

    (Suddenly a copy historian)


    P.S. I think we can imagine what the one word candle headline would be...
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    • Profile picture of the author max5ty
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      I think I know who you mean, his name might not have been "Max" but I'm not all that sure.

      Could it have been Ralph Ginsburg?
      Oh my gosh.

      I told you I'm getting old.

      Yes, it was Ralph Ginsberg.
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  • Profile picture of the author eccj
    "Sold out" is a headline unto itself.

    It's very popular in the native ad space combined with social media.

    They never say how many people bought to make it "sell out" but it gives the impression that a lot of people are buying even if they are not and it gets people talking.

    And for those who make their money by being famous on social media getting people to talk is how they make money.
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  • Time to get pumpin' out the ebooks, people ...

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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    The best headlines are those that stoke the emotion driving the prospect to buy. Add a benefit and curiosity, and you've got a winner. This Clayton Makepeace headline and subhead illustrate...
    The 23-Cent LIFE-SAVER Heart Surgeons NEVER TELL YOU ABOUT!

    The astonishing health miracle 1.5 million grateful patients swear by
    (This headline/subhead also includes credibility and common enemy.)

    BUT, and this is important, there are exceptions to virtually every rule of copywriting. So be open to other possibilities.

    Alex
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    • Originally Posted by Alex Cohen View Post

      The best headlines are those that stoke the emotion driving the prospect to buy. Add a benefit and curiosity, and you've got a winner. This Clayton Makepeace headline and subhead illustrate...
      The 23-Cent LIFE-SAVER Heart Surgeons NEVER TELL YOU ABOUT!

      The astonishing health miracle 1.5 million grateful patients swear by
      (This headline/subhead also includes credibility and common enemy.)

      BUT, and this is important, there are exceptions to virtually every rule of copywriting. So be open to other possibilities.

      Alex
      Almost makes you wanna do nuthin' nevah on a Zero Potential Palpitations ticket.

      But prolly I so stoopid I would risk it.

      Such is my way pernickety millennial sensibility.

      Kinda ...

      Where is the ONE EXPERT gonna FEED MY HAMSTAH should I DIE?

      Bless her sweetiepoppet ass -- it ain't my goddamn fault she so srsly vulnrbl bcs I could mebbe GET SHOT bcs DRIVE BY KINDA STOOPID next time I in the store cruisin' for nootricious vegetables.

      Rage my heart on, Say I!

      DEAR SWEET JESUS, FUTURE BALESTRA!

      HAVE YOU NO CARE

      FOR THE STATE OF YOUR MAYBE 2050 NAILS?

      K, so where is the FIX EVRYTHIN' slot for my 23c coin, huh?

      Even if I bend the fkr in half it won't fit in the hole.*










      *For anywan seeking metaphors for my undeniable vacuousness, sadly this is not it.
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  • Yes.

    I've always liked and mainly write...


    A prehead - that usually calls out to the targeted good people and their "problem"

    The main headline - the bells and whistles

    A subheadline - a key "must read on" emotional reason


    Much easier on the eye - and stops you trying to hammer out lengthy squeeze it all in one headlines.

    But I fully agree the techniques, possibilities and variations are endless.


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author James London
    It's the taste, not the smell bro. The tassstte.
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    • Profile picture of the author DABK
      If we go that path, inquiry minds will soon want to know how many licks it takes to...


      I'm already wondering, with millions of candles sold, does she have any smell left?


      I mean, I'm just concerned about her future products, you know.


      Added later: Shame on you James! See what you made me do?



      Originally Posted by James London View Post

      It's the taste, not the smell bro. The tassstte.
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  • So, if a word in the candle headline was changed to "tastes"

    Would the emergency rooms be full of patients with burned tongues?


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
    Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

    You can count me out.

    The only headline that's ever tempted me into buying a scented candle was "This Smells Like Bacon."
    I want to hear the story of how you got that close to Kevin Bacon.


    Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

    .
    This Smells Like My Vagina

    I think that headline is fascinating.


    I read it and could almost feel the areas of my brain light up, trying to put the meaning together.

    Immediately, your brain is sorting out..
    "Is it appealing, or disgusting?"
    " Does it really smell like her vagina?"
    "How the heck would that smell?"
    "How am I supposed to react?"
    "If I buy the candles, will I think of myself as trendy? Cool? "

    And then it would dawn on me...if I buy the candles, and light one up..what a great story I have to tell.

    And at that point, price and "scented candle competition" goes out the window.
    And..my brain was completely engaged as soon as I read the headline.
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
      Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

      I want to hear the story of how you got that close to Kevin Bacon.
      Alas, I only made it to seven degrees.
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      • Profile picture of the author DABK
        Look at the bright side, Frank.
        Me, I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows the guy who sells the leather to the guy who makes the shoes the guy who drives the g....


        Aw, never mind.
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  • Profile picture of the author Subho D
    A successful headline not only compels the visitors in reading the full story but also persuades them into buying it. They don't make just another copy lurking in the web but helps in lead generation and conversion.

    A catchy and sarcastic title might just grab the reader's attention but is it enough?

    Anyway, this worked out for them as they sold the candles. But, is it the headline or the demand for the product? Or did its promotion bring the results?

    Now, determining the target audience is important as the copywriting process then gets easier. The copywriter will write an intriguing headline which gives a sneak peek into the product behaviour.

    Since you are talking about the candles, aroma plays a vital role. Hence, keeping aroma as the keyword to focus on, a great headline can be curated.
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