A or B – can you pick the winner?

One of these headlines was a roaring success. The other flopped like a soggy halibut. But can you guess which is which?

(A): Are You Afraid of Making Mistakes in English?

Or –

(B): Do You Make These Mistakes in English?

Well..? Which headline won?

As in, which led to the most orders for a free book on improving your grammar?

If you’re a copy nerd like me…hoarding classic ads, and chasing postie down the street to grab the latest junk mail…you’ll know the answer.

You’ll know it’s (B). Because –

“Do You Make These Mistakes in English” went down in marketing history…while “Are You Afraid of Making Mistakes in English” did not.

So what made the difference?

Why did (B) bring in colossal orders, while (A) whimpered off into obscurity?

I’ll tell you, if you like. (It’s kinda cool…)

It’s that one word – “THESE”!

Headline (B) uses “THESE” to open up a conversation. It points to something in the copy below…so you want to read on, to find out what “these” juicy mistakes are.

If you’re a grammarphile, you’ll read it for a gloat…hoping to congratulate yourself for “passing the test”.

And if you’re a grammarphobe…you’ll take a quiet peak to see how you get on.

Get that? Whoever you are, reading on gives you an instant pay-off.

But not so in Headline (A). Without “THESE”, there’s no hint of anything juicy to follow – so you’ll see it and think there’s nothing below but a sales pitch. (Why read that?)

Ooh, and there’s another thing –

Headline (B) invites you to check something out on the QT. It’s no biggie.

But (A) asks you to admit your own fear before you read on. (Stuff that!)

So, little wonder (B) whooped the pants off (A).

Fascinating, innit?

Well, it is to me. Dunno about you, maybe you’ve got a life?

But you know what?

If you do your own marketing, you should get nerdy over this!

You should study A/B tests and rationalise the results. To learn from all the wins and losses that have gone before.

It’ll save you a packet on trial and error.

Okay, look. You can apply what you learn from a squillion tests, and still end up with tumbleweed copy that gets you no response.

Best practice gives you the best shot at winning…but NEVER guarantees it.

But we don’t get nerdy for “certainty”. We get nerdy to stack the odds. To change marketing from a game of chance to a test of probability.

That’s as good as you, me and Uncle Tom Cobley and all can ever hope for.

So, this week’s mantra – nerd up!

Train your copy brain. Till you can spot the winner in an A/B test, without breaking a sweat…

Best place to start? Check out Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. You’ll find this example, and more copy insights than in any other book on the planet.

(Yes, mine included!)

ONE MORE THING: here’s the “Mistakes in English” ad, in all its glory…

Do You Make These Mistakes In English

Meet the Author

James Daniel

You might not know who James is, but no doubt you've read his copy. If you've ever bought a hearing aid, a pizza oven, flat roof or vacuum cleaner. If you've hired a will writer, an IT guy or accountant. If you've been to events on marketing, acting or how to buy a business. There's every chance it started with a bit of James' copy - a few simple, chatty, gently persuasive words. Ring any bells?

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