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How to Increase Email Click-Throughs By 35%
Last Updated August 22nd, 2013

By now, you know I’m no stickler for perfect grammar or spelling.

(Despite what you may think… It doesn’t matter. Mistakes happen. People understand. If someone says they won’t buy what you sell because you made a typo, trust me, you don’t want them as a client).

But when it comes to writing an email subject line, choosing the right word can be the difference between mediocre results…

…and AMAZING results.

So, I ran a simple test.

What Works Better: Positive Frames or Negative Frames?

I ran a test where I changed one single word in my email subject line (and copy) – and the results were drastically different.

One email generated 35% more clicks than the other email… all because of this one little change.

I talk about this change (and the psychology behind it) in this new video:

Watch the video, and then leave a comment letting me know what you think. I know this will spark quite the discussion. The video is interesting, but I also know grammar-crazies are going to share their opinion as well πŸ˜‰

Also: Do you have a friend who needs to write email copy? Send them a link to this video. I’ll appreciate (as will they).

Want to learn more about email marketing? Read this resource I created about “how to build an email list.

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92 comments Leave a comment
Shawn Johnson

Hey bro, awesome post.

I agree with you 100% on BAD get more attention than GOOD and I also know the affects of using to much negative titles in my email titles and messages.

I tend to go 50/50 when constructing my messages and I find that works best for me.

Thanks for this post. Great Info.

Marisha Pink

Great post, Derek! I’m going to try this out on my next wave of e-mails and other campaigns…

Stacie Walker

Hi Derek,

I really enjoyed this video. Thanks for keeping me entertained:) You are a great teacher.


I like your added content on this subject. You’re awesome!

Stacie Walker
Woman in Leadership Founder


R.J. with eBooksHabit.com

I noticed this exact phenomenon on April Fools Day.

I send out a daily email with free ebooks…

On April Fools Day, I wrote “No More Free eBooks (Learn How To Get Them Back”… my open rates were more than double that day!

They learned it was just a prank, but they were much more willing to open the email knowing they may lose their free ebooks (even if they don’t open every day).



George La Rosa

Great video, but why did you name it “How to Increase Email Click-Throughs By 35%” and not something like “How you are losing up to 35% in Email Click-Throughs”.
Or do you have 2 videos out… hmmm….

Christina Ambubuyog

Great video! I appreciate your explanation of “loss prevention” mode, which to me seems to lead to a positive result. I’ll definitely be playing around with this idea and also being mindful of not overdoing the negative aspect, which I tend to not like to do anyways. I was on the positive side of your email that was sent and I opened it… because it had a positive feel to it πŸ™‚

Thank you!

Teresa Dittemore

Dear Derek,

I started to comment earlier, however I was walking while pecking, got jostled, and the incomplete comments were lost. I’m not sure if it submitted, so I am rewriting.

Thank you for sharing the fun video. You are talented at making the mechanics of marketing easy to understand and use. Before seeing the video, I just listened to your podcast about the power of habits with Daniel Pink. Loved it too.

In the video you said that you quit reading the WSJ because it was giving you a negative attitude, because the content created anxiety. However, I’m not sure that it relates to the headlines, in that not all the headlines of WSJ use a “negative” word. Alot of the content is made up of regularly published columns. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that you stopped reading the WSJ, because the “reward” created by the habit of reading the news, had a negative result, rather than a positive or rewarding result.

With that thought, if the reward for clicking through either a “negative” or “Positive”, headline creates a negative experience, or is not satisfactory, wouldn’t the reader start ignoring the headline, whether or not you use a negative or positive headline?

If so, if the “negative” word in the headline causes people to have a positive reward, when they open the email, they become conditioned to reading the email. In that case, can using a headline that creates urgency, or “fear of loss”, be overused? Wouldn’t the satisfaction or reward the reader received for clicking on the payoff, be a better indicator for frequency of use?

If the content being provided to the reader doesn’t have a satisfactory or “positive” payoff when the reader clicks through the headline, they will “tune” out or ignore the headline, thus the email, no matter what types of words are used.

