Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication

Don’t Bury the Headline

Are you capturing shopper attention?

What is the most memorable tabloid headline you’ve ever seen?

Maybe it’s “Gotcha” from 1983 when the Belgrano was sunk.  Perhaps it’s “Bin Bagged” from 2011 when Osama Bin Laden was killed in the US special forces raid.  It could be “Headless Body in Topless Bar” from 1983 after a man shot the owner of a strip club in New York.  Or maybe it’s “Naming Private Ryan” after the 2011 injunction battle to cover up the footballer’s affair?

Whatever your personal favourite, they all have two things in common.  First, they are designed to capture attention.  Second, they are designed to draw you in, so that you read the main story.  Glance at “man shot in bar” and you will probably move on pretty quickly.  Glance at “headless body in topless bar” and you are much more likely to stop and engage.  Then it’s the job of the opening paragraph to get you to read more.

So, aside from giving us the chance to spend a few minutes looking at tabloid headlines, why are we talking about this?   Well, we think good headlines are essential in our industry.  We see so many strategy documents that contain great nuggets of content, but these nuggets get lost amongst all the other information that is included.  They are interesting at the time, but too easily forgotten a few minutes after being read or presented.  The headlines are buried.

The same is true in store.  Shoppers are exposed to more and more information – across brands, but also within a brand.  Too many brands or activities get into explaining mode too quickly.  They forget that one of the key (the first…) jobs in store is to capture shopper attention.  Then you need to direct that attention to the thing(s) that you most want shoppers to see.  Again, too many headlines are buried.

So, what can you do about this – how can you become more headline focused?

Category Cues.  Walk around a store and you will see that a lot of categories are sold in the same way.  There is very little to differentiate one from another.  Walk down an aisle and you will see that different parts of a category are often all sold in the same way.  Yet these categories or sub categories often play very different roles for shoppers.

For instance, if the main reason to buy a category is health, is the category clearly signalling health to the shopper?  Health needs to be the headline.  If a category is all about refreshment, then it needs to be signalling refreshment to the shopper.  Refreshment is the headline.  If a category is all about craft and expertise, then is this being signalled to the shopper?  For example, it is no good just ranging more craft beers, if you are not giving shoppers the craft and expertise cues that should be associated with that range.

What is the headline for your category or segment?  Is that headline capturing shopper attention?

Visual Assets.  This is about visual headlines.  Would shoppers glance at your pack, shelf ready packaging or piece of communication and instantly associate it with your brand?  The battle for attention at shelf is often won or lost in a split second.  This is also becoming increasingly important online – where brand blocks don’t really exist, and most product images are the size of a fingernail.  It is why hero images (simple, stripped back images of a product, that call out key information – size, variant) are far better than standard pack shots.  They are designed for headlines.

It is also about key trigger words.  “New” is a good example.  Too often we see small “new” messages on pack.  Or we see small, generic “new” shelf barkers in store – often with no real link to the product they are supposed to be signposting.  “New” is a key message for shoppers.  It can prompt attention, get shoppers to trial something different (often a higher value product).  “New” is the headline.  Don’t bury it.

Promotions.  This has been changing.  We used to have lots of promotional communication telling the shoppers the old price, the new price and the mechanic (x% off).  Increasingly, we are seeing a focus on the discounted price.  That is now the headline.  It makes things much easier for shoppers.

However, headlining is also really important for added value promotions – particularly as they often do require some more explanation.  We were in stores a couple of weeks ago with a shopper marketing team and saw two different “buy product X, win Y” type promotions.  The first piece of communication tried to explain everything there was to know about the promotion.  You would have needed 4 minutes to read and digest it.  The second had a very simple message to attract the shopper.  Then had the supporting explanation on pack.  Fortunately, we were with the team that had designed the second piece.

Headlines are not about explanation.  They are about attention.  They are hooks to draw us in.  Don’t bury them.

Now, let’s finish where we started.  How about “chick accuses male colleagues of sexism” or “one armed man applauds the kindness of strangers”?

Feel free to forward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.