Let's look at some question headlines that produced big results.
The most famous question headline is "Are You Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired?"
A quick Google search shows that other direct response copywriters certainly 'admire' this headline and you'll find variations of the formula...selling everything from bowling alleys to pizza joints.
"Are you sick and tired of pizza that's always late?"
"Are you sick and tired of bowlers who have shiny shirts that are too shiny?"
A quick look through Denny Hatch's seminal tome Million Dollar Mailings shows a relative paucity of question headlines.
A few I noted:
(A product that helps children with this problem.)
"Got some free time? A week? A month? A summer?"
(To get college students to volunteer for a summer internship with an environmental group.)
"Should you be reading the most influential periodical in print?"
(Subscription to Foreign Affairs magazine.)
The general lack of question headlines in a book that's full of successful mailings tells us something extremely important: most serious copywriters avoid question headlines.
In Herschell Gordon Lewis's book, Open Me Now, which is about writing copy for envelopes, he states, "questions are always reader-involving" and I agree but I would still maintain that the reader has to know the answer to the question. It's like a lawyer interviewing a witness: a competent lawyer is always going to know the answer the witness is going to provide.
"So, Mister Jones. Did you see the defendant throw a brick through the windscreen of the Rolls Royce?"
"And is that the person you saw throwing the brick?"
Question headlines can complement and augment a strong USP. For example, a golf course I worked with in the New York City area provided a guaranteed four hour round even on a Saturday morning...when most courses in that vicinity are more funereal than the drinks trolley in coach on a 747.
"Do you want to enjoy 18 holes in four hours--even on a Saturday?"
YES...OF COURSE I DO!!!!
In the Lewis book, there's an example of a mailer for a children's product with the headline...
"Is your child ready for Muzzy?" There's a picture of a bear-like animal.
I don't know how well it worked...perhaps the question is so bizarre that parents are almost forced to open the envelope. It turns out that Muzzy is a language learning program. But take look at this page from the website and there's a question the reader may not be able to answer--used as a subhead.
There are so many other headline formulas that I tend to avoid question headlines and subheads. But when I use a question headline, I like to stick with the proven technique of posing a question to which the reader knows the answer--without being too obvious.
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