Using the “rubbernecker” effect to your advantage in headlines

I was driving in to the office today and there was a truck that had clearly driven off the road on the freeway. Luckily it had happened in the opposite direction from where I was headed so I wasn’t stuck in the 20km lineup of cars it had created. It did however still affect the traffic headed in my direction because of the “rubbernecker” effect. Basically, everyone wants to slow down to take a look.

Aside from the obvious loss of productivity experienced by thousands of people driving into work this morning, there’s a marketing lesson to be learned.

People like to watch disaster.

Taking advantage of disaster is a morally questionable thing. However using the “rubbernecker” effect that is inherent in everyone is just good marketing.

Creating headlines that make people want to read more is probably the single most important skill you can develop in both digital and traditional marketing. Your headline is something that you can guarantee that 95% of people are going to read – so long as you get them to your website, landing page, brochure or trade show booth.

So why not draw the reader in by giving them something so juicy that they cannot resist to slow down and take a look.

Examples of using the “rubbernecker” effect in headlines:

Your CRM could be slowly killing your business

How one small mistake left my marriage in ruins

This one nutrition secret brought me to tears

Or for email subject lines:

wait! don’t do that

that was horrible (my mistake)

how we lost $10k in 5 minutes

Balancing your headlines

Remember to maintain balance in your headlines. There’s a fine line between using this effect and making your headlines sensational and unbelievable. The idea is not to create hype, but to appeal to everyone’s desire to read about a little disaster.

As always, test test test your headlines. Good marketing comes from good tracking and measuring of results.

Let me know your thoughts below.

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