Wouldn’t the payoff, be a better indicator for “frequency”?



Great Tips Derek! I am looking forward to playing with some words.

Andrea Swiedler

I found this very interesting. I immediately thought of how to use this in a post. I sell real estate, your video gave me an idea for a post targeting sellers. The hard part is convincing a seller to list at the right price, not an unrealistic price. I am going to title the post along the lines of minimizing your losses when selling your home. I would have titled it how to get the most for your home when selling, but let’s see what this does. It makes total sense to me, thank you!

Paul Back

Hey Derek

I have a question out there that I think a lot of people might find useful.

You say dont go negative too often, which I understand. But when would you recommend using a negative hook over a positive one for best ROI, and how do you determine when, why and where to use it


Brian Bennis

Thanks Derek. I’ve just changed the headline to my forthcoming post and instantly it’s become more powerful. But I’ll take heed of your warning and use this strategy sparingly, and with caution.

Robert Miller

Should one use negative headline to draw them but then discuss positive? So there is a balance and they are not overwhelmed with negativism.

I have used negative headlines to draw attention but then discuss the positives. In my case I want people to understand the benefits of briar wood so I have a headline like how to avoid a harsh taste when smoking vs how to have a cooler smoking experience.

Again great insight


Great stuff thanks. It does seem surprising that a via negativa method should yield that sort of interest. I guess I am going to try it in one of our news letters and see what happens.

Carole Bozkurt

Fabulous video Derek – always packed full of interesting and useful information. Love the humour too. Carole


Great content. I remember that link really well because I actually shared the video with my tired Spanish students in a business class the same evening. They were so impressed they were still making reference to it, and your name, to other students ten days later. Thanks!

Joy Donovan

Worldwide exhibitor training is a really hard sell because it looks obvious so they wind up retailing, instead of marketing. They dont know that they dont know and even when you tell them, they wont spend money on exhibitor training as they would rather spend on elaborate stand building (making the shop look nicer)
80% of trade show leads are NEVER followed up, so the majority of exhibitors lose hundreds of thousands of Rands of potential revenue, every time they exhibit. Should I tell them that in a negative e-mail?


Derek, thanks!

Where do I ka-ching $$$?
I will direct people to this video – one small thing: I need to translate (subtitles) the video. How am I going to do that, without editing/spoiling your video?

Great inspiration, thanks again (yes, I am subscribed)

Hector Avellaneda

Derek – excellent point, man! Over at my blog I talk about the importance of becoming an internet entrepreneur today more than ever. Part of my logic and reasoning for that has to do with economic trends and what I believe to be the falling standard of living of the middle class. I am very optimistic about people who know exactly what is coming and know what actions to take to proof themselves of any economic uncertainty and that is part of the message that I am working to a better job in communicating. I don’t want to sounds like a downer even though I know that a lot of the times the economic news I share is not good but the whole purpose of my videos are to encourage others to take that leap of faith and to become the entrepreneurs they want to be so that they can start living the life they know they always should have had.

This was an excellent point. Thanks for the video.

Riley Banks

Another great post. Funny how I knew that advice already but it took hearing it again to really click home. I know I have had quite a bit of response to my blog post on The Negative Side of Positive Reviews (and I didn’t write that consciously trying to tap into the loss vs opportunity), but will definitely test some of my other pillar blog posts and see if they have the same reaction. Very glad I found your blog. Can always count on you to be my weekly font of wisdom. πŸ™‚

Dawn B. Dwyer

Ha … Ha … Ha… You had me laughing so hard at 4:17 mins. That was a really good one. I didn’t get it the first time but what the heck I am a natural blonde even though I am covering a bit of gray now …shhhhh!

I knew what you were going to say, but loving the reminder and didn’t know the REASON why people fear loss so much.

Great Vid as usual. Remember if you need help with your accounting ie get your dog to stop eating receipts my offer is still open to have a chat with your fur baby. It worked with Raccoons and Ants at my house so why not your dog. Oh, the Ants weren’t eating my receipts, they preferred my house.

