August 2014 Men’s Health Headlines Masterclass

august 2014 mens health cover

It’s that time again, folks.

If you’re north of the equator, the dog days of summer are approaching rapidly.

It’s been mild so far here in Texas. And I’m going to shut up now before I melt in a ball of irony hot enough to scorch the pavement…

Anyways, summer’s here. That means swimming at Barton Springs, floating the Guadalupe, and barbecues. The magazine Men’s Health just released a new issue that’s ripe for the reason. That got me thinking: the time’s also ripe for a new headline breakdown. (I broke down Cosmopolitan headlines last month and decided to do something manlier this time around.)

The August 2014 Men’s Health issue has some fantastic headlines. They’re engineered to win attention at crowded newsstands, which makes them great examples for how to make your headlines compelling.


Let’s break them down one at a time…

A Study in Headline Perfection

The August 2014 Men’s Health issue features one of the most effective collections of headlines I’ve ever seen. When it comes to raw persuasive appeal, these guys knocked last month’s Cosmo headlines out of the park.

Most of the Cosmo headlines were good, but I thought these were great. It’s annoying. I might even have to break down and buy the freaking magazine just to scratch the itch these headlines created.

I’ll break the headlines down from top to bottom of the cover and share what makes one so effective:

Weed: What Men Need to Know

The August 2014 issue comes out firing, bringing up a controversial subject and highlighting it at the top of the cover.

Controversy isn’t a bad place to start when you’re crafting a headline, but you can’t be sensational just to be sensational. Outlandish headlines worked in the days of P.T. Barnum, but consumers are becoming more selective today.

Sensational headlines work well, however, if you connect them to genuine curiosity and challenge the reader. That’s exactly what this headline does. A lot of readers think they probably know everything there is to know about “weed” (either through popular culture or firsthand experience). This headline challenges that assumption.

I want to read more because I can’t stand not knowing this crucial information. I’m also curious about the stakes of sticking to the status quo; how does not having this information now affect me? Great headline.

5 Ways to Lose 15 Lb (Bring a Six-Pack to the Beach)

There’s a lot going on in this headline. As I mentioned in my previous Cosmo headline breakdown, list post headlines continue to perform well. This headline takes advantage of that.

Another thing that makes this headline effective is it gets specific about the implied benefit: weight loss. It doesn’t just tell readers they will “lose weight.” It gives them a specific amount of weight: 15 pounds.

Losing weight is a nice benefit on its own, but it’s a “surface level” benefit. Connecting it to a deeper benefit – appealing to the reader’s vanity by suggesting he can bring six-pack abs to the beach – makes it much more appealing. The emotional appeal has the reader thinking about feeling confident with his shirt off and impressing bikini-clad women. Now we’re talking.

Conquer the 15 Feats of Total Fitness

I love this one. The first thing that stood out was how the headline took advantage of the list post phenomenon by specifying 15 fitness feats.

This headline also does a great job getting into the minds of its demographic. Using the word “conquer” appeals to the men most likely to read Men’s Health. They’re looking to improve themselves, and that means conquering goals and blowing past old limitations. “Conquer” also makes this headline a bit of a challenge, which drives men to find out what those challenges are and see if they can accomplish them.

Finally, there’s a powerful implied benefit (total fitness) and an element of curiosity (“what are those 15 feats?”). Many Men’s Health readers consider themselves physically fit; they won’t be able to resist this headline because they’ll have to know if they’re on the path to total fitness.

Set off Fireworks in the Bedroom!

This headline is simple and effective. The idea of improving your sex life is one of the most powerful appeals around. It’s universal; it works for Men’s Health just like it works for Cosmo. That strong implied benefit – more pleasure, a better relationship with your partner, etc. – makes this headline irresistible.

The headline is also timely because the phrasing “set off fireworks” coincides nicely with the theme of this month’s issue: All-American Summer. American readers are already thinking about fireworks on July 4th; this headline bridges the gap to fireworks in the bedroom.

Tim McGraw Get Fit Fast! Build Your Best Body in 10 Days

This one sticks to the basics. The headline uses an implied benefit (your best body) to create the main thrust of the appeal and amplifies it by promising the implied benefit quickly (in 10 days).

Maybe it’s a sad reflection of western culture, but we respond extremely well to the idea of hacks, quick fixes, and magic pills. The thought of spending months and years dieting and exercising carries with it too much hard work and commitment to be appealing. But 10 days to build my best body? Sign me up!

5 Health Blunders You Make Every Day!

This headline is a variation of the classic “mistake headline” (the most famous being “Do You Make These Mistakes in English?”).

No matter your niche, anyone you’re trying to do business with online shares this common trait: they hate the thought of making mistakes. No one wants to look dumb in front of their friends or colleagues. And it gets even more horrifying if they start worrying about mistakes they don’t even know they’re making.

This headline taps into that fear. It creates a ton of curiosity, especially because it says readers are making the mistakes so often. Readers want to know what the mistakes are and get the problem sorted out as quickly as they can.

The only way to do that?

Pick up the magazine and keep reading!

Eat Clean: 10 Best Foods

Men’s Health isn’t flashy with their headline selection, but they sure are consistent. This headline sticks to the basics. It specifies a certain number – 10 – of best foods to take advantage of the list post phenomenon. And it uses the implied benefit of eating clean to appeal to readers.

“Best” is the key word here. A lot of Men’s Health readers consider themselves extremely healthy. They’re looking for confirmation that they’re eating the best foods available to build muscle and stay fit. That’s why this headline will get their attention; which of the 10 foods are they eating now? Should they be eating something else instead?

Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed this month’s headline breakdown. Magazine copywriters are some of the best in the business, and we can learn a lot just by watching what they do and reverse engineering it.

Now it’s time to get out there, make a drink, and have some fun in the sun. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Which of these Men’s Health headlines was your favorite? Why? I had a tough time picking a favorite this month… there were too many good headlines to choose from.

Image Credit: US Magazine