Clickbait, Submarines and Attention-Grabbing


Sadly, this is not the case for most businesses. 

We are surrounded by so much marketing and advertising content every day that it is increasingly difficult to stand out and get your audience’s attention. 

Recently we have been looking over Gary Halbert’s book ‘The boron letters’ on copywriting – most of which he wrote in prison.

He is seen as one of the greatest ever copywriters.

In just three pages, he wrote some of the most powerful analyses on attention-grabbing techniques in marketing.

How NOT to grab attention 

This headline was in a direct mail piece that Halbert received.

The company was selling pink pills.

This headline was immediately followed with text explaining that the company does not actually have submarines that fly.

That was just the hook.

Now we’ve got your attention… Some exaggerated claims about the product. Please buy from us. The end.

This is a sure-fire way to agitate your target audience and leave them feeling cheated by how irrelevant your hook was.

Although Gary Halbert wrote about this in the 1980s, many industries seem to have made things worse.

Clickbait is a more modern example of false or misleading headlines being used to grab attention or clicks from viewers online.

We know by now that many platforms rely on clicks to sell advertising space.

More clicks = more money.

Their “clicks” need to be from customers that are genuinely interested in their products.

If a business is getting an enormous amount of clicks, but this is only due to misleading headlines, then none of their viewership will become paying customers.

Misleading copy hooks are lazy.

And they try to shortcut all of the messaging and position work that is necessary for a successful business.

Rant over.

Now for one of our favourite examples of an introduction line.

How to PROPERLY grab attention

If big bold claims do not grab your reader’s attention in the right way then what does?

Gary Halbert explains his unique way of grabbing user’s attention that does work for one key reason: 

The claim is relevant to the advert.

The idea of putting a bag of sand in a letter is definitely unique.

But, most importantly, it linked with what he was selling.

In his own words: “what I did is I got his attention and then I tied my copy to my “attention grabber” in a relevant way that makes sense.”

A personal favourite

This beautiful Social Media piece appeared on the Burger King® Twitter feed.

It was extremely out of character.

It was a shock headline.

But it made sense.

It strengthened their message and has been viewed as one of 2020’s best PR pieces.

We wouldn’t necessarily advise our clients to order any Hawaiian sand for a door drop campaign or start promoting their competitors.

But we can take inspiration from the key takeaway.

Effective Attention-Grabbing Headline + Relevant Body Copy = Increased Probability of Marketing Success.

Have you been impressed by any unique attention-grabbing techniques?

What about those irritating clickbait titles we can’t seem to resist?