Rachel Hunter (TraderRach)

Great practical advice I can start to use today. I’m about to send out an email to my wonderful subscribers and your timing is perfect.

Thanks, Rachel (TraderRach)

P. Alan Richards

Thank you Derek. “Losses loom larger than gains” is an invaluable psychological tip. Your test proved it. I have written the quote down and plan to use this psychological edge in our marketing campaign.


Great video tip!
I was surprised by the results. I was expecting positive to have better results than negative. I clearly need to learn more. Thanks for sharing.

Ina Sahaja- Embodied Sanskrit

I unsubscribed from PETA because I couldn’t take the downer emails anymore. Derek, do you have any more resources for pressing problem based solutions?

Thank you! Great post, Ina


LOVE THIS and I was definitely surprised! More than once I’ve unsubscribed from a negatively focused, “the sky is falling,” alarmist type of email list. I tend to like to focus on the positives and success strategies, so initially I assumed it was going to be the “Perfect” headline that won out. I really was shocked the “Worst” one did. In any case, I’m glad you added what you did about the quantity of focus on the worst headlines versus the perfect ones.. At least I can continue being positive MOST of the time! Thumbs up!


AWESOME video, Derek, and so true. When people are generally have a more positive or optimistic personality, it may be difficult at first for them to talk about the “bad” things that can happen if you don’t listen to what they are saying.

By making this shift in thinking, and pushing that pain button some of the time, can RADICALLY increase your engagement. The key thing you said was some of the time… No one wants to get bad news everyday. Well, unless the like to watch the actual news on television.


    Lol on the typo talk in the opening… please omit the word “are” in my post and it will make sense:
    When people are generally have…

    Sorry man, eating lunch and learning at the same time


I’m writing a blog post today about engaging your audience online – I think I’ll make reference to this. Interesting research!

Raquel English

First off I love your funny little things/bloopers @ the end. Those are the best! I’ve been reading & watching your stuff since you first started. I’d love to have you look over my blog & see what I’m doing. I’ve tried to do most of your suggestions & I still seem to be having a lack of traffic. I don’t eat how other bloggers out there do so much better than me, & I have tons better content than them. I’m gonna keep working hard & follow your advice. It gets frustrating though. It’s also tough to do certain things when I’m not computer savvy. Oy oy… Derek. πŸ˜‰


I was one of the clicks on the “winning” email. πŸ™‚
Good insight – thanks for sharing!


Thank you Derek!

I just have to say how thrilled I am that you noted how negativity can bring people down. We are a society FILLED with so much fear based marketing and negative focus. At first, when I got through the first part of your video, I thought, “Not another push to be negative and appeal to people’s fears!” Then you made sure everyone realizes the long term effects of doing this.

From a moral perspective, I wonder if it’s even worth doing at all? What I mean is, what would it look like if we all focused on nurturing our clients and appealing to their need to find support? Wouldn’t this create the long term sustainability we all want? Sure, there might be a great initial return and bunch of clicks, but what is the long term effect. I love that you gave us food for thought in considering how we want to do business on line for the long haul and how we can really support our clients over time.

I for one choose to focus on putting more joy and peace out into the world rather than appealing to the fears and anxieties!



This is great! I’m going to try this out with come ‘call to action’ statements on my blogs. This will be fun to test and see if i get more clicks πŸ™‚

GREAT video by the way— awesome information presented in an fun to watch manner, thanks!!

Alan Little

Great point Derek! Yeah, fear of loss is a more effective tool for grabbing attention, but once you have it shift to the promise of increase. Don’t keep chumming the water with negative crap – there’s way too much of that already and creating more fear is not the way to be of service.


Interesting stuff. I will keep it in mind for when I might be able to use it in one of my emails.

Brad Castro

Love it – I got the “positive” subject line and didn’t open it.

I guess I’m not seeing the big issue of “wearing out” the negative hook.

Sure, if you’re a complete dirtbag and treat your list like a commodity and blast them daily with manipulative subject lines and disingenuous copy, you’re going to wear out your welcome pretty quickly.

