Pop The Question

Not <I>the</I> question&#151;but a question mark can make you advertisement more powerful.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the December 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Want to make a strong claim in your advertising-one you believe is true, but your finger-wagging lawyer insists you water down for lack of proof? Consider posing the claim as a question.

For example, if you're selling a health product you believe improves customers' chances for longevity, you might get rapped on the knuckles if you make the claim, "Enjoy good health through age 100." Now pose it as a question followed by a qualifying subhead, "Enjoy good health through 100? It's more possible than ever when you use (product or service name)." It's the provocative wording that arouses interest, but makes the claim plausible instead of certain. That's the approach I'm recommending to Susannah Lacagnina, a professional nutritionist in Santa Monica, California, who specializes in dietary therapies for cancer and diabetes patients.

Her current brochure cover (top right) has a strong message, but a diffuse delivery. It needs a strong headline to capture attention, followed by a supporting subhead. I suggest, "Remission Through Nutrition? Discover a powerful dietary therapy used in conjunction with your doctor's treatment to dramatically improve the quality of your life."

Lacagnina dares not make the headline a declaration; there's no way she can prove the claim. But she gets to use the same strong words in the form of a question. Maybe that's all you need to stake your claim, too.

Before

The cover of your brochure should have a single focus that registers in an eyeblink.

This one says all the right things, but it offers too much too soon.

Don't try to tell readers the whole story on the cover.

After

As a question instead of a declaration, your headline can make a plausible claim without offering proof.

The subhead offers substantiation that fleshes out the possibility implied in the headline.

This cover laser-beams a single provocative idea that will pique the curiosity of the target audience.


Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter in the San Francisco Bay area and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising (available through Bookmasters, 800-247-6553). If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, write to him c/o Entrepreneur or e-mail him at jerry228@aol.com.

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