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New Year, Same Old Headline!

December 17, 2015
Marketing Trends, New Year

I still remember the first time I saw it… It was 2002 (ish) and I was working for a start-up health website that was just starting to dabble in email campaigns and newsletters. One of my editors submitted an email for editing with the subject “New Year, New You” to promote our latest offering: an online diet and wellness program. I loved it! It was clever and short, evocative and empowering! We’d get great open rates and click thru rates. It was perfect!

Fast forward 14 years… and the only thing more reliable than the January doldrums is the fact that I will see that headline at least 20 times before the end of the month. I don’t see it much in Subject Lines anymore, but that’s about the only change. In January 2015, it was everywhere from the top banner on to Dr. Oz’s Pinterest Board to the New York Daily News.

It’s used to sell shoes, computers, diet plans, clothes, mopeds and faith-based products. And, of course, to promote the standard editorial fare of getting fit, slimming down or sticking to your New Year’s resolutions. Hospitals use it for weight loss, too, as well as for preventive health and elective surgeries (such as joint replacements).

Here are just a few examples I found on the web last year:

new year headline appliance ad
new year trend ad
new year ad for business
new year new you ad trend

Why it Works

The golden rule of writing headlines is to catch the reader’s attention and hint at the content of your article (or ad, or promo). Their purpose is to entice people to read your article (or click on your banner or pick up your magazine in the supermarket checkout line). From that perspective, “New Year, New You” is just about perfect.

But it goes a step further as well: It’s SHORT. In a mobile age when you have less and less space to get your point across, four little words go a long way. You might be able to write a more clever and fresh headline to promote your content… but could you fit it?

Throw in the semi-alliteration and it’s easy to see why this little phrase tempts writers year after year. 

Why You Shouldn’t Use It

It’s been done… to death. Then resurrected and done again.

Aside from the sheer fatigue from overuse, the concept itself is disparaging. It implies there’s something wrong with the current “you”… that you need fixing, improvement, a complete overhaul. It is putting down its audience in the hopes of promoting itself. It’s a Bully.

Brainstorming a Better Headline

Really. Truly. There has to be something better for your campaign. It might just take a little more time, creativity or will to find it. Try putting a twist on the old standard:

  • New Year, New Look
  • New Year, New Excuses to Shop!
  • New Year, Blue Year
  • New Year Yearnings
  • New Year, Healthy Year

Or take the extra step of brainstorming from scratch. For Fitness/Exercise/Orthopedic Content, go bionic with something like “Better, Faster, Stronger… in 2016.” For tech, play with people’s sense of indulgence with something like “Quick! While Santa’s Not Looking.”

Whatever you choose, remember the 3 Ps… keep it Positive, Precise and Positioned within your brand’s voice, tone and market strategy.

Paula Rae Forastiero

Senior Digital Strategist
Paula has spent more than 20 years in health content strategy, building products ranging from patient education websites to mobile appointment scheduling applications. She holds a Masters Degree in Healthcare Administration and Policy and has worked for companies as diverse as healthcare start-ups, iVillage/NBC and PatientPoint.

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