A few strange things happened when I went to Walgreen’s the other night.
I made it to the front counter without a pint of Bluebell ice cream.
An employee I barely know suggested I get “an extra girlfriend who speaks Spanish” to help me on my quest to learn the language.
And something caught my eye in the checkout line. A glossy yellow magazine with a cover and headlines that stood out from all the rest.
Cosmopolitan is at it again.
Even though I’m well outside the magazine’s target demographic, I found myself sucked in while I waited to check out. The headlines intrigued me, and when I left the store, I left wondering…
How does Chrissy Teigen “keep it hot?”
It’s All About the Headlines
Doing business online is a lot like competing for readers in a crowded newsstand. The competition is fierce. You have to do whatever it takes to get visitors’ attention and stand out from the pack.
Your headlines can make you or break you. Magazine writers understand this. The writers at Cosmopolitan are some of the best in the business. Month after month, their headlines get attention, arouse curiosity, and drive readers to pick up magazines.
Successful headlines tap into human psychology. The best-performing ones usually stick to time-tested formulas developed by direct-response copywriters over decades of experience. Unless you’re a nerd like me, you probably don’t want to study this stuff though.
That’s why I’m going to break it down for you. It’s time for the June 2014 Cosmopolitan Headlines Extravaganza! I’ll go through each headline, analyze why it does (or doesn’t) work, and offer takeaways you can apply in your own business.
Let’s get started…
June 2014 Cosmopolitan Headlines Breakdown
“Blow Your Mind Sex! Give & Get the Best Ever”
This headline is about as stereotypically Cosmo as it gets. It never ceases to amaze me how many “new” sex tips Cosmopolitan writers invest month after month. And it isn’t just Cosmo. Fitness magazines like Men’s Health and others are infamous for using similar tactics. Apparently there are thousands of tips to get that coveted six-pack.
But that – the endless recycling of “new” techniques – doesn’t matter when it’s paired with an effective headline like this. This headline works because it applies a huge benefit; who doesn’t want to have blow your mind sex? Sometimes a strong benefit is all it takes to get readers to open the page.
The writers used a dirty trick to make this headline even more magnetic. By using the phrase “Give & Get,” the headline effectively doubles the implied benefit. The reader is promised the benefit, and she gets the added benefit of making her partner happy too. Finally, promising the best sex ever seems hyperbolic, but it injects an element of curiosity and challenges readers who are satisfied with their current sex lives.
“Cosmo Careers: 10 Ways to Score the Job You Want”
This headline is simple, but it works for a few reasons. The “Cosmo Careers” intro might seem random, but it serves an important purpose by getting the right people’s attention. This language targets a specific subset of Cosmopolitan’s demographic: readers interested in topics beyond sex and relationship advice.
You can use headlines like this as well. Addressing your headlines to a specific group (“Attention Golfers,” “Women Over 40,” etc.) is a great way to get the right people’s eyes on your copy and screen out everyone else who isn’t a good fit.
The rest of the headline, “10 Ways to Score the Job You Want,” implies valuable benefits. Financial success is a big motivator, and the “you want” language sweetens the pot by promising personal satisfaction. Couching benefits in a numbered list adds to the appeal; as cliché as they are, list posts continue to perform incredibly well.
“5 Quick De-Stress Tricks”
This might be my favorite headline from the June 2014 issue. It’s short and sweet, but it taps into a few classic principles that make it irresistible.
This one’s a list headline just like the headline above it. Because it refers to stress relief tips, keeping it to 5 is a smart choice. Promising “101 Stress-Busting Tips” wouldn’t appeal to someone who’s already stressed out; it would just overwhelm them. 5, on the other hand, is simple and easy. And did you know that odd-numbered lists tend to convert better than even-numbered lists? It’s true.
This headline also uses “quick” to make the implied payoff – less stress – more appealing. Because the speed of the claim is fast (see #2), readers are more motivated to check out the promised solutions.
I also love the use of “tricks.” It adds a nice element of curiosity. Magicians know tricks, but most people don’t. Promising secret knowledge like this creates an irresistible information gap and drives readers to pick up the magazine.
“Chrissy Teigen: How She Eats, Tweets, and Keeps It Hot!”
This headline was my least favorite. I’ve noticed that Cosmopolitan headlines featuring their cover models tend to get cute and cheesy, and they’re less compelling than the rest.
This headline relies a lot on curiosity. Readers wonder how Chrissy Teigen eats, tweets, and keeps it hot, and in theory, they pick up the magazine to find out. I just don’t think the payoff – finding out those things – is much of a motivator here. Maybe it’s just because I’m not a 14 year-old girl. Who knows? If you have a teenage daughter or sister, feel free to enlighten me!
The implied benefits are tenuous at best. And “tenuous” is not something to shoot for with your headlines. Readers might think they could look like Teigen (by finding out how she eats and keeps it hot and imitating her), but only if they stand in front of the magazine and connect the dots first. Which they won’t do.
Overall, this one’s just too try hard and cute to be as effective as the others. Fail.
“Hilarious #SexFails That Can End in the E.R.”
This one’s just mean. How’s anyone, much less someone in Cosmopolitan’s demographic, able to resist this?
Curiosity’s the name of the game here. There isn’t an implied benefit beyond finding out what these “hilarious sexfails” are, but that’s okay. Curiosity alone is strong enough to drive people to flip open the magazine.
I loved how the second part of the headline changed directions on a dime. What started out as something fun and innocent became serious, and now I have to know what the story is. Bonus points for throwing in the hash tag; it shows the demographic that the magazine is hip and understands their language and preferences.
“Sexy Summer Nights: Outfits Under $50, Sweatproof Makeup, Fun Going-Out Ideas (for Cheap!)
This headline is packed with powerful implied benefits. It reads a more like several little headlines that were combined together to maximize their appeal.
The first part of the headline, “Sexy Summer Nights,” touches on the implied benefit. But it’s a bit vague. Most readers won’t know what that means. So the writers use the rest of the headline in order to explain the benefit and strengthen the appeal.
The benefits hit you from every angle. Saving money? Check. Looking good even when you sweat? Check. Having a blast and socializing with your friends? Check. This stuff is like crack for teenage girls; Cosmopolitan readers will eat it up.
You can use this technique in your headlines too. If you’re selling something complicated or tech-heavy, it can be tough to break it down in 4 or 5 words. You don’t have to. Set up the main benefit in the first part of the headline, and use the rest of the headline to expand on that point and frame it in terms people will understand.
Your Ultimate Guide to Oral – for Both of You
The last headline of the June 2014 issue is a lot like the first. In typical Cosmo fashion, the writers promise a valuable benefit: better sexual relationships. They don’t come out and say it like they do in the first headline, though, and that makes this one a bit weaker. But they do use the same technique of promising benefits to the reader and the reader’s partner to ramp up the appeal.
There’s also an element of curiosity at play. A lot of the demographic doesn’t have much experience with sexual relationships, so the prospect of finding an “ultimate guide” could motivate them to open the magazine.
Decent headline overall, but not as good as the one on the top left of the cover.
Over to You
Breaking down effective headlines like these is one of the best ways to find out how to tap into your own prospect’s psychology and motivate them to buy from you.
As crucial as headlines are to your success, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Pay attention when you’re out and about. What grabs your attention? Why do you think that got your attention?
Simply starting this process in your mind will give you fresh takes on how to better appeal to your prospects.
I hope you enjoyed my June 2014 Cosmopolitan Headlines Breakdown. Which of the June 2014 headlines was your favorite? Why? Leave a comment below and let me know.
Photo Credit: Huffington Post