But if the bulk (and body) of your messages are substantive, empowering and hopeful, then I don’t see how using negative or problem-based subject lines are going to lose their effectiveness unless it’s simply that you’re becoming predictable.

Alissa Marquess

Thanks Derek – I got the “worst” one and opened the email πŸ™‚

This makes me think about the titles to my autoresponders when people sign up to my newsletter – I’m going to look through and see where I might tweak the send line a bit. Some of those already have a great open rate, and some could use a bit more attention.

Thank you also for making short videos. I have a very limited time without kids when I can focus without interruption on my work, so I have to be careful how I spend it. Your videos are short enough that I can watch them and take a way an actionable item to improve my business.

Yael Grauer

Interesting point on diminishing sensitivity.

I wonder if another factor for your higher click percentage has to do with the fact that your post really did have a quick and simple solution. Changing future meeting times is free and easy to to do, so watching that vid is a no-brainer… whereas I’d be less likely to click on “500 ways you’re screwing up your business” and “why your website sucks,” because I assume the solutions will be expensive and laborious, so watching those would be considerably less appealing.

    Alissa Marquess

    Yes – I agree with what you’re saying – this was not a hopeless problem. You read the title and thought something like, “Oh! That sounds like something I can solve; I better watch the video to find out how.”


Derek, I will say it again, I LOVE your videos and energetic approach. It’s so refreshing and I always share your ideas with the rest of our distributor network. This is great stuff – keep it coming!


I think it’s a little funny when people write a blog in response to yours.. Chuckle πŸ™‚

    Alejandra Ruani

    Teri – shall we say… Derek “triggers” it??! It’s all part of the big plan, LoL

Alejandra Ruani

Scare tactics made me unsubscribe from Dr Mercola’s health blog (cancer this, toxic that, etc). Too much.

By the way, did you read about the psychology of tie colours?????????

If you want to be seen as welcoming, understanding, promote brainstorming and indicate you’re listening, wear a yellow tie. If you want to command respect and authority, wear a red one. If you are giving a presentation to a group, you want the group to focus on the slides, wear a grey tie. The list continues.

As an investment bank exec for over a decade, I entertained myself in long meetings connecting executives’ ties with their status, mood, etc. It was fun. The brand and quality of a tie is key too, I know in a split second if you’re wearing a $25 tie, or a designer one (instant credibility as a successful professional, financial status, etc.). How you fit it around your collar also matters. If it’s lose, you’re rolling up your sleeves and getting the dirt under your nails. If it’s tight, you command respect. The size of your shirt, the right collar circumference, all this little details send massive signals to our subconscious.

I could write a book about men’s wear and its impact in business. It’s research πŸ™‚

Looking forward to seeing next week’s tie colour, Derek!

Take care,


    Sean D'Souza

    Scare tactics work but only for a short while.
    The reptilian brain is what causes the brain to react. But the moment you keep pummelling the reptilian brain, it goes into shock.


    Yes, or.

    It moves the subject matter forward to the brain that processes stuff sensibly: that’s the part of your brain that’s able to work things out. And it reasons and works out that you’re just being scared into acting.

    Of course everyone isn’t so smart.
    Which is why hucksters always do well.

    If you’re smart, you realise there’s a difference between scare tactics and a “problem”. A problem is that there’s a good chance that it may rain today. It’s not a scare tactic. It’s a method to get you prepared. A scare tactic is making you believe there’s going to be a tornado when there’s none.

    Fortunately, most (not all) of our brains have evolved. πŸ™‚
    Many reptiles still abound πŸ™‚

      Alejandra Ruani

      Good one, Sean. But 95% of our daily actions are automatic / subconscious. The big question for scientists now is: how can 5% of our brain win against the other 95%? πŸ™‚


Derek, I love the psychological insights you use. As a budding copywriter for online businesses I am putting together a blogging package, and was just thinking about the headline bit. Neither my work or theirs will be noticed if the headline doesn’t spark the readers interest. This is very helpful and I’d like to learn more. I’m sure there are several other options that I want to learn to use.
Thanks for your timely info. I was going to google you for this subject specifically and there you are with it in my inbox this morning. Thank you!


