The Return of the Pen and Notebook

I like to write things down in the evening. Ideas. Headlines. Copy. It could be anything related to what I’m working on. But, as important as it is and as much as I like it, I get tired of being on my laptop. Like a lot of people, I’m on the computer a lot. It can turn into a kind of sickness.

So it was quite enjoyable for me to scrawl ink on real paper last night while I was sitting on the couch with the TV on, my daughters close by. The pen was a cheap ballpoint and the paper was from a wire-bound notebook I bought at the drug store a few years ago. Nonetheless, it  just felt good to write and doodle. It also felt especially satisfying and healthy to leave the laptop upstairs in my den.

Recently, I read an article about “unkeeping” a journal. The idea presented in the article was to not “keep” a journal, treating it as a writing regimen or chore, but rather to “unkeep” it, using it whenever and however you like.

That’s appealing to me, especially as a break from being on my laptop and the Internet. I can play with ideas and, if something emerges, transfer it from the notebook. The pen and notebook are fun and liberating, creative toys without rules.


Think Visually

(Click to enlarge image)

Even if you’re a writer or copywriter, thinking visually can be just the thing to generate a fresh idea or creative concept. I know this may seem obvious, but for some writers (myself included) words have usually been the way to solve a communications challenge.

And that’s OK. As writers, words are our creative playground.

There’s a saying I’ve heard that goes something like, “He has to talk to know what he’s thinking.” A similar thing can be said about wordsmiths: “He has to write to know what he’s thinking.” That’s been me much of my career.

For example, when developing concepts for B2B advertising and marketing projects, I’ve often just scribbled raw headlines, taglines and such in stream-of-consciousness fashion. Sometimes for hours at a time. I can usually come up with something. Add a complementary visual or image to a smart headline or slogan and it becomes a snappy ad or perhaps a campaign.

But there’s another way. It’s the way graphic designers and art directors think. Visually.

As the years have gone by, I’ve improved in this area. I’m not great, just better. Sometime I’ll suspend the writing and just think visually. This week, for instance, I came up with the above image idea for a direct-mail piece about a fax-to-email service. The creative director liked it, and after the art director rendered it, I worked on a headline.

I’ve also at times suggested that those talented art people come up with the concepts or a visual direction, and then I’ll write the headlines and copy. This approach can work quite well.

David Ogilvy on Headlines

Note: I’ve seen different versions of the first quote many times. It never gets old. But I just discovered the second Ogilvy quote about headlines today. It’s also a good one.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

“The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”

Born in Scotland, the late David Ogilvy has been called the father of advertising. Find more David Ogilvy quotes here.

8 Effective Headline Types for B2B

“If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.”
−David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man

Writing a compelling headline isn’t as easy as it looks. That’s why it’s good to consider all the possibilities.

I thought of headline types after seeing a recent post at copyblogger. Actually, headline types haven’t changed much, if any, over the years. Following are eight variations that can work well for both B2B and B2C copy.

1. Direct. Direct headlines make a straightforward statement to readers. (Save up to 70% on generators.)

2. Indirect. Indirect headlines are designed to pique the curiosity of readers, providing the payoff in the body copy. (Issaquah is now home to 42,469 of your favorite authors.)

3. News. News headlines can be used when you have news or a special announcement. (Introducing the first watch you can wear with a wet suit and tie.)

4. How to. How to is the workhorse of headlines, promising useful information. When you’re drawing a blank, try a how-to headline. (How to get more mileage out of yellow pages advertising.)

5. Question. Question headlines are effective when your audience wants to know the answer. Craft a smart question and you’ll have them eating out of your hand. (What does the pilot strike mean for your travel plans?)

Continue reading “8 Effective Headline Types for B2B”