How I Rephrased 2 Words in a Headline & Improved Results by 34%!

I love new ways to think about how to create ad copy.  Looking back on my younger PPC management years, I definitely didn’t give enough weight to it from the beginning.  That’s probably because I’ve always been a numbers guy first.  But then I had a eureka moment when I said to myself…“You’re in advertising stupid!”  You should learn how to be a better ad writer.

So when I came across this excellent post by Roger Dooley about writing taglines that double sales, I was excited to add it to my repertoire of techniques for testing.

The 2 consumer motivations

In the post, he references a Harvard Business Review article pointing out that consumers are motivated by basically two things – preventing their life from getting worse (prevention) and taking advantage of an opportunity to make their life better (promotion).  If you’re in advertising, I’m sure you already know this.  But what you may not have done yet is considered how this should affect the messages you’re putting out to the world, and how you can test saying the same thing in these 2 different ways.

Inherently, people and products may be more attuned to prevention or promotion.  And the better you can match your messages up to the motivations of the majority of your customers, the more effective your advertising is going to be.

I encourage you to jump over to his post if you haven’t already and check out his examples of framing products with prevention/promotion language and the results of the tests he references.

Applying them to your ad copy

Although he’s talking specifically about taglines in his post, this is just as applicable to ad copy.  Especially with the continued improvements of ad platforms to target specific audiences, we can very easily take his advice and segment our campaigns by audiences and test promotion vs. prevention language to see which resonates better by audience and product.  Just another great tool in our toolbox to pull out in our testing.

Let’s look at a specific search text ad test I did recently where both ads contained basically the same information, but one ad’s 2nd headline used prevention language, while the other used promotion language…

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As you can see, the only difference in the ads is the 2nd headline’s treatment of their feature of being able to skip an unlimited number of songs.  Let’s take a look at the results…

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Never Run Out of Song Skips” destroyed “Get Unlimited Song Skips” in this test.  All I had to do was take the original “promotion” feature and re-word it with “prevention” language.  I rephrased 2 words.  This gave me a 34% improvement in Impressions-to-Conversion.

Why I think prevention won

My inclination is to believe that when it comes to this particular feature of this product, searchers are much more motivated by preventing being forced to listen to whatever songs the service plays than gaining the opportunity to skip songs an unlimited number of times.  Even though they’re exactly the same thing, how you frame the messaging creates a different perception of the feature.  With the promotion angle, the focus is on the action of skipping songs.  But who wants to have to stop what they’re doing constantly to keep skipping songs?

Instead, the prevention language doesn’t focus on the action of skipping songs, but on the prevention of being in the situation where you’ve run out (like is common with other competitors).  The bottom line is…getting unlimited song skips isn’t very motivating.  Preventing the frustration of running out of them if you should want them is.

Apply what you learn across channels

Of course, this should inform my messaging in other marketing channels and creative as well.  While this particular advertiser may have focused on the joy of listening to your favorite tunes in their past creative, they probably should test images and copy that focuses on the frustration of having to listen to music they don’t want to through other free services.

In places where I have more characters, I might test different messages and wording along these same lines like, “never be forced to listen to songs you don’t like.”

Although I’ve only done this one test so far, this seems like it’s a testing technique that can be used for almost any product or service to find out which angle motivates customers more.

Please let me know if you try it out and what you learn!

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About the Author

Mike Fleming

Mike Fleming is a Sr. Manager of Paid Media at Granular, and has been managing PPC accounts of all kinds for over 7 years; with a strong emphasis in Analytics and Conversion Optimization. He’s a respected digital marketing blogger and speaker whose articles can be found on industry blogs like SEMRush.com and SearchEngineGuide.com. He also contributed to a published book called The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music, playing basketball and investing. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him.