Thanks Derek, Helpful as always! I think I’m going to use this with my retailers to get them to order more of our limited edition styles.

Cristy Nix

Wow, I am surprised, but not at the same time…I’m going to look back on my clicks and see if I have had the same results! But I definitely hear you and agree about the negative all the time…and you DON’T want to be that guy!

Insight & Success! CNix, CEO of Brilliant Business + Lifestyle Divine.


You really, really cracked me up when towards the end of the video you said (see what I did there?) . LOL. Very creative, as always.


Negative reactions has more takers as it is targeting an individual psyche.

Tema Frank

Great points, Derek. Thanks for the reminder!

Sean D'Souza

It’s not “loss” vs “gains”.

It’s “problem” vs. “solution.”
The brain is hardwired to survive. It’s also hard wired for sex, but that’s another story. So when you take the survival story into consideration, anything that comes in the way of survival will attract the attention of the brain.

Let’s say you walked into a room.
Then someone put three chairs in your path. Nothing earth-shaking, right? Well, so why do you walk right around the chairs and not into it? Because the brain knows that walking right into it causes damage, damage that could lead to an open wound, that in turn could lead to lowering survival chances.

So yes, the brain is hardwired to scan for:
1) Change (as in what are those chairs doing there?
2) Problem (let me walk around those chairs and not be stupid).

However, the brain also has a limit. So in your email response test, you can’t keep pummeling your readers with problems. This is because again, the brain can take a few problems, but too many and it goes into overload. Too few and we get to “solutions”, which puts you to sleep.

The right dosage is simply a solid mix of problem and solution. But there is a sequence. Problems do come first. Without a problem in place, the brain has a solid chance of completely ignoring the communication completely. e.g. Have a Coke vs. Feeling Thirsty?

Your problem-based solution doesn’t have to be dire. It has to have the problem, nonetheless. Knowing how to avoid stepping into the puddle of too much or too little is what needs learning and applying.

P.S. You’ve probably read it already, but it’s nicely outlined in a book called The Brain Audit πŸ™‚


I’ve really noticed this in my own experience. However, as you say, the trick is a light hand. Too much negativity feels manipulative and demoralizing. The overall message for me is to be authentic with your community and offer them support that is well grounded in experience, science, fact, and authenticity.

Web Wigan

Thanks Derek.

Amazing and applicable information as usual.

Deborah Owen

Yet again, insanely useful video Derek! Thank you!

Instead of always saying, “Teachers, this is how to help your students find some self-motivation” I will try (occasionally) “Teachers, don’t lose the attention of your students!”


Hi! I just stumbled across your blog last week and I love it! I recently made the transition from lawyering to entrepreneurship, so I’m admittedly pretty clueless about marketing. I’m really glad you posted this video today. I received hundreds of targeted e-mail addresses from people who signed up at my booth at an event recently. I’m supposed to follow up with these people tomorrow regarding a free trial I sent them, but I’m suffering from writer’s block. Now I have an idea of how to frame my e-mail. Thanks!


Good test, but having been at this for a good while, I wasn’t surprised at the outcome.

Incidentally, my highest CTR subject line so far had only one word in it. While longer subject lines can work, every word you add increases the effort required to read what you’ve sent.

P.S. I’m wondering about all those CTAs you gave at the end of the video. Surely giving all those options will result in inaction?

    Terry Matlen, ACSW


    Just curious- what was the one worded subject line??


Testing this on my newsletter! Great als always Derek, Thanks

Kelsey Ramsden

Well played on the perfect vid-etter played on ‘its too hot\.

Thanks for this video…it made a lot of great sense. I also like how you balanced the doom draw in with the fact that doomsday everyday is bummer-city.
Thanks for continuing to produce great stuff.


The “I got this” part was so funny!!

It’s interesting honestly, I never thought about it that way, but it males perfect sense that people fear more losing than not gaining.


Smashing video, and (shame on me) I was surprised. And nice punchline! Anthony.

The Get In Shape Girl

Derek, you sneak bastard.. I didn’t know I was part of one of your little tests!

