How to Snatch Great Titles and Headlines Out of Thin Air Using The Infinite Monkey Theorem

Have you ever noticed the titles on the show Big Bang Theory? Most shows have titles and I never give them a passing glance, but Big Bang Theory has the best titles ever – like The Egg Salad Equivalency and The Closet Reconfiguration.

What makes their titles so great? First, they are funny. But I think what makes them so successful (and memorable) is that they make you wonder what’s going to happen in that episode. And that sense of suspense is one of the things that makes a great title.

In business titles and headlines are even more important than they are on TV. A good headline can make an advertising campaign. And a good title will get your content read.

How To Come Up With Compelling Titles and Headlines

Lots of people try to use a variation of the Infinite Monkey Theorem when creating titles. According to Wikipedia, this theorem states “a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.”

I’ve seen people just pound away at the keyboard and try to come up with something. Or they sit at a blank screen waiting for inspiration to strike. I used to use this same Infinite Monkey Theorem approach as well (and never came up with much of anything good). But I realized that if I put a little bit of time and a little bit of skill into it I could get much better results.

Here are my top tips for writing headlines, product names, and titles that really work.

1.     Write your body copy/product description first

This tip has saved me many countless hours of staring at a computer screen. If I need to get a writing project done and don’t have a title or headline then I’ll sit down and write out the “body copy” first. This is