Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The importance of being clever.

Clever headlines often fail, according to KISSmetrics (and those who edit my copy). If users don't understand your meaning immediately, they're going to click away or skim past your headline.

Narcissus-Caravaggio (1594-96) I freely admit that my reluctance to adhere to this advice stems from my persistent self-absorption. I inherently know that I'm the most important person, so I tend to write to myself, to consider myself the quintessential user. Of course I know I'm not really the most important person or the user in question, but in my heart it's really hard to get away from that belief. Call it narcissism, call it what you will.

This is one of the reasons why collaboration (read: goofing off with colleagues) is so important. Write down all the clever you can. Go nuts and go a little too far with it. Share your cleverness with anyone and everyone who will listen (but be careful not to bore your co-workers with your own genius, please).

Then put clever to bed. Get a fresh page and write down the driest, most boring headlines you can come up with. State the obvious. This isn't an opportunity talk down to the audience, even in jest; rather, just say it like it is. Selling crackers? Write "Buy our crackers."

Richland Advertisement (Baker County, Oregon scenic images) (bakDA0021)I'd advise you to sleep on it now, if you can. I often dream about work I'm doing. (These used to be nightmares of waitressing in an endless dark dining room with unhappy customers and no pen, but now that I'm doing what I love they're usually just my brain working on an idea.)

In the morning, with a fresh cup of coffee, look at both pages side by side. Clever will have lost its tug, and you can now see some of the gems buried within even the most asinine of headline spoofs. Bring these over to the matter-of-fact language that describes where you need to go, and you may find yourself with something truly valuable.