I like using that negative scare tactic every now and then, but I don’t want people always feeling crappy opening my emails, terrified they’re going to have a big, huge, cellulite filled butt. Only every now and then πŸ˜‰

Diego Mangabeira

Great video and content! Will use that idea for the next videos and posts.

Vinny O'Hare

Good stuff Derek but don’t you think it would be a harder job to sell in the negative email? Of course if you were selling subscriptions to LifeLock I can see it being beneficial.

I am sitting here saying to myself that I have sent 10’s of thousands of newsletters out in the last 10 years and all have probably been positive. You have encouraged me to try a negative spin on something though.

Chris Lysy

Great advice Derek, learned this one by accident just the other day. Not a true split but I had two posts a week apart, the first focused on mistakes, the second on solutions.

The blog post that featured mistakes totally blew away the following blog post that talked about solutions (in terms of page views, comments, and shares). Doubted it was a coincidence and your video has helped me confirm.


Dr. Halpern,

Great advice as always! Thanks for sharing this with us all.


Matt Oliver

I loved the video. Luckily, I was about to draft a cold call email to a potential client. I don’t have the results yet, but let’s cross our fingers. In response to Mike, while I’m sure that will yield results, I can’t wrap my head around why you would ever want to Decrease email click-throughs.


I was just reading some data on headlines from Moz: http://moz.com/blog/5-data-insights-into-the-headlines-readers-click. While discussing headlines for posts, I would imagine the concepts apply to email as well. One interesting note that I remember reading (can’t remember where) is that more people are like to share a positive headline/subject line over a negative. Something to keep in mind as you are striving for balance.


I’m reading Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast And Slow’ really slowly.


    HA! I’m in the middle of that book as well. If you like Social Triggers, you would definitely enjoy β€˜Thinking Fast And Slow.’


LOL Derek take it off! All joking aside, it was a very informative video! Thanks!


Testing this right now with my latest blog post…


I’d be interested to know about the effects on other parts of the process.

For example you might get 35% more clicks from the negative headline but you might get more sales from the positive headline.

I see his myself when split testing squeeze pages. One page might have a much higher opt in than another which produces more sales.

    Jim Wang

    This is a very important point, it really depends on what the goal of your email is. In this case, it’s clicks so going with “loss aversion” gets you what you want. If it were a sales letter, then you’d want to track sales.

    Sean D'Souza

    Jimmy, it’s not positive or negative.

    It’s better stated as “problem-based” or “solution-based”. And if it’s all solution based it makes you happy but it fails to get reader’s attention.

    Here’s an example of the news today:
    1) Mr Jones shop had 50% more sales today.
    2) No robberies in the city.
    3) Frozen peas: Prices going down.

    And let’s take the opposite:
    1) Mr. Jones shop had less than his usual 50% of sales today.
    2) Robbery kills young schoolteacher.
    3) Frozen peas: Prices going up tomorrow.

    Ok, so maybe frozen peas are not on your priority, but change that with gas prices and you’re out of the door. You also want to know about the teacher and why Mr.Jones didn’t reach his targets.

    A headline is not meant to increase or decrease sales. A headline is meant to attract. When it attracts, it gets you on the page. When you’re on the page what you then do, is what gets the sale or not.

    So the topic of sales vs. headlines are completely two different topics altogether. And if you see it as a “negative” headline then it’s not as effective as a “problem” based headline. The right problem based headlines have a sense of specificity and urgency.

    They’re not just about fear and gloom and doom.
    The schoolteacher doesn’t attract your attention as much as schoolteacher from your town. And if she’s young and likeable, there’s even more of a chance you’ll read it. The point is that there are many variables floating around.

    But the first and most variable is changing the terminology. Understanding the difference between “negative” and “problem-based” headlines will help a different mindset and in turn lead to better sales pages. Which in turn lead to better conversions.

      Gilson Oliveira

      Hey Sean! It’s great to see you around. You and Derek are among the few I follow/read due to the quality of the content. All the best my friend.

      Steven Washer

      Bravo, Sean! One of the best explanations yet. Problem-based wins for attraction to the page. Then get to work on making the page convert.

        Theresa Cahill

        Team Derek (video) up with Sean (comment) and there’s a winning combination.

        I knew immediately that the mention of worse-case (in this particular email test) would win out. Also, it makes perfect sense that being negative or problem-based all the time would be like turning on the news. Evidently (and possibly quickly) you stop listening to the news (or opening an email).

        The question was asked if anyone had examples. I don’t, but will definitely be paying a whole lot more attention. I think I may come off a bit too “Pollyanna” (sunny skies, etc.), when a good, swift kick may be in order πŸ™‚

        And I agree. Derek you make great, short (I love short) videos that really say something. I love coming to listen, although I don’t always comment.

        Keep ’em coming! And I hope Sean keeps commenting. The blend, for me, is perfect.

Darlene with BlogBoldly

Yeah.. I’m with Alessandro (above comment) because I expected the positive to win, aslo.

I am on a copywriting quest right now.. really working on improving my copywriting skills.. so this came at perfect time.

darlene πŸ™‚

    Alessandro Sarno

    Darlene, I’d like to contact you for a copyrighting job, what’s your email?

Ryan - Comeback Academy


You define edutainment πŸ™‚ Laughing and thinking all at once. Taking the shirt off was classic!

You are right. People value what they lose (or could lose) more than what they gain.

You just inspired me to run a split test on headline for a direct mail letter I’m writing right now. Original headline (which has converted) is “The Ideas Found In This Free Marketing Report Will Increase Your Sales by 50-100%…Unless Your Competition Gets It First”. The headline leads with a positive but ends with a potential negative.

Thinking about testing a 2nd headline “The Ideas Found In This Free Marketing Report Will Keep You From Losing a Massive Share of Your Market…Unless Your Competition Gets it First.”

So that’s a double negative. Needs a little more work but you get the idea. Thanks for inspiration. Will be interesting to see which converts higher.

    Nicholas Hamilton

    How about:
    Your Competition Sales are going to grow 50-100% if they get this Free Marketing Report before you do.

    Darlene with BlogBoldly


    NOT that you asked for feedback.. but do your headlines seem a bit wordy to you?

      Ryan - Comeback Academy


      I think for an email yes they would be too wordy. But they’ve worked well for a header/headline in a direct mail letter (not postcard).


        Free Report: Steal your competitor’s ideas to stop losing market share.

Ronald Earl Wilsher

Another great video, Mr. D.

The fear of loss is always greater than the desire for gain.


Thanks or the shareage, Sir.

Alessandro Sarno

Very interesting video. I was actually surprised, I was expecting the positive to gain more attention.

I will try this concept in the next emails I’ll write

Lauren Rader

Thanks Derek – That’s great information. I’ve been teaching art for many years and just wrote a book about creativity – not yet published – and am about to launch a new blog, and an online course.
Social media is so interesting – and daunting.
I love the way you back up your facts and run tests on your theories – and I especially love that you share it.
Thanks very much, Lauren

Mike J Thomas

Great advice.
What would be the best ratio of positive to negative?
Based on your video, it would be an interesting to test this blog post – positive vs. negative.
Possible negative headline: “How to Decrease Email Click-Throughs by 35%”

    Jim Wang

    While it’s phrased as positive vs. negative, it’s more accurately described as opportunity vs. loss. Perfect time represents an opportunity – it’s OK not to get the perfect time, getting the “just good enough” time is also good. Worst time represents loss – you absolutely have to avoid the worst time. It’s the worst time!

    Not every headline will have a natural opportunity vs. loss version and it’s best to use the loss version when there’s a clear negative to use.

    Jennifer at Total Social Solutions

    That’s a great question, Mike. I’m curious about the suggested “ratio” there too, but seeing as how Derek just tested this, it’s probably hard to gauge and likely depends on what you’re selling too.

    I’ve seen this recommendation before for blog titles as well. I’ve been able to implement it, and it seems to work, but I haven’t run enough tests to see how it works for us. Going to keep doing it, though. This was a great reminder, and I hadn’t thought of using it for email subject lines.

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