Deciphering Cosmopolitan Magazines

Some of you may have chose not to check out the “Cosmo” mags yesterday. That’s fine, this post should still have value for you.

Of course those magazines are plastered all over check out lanes in supermarkets across the US. It’s hard NOT to see them from time to time. But that says a lot about the strategies employed on the covers.

“Cosmopolitan” magazines are littered with headlines. Why? Because the goal of a headline is to get your attention and force you to KEEP reading. If the headlines don’t do their job, the magazine stays on the shelf.

That’s why Cosmo is famous for employing some of the best headline writers out there.

Taking a look at each of the covers, it’s obvious what they believe is going to sell this magazine. “Sex.” And I’m not just talking about the pictures of beautiful women. The actual word “sex” appears in large letters in 9 out of 12 of the covers, or 11 out of 12 if you count “sexy.”

But that may not help you write copy for your next infoproduct.

Ok, then take a look at the word “surprising.” It shows up on the covers a considerable number of times, and when it doesn’t, they usually used a word or phrase to imply surprise.

What’s going on here? Why the surprise?

If you want someone to keep reading, challenge a common belief. The word “surprising” implies you are going to do just that. It’s a sure curiosity builder. Even Glyphius 2007 ranks “surprising” a “104″ (which is very high).

There are other ways to challenge a common belief. Here’s an example from Cosmo that doesn’t use the word “surprising.”

“Tight Abs: Our No-Crunch Work Out.” That works because most people believe crunches are the best way to get tight abs.

How will this help you write your next headline?

When brainstorming your next winner, try to challenge the conventional wisdom. Can you find something that’s truthful AND will stop your ideal customer in her tracks?

You might even be able to find a successful competitor’s headline and write the exact opposite of what they say. (Again, only if it’s truthful.) A famous example would be Gary Bencivenga’s “Get Rich Slowly” headline.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? How can you challenge the status quo?

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