The Power Of Titles

By: Dan Kennedy on: September 30th, 2010 8 Comments

In high school, I was in a play ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’. I thought it was about character. Turns out it was the guy’s name. Anyway, mail-order veteran Melvin Powers once told me the most important thing about a book is – the title.

Some titles are so powerful you can get something just by looking at them even if you never read the book. Think And Grow Rich. Magic Of Thinking Big. Tony Rubleski’s book: Mind-Capture Advertising. You say, well, that’s right, I need to think! I need to think bigger! I need to advertise in a way that captures their attention and interest.

Some titles brilliantly convey the much desired promises of speed and simplicity. One-Minute Manager. (Wanda Sykes said she’d dated the author of another book in that series: One-Minute Lover).

Some titles convey superiority. Ultimate Sales Letter. Ultimate Marketing Plan. Some convey an attitude or a position. Renegade Millionaire System. No B.S. Marketing Letter.

But this does NOT just apply to books or info-products. Or titles on free reports or other literature offered in lead generation.

It actually applies to all sorts of things.

Names of businesses. Budget Rent A Car’s name conveys a position. Avis and Hertz don’t, so I think more work is required to link those businesses with a position in the public’s mind.

Product names. I was always proud of a weed killer product I named: Kills Weeds Dead. (I took it from Black Flag, a bug spray with the ad slogan: kills bugs dead. Seemed to me the slogan was better than the name.) Hef’s Playboy was a much better name than Penthouse.

Menu item names in restaurants. Homemade meat loaf. I’ve noticed at the grocery store I shop at, there are two kinds of macaroni salad sold at the deli counter – Melch’s and Grandma’s. My informal survey says: everybody chooses Grandma’s.

Ways guarantees are said. Bottom-of-jar satisfaction guarantee vs. satisfaction guarantee. Marketing ‘things.’ Free recorded message or Free Recorded Consumer Awareness Message.

If you’re going to put a title on something – your book, your product, services, process, entire business, guarantee, offer – you should give some thought to what you want the title itself to convey, to telegraph.

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    8 Responses

    1. Kevin Deal says:

      Reminds me of Timothy Ferris’ story about how he almost titled his book “Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit” instead of “The Four Hour Work Week.” I doubt things would have turned out well for him if he had stuck with the first title.

    2. Thanks for this, Dan. I think this goes the same for design, where creativity often turns into art and ends up with unclear and obscure results that require a translation for the customer to “get it.” (I confess that I’ve fallen into this trap many, many times myself.) Fostering curiosity and uniqueness in marketing is great, but not at the risk of losing most your audience along the way. Sometimes you’ve just got to skip the scenic route.

    3. I agree, this is something most people never even think about! I’ve seen some REALLY bad titles on some REALLY good books/videos/etc. etc.

      Another 1 I like is “Influence”. 1 word conveys the entire meaning of the book :) Granted there’s a little sub-title after it… but still.

      Jeremy Reeves

    4. […] In your previous post I talked about The Power Of Titles. How some titles are so powerful you can get something just by looking at them even if you never […]

    5. John Peacock says:

      Being in the Insurance business a company that has aggressively increased profits is “FL Family Insurance.” Family Insurance sounds better than Statefarm Insurance.

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