Stupid Headlines 101: An analysis


I received this Direct Mail piece. Having been exposed to the UK advertising industry now, I believe the headline on this letter was probably written by the client or, more accurately, the client’s legal department.

Let’s analyse:
1. The pointlessness.
Overall, it is a totally pointless point. They’re basically imparting some very clever insight about energy bills that we simpletons could never have worked out – if you use less energy, your energy costs less.

2. The contextual back-hander.
This same pointless point (see point 1.) is quite passive aggressive when you consider that it is pre-empting consumer response to price rises. So now they’re saying “hey, if you want a cheaper energy bill, don’t use so much fucking energy.”

3. The non-absolute.
This very complex dynamic between the actions of ‘using energy’ and ‘paying for energy’ that we simpletons could never have worked out (see point 1.), is actually not a fixed dynamic. Note the use of the non-absolute word ‘could’ in the headline, rather than the more absolute ‘can’ or ‘will’. Using less energy won’t necessarily mean they charge you less. They might. But there are no guarantees. I know, it’s a crazy mixed up world in which we live. (By the way, the price is about to go up (see point 2. you energy-using fuck)).

4. The double vague.
They coupled the non-absolute ‘could’ (see point 3.) with ‘help’. Both words being non-absolute now makes it even less likely to be a direct cause-and-effect relationship between using energy and being charged less. Or more, as the case may be (see points 2. and 3.).

Sending fewer pointless letters could help reduce your marketing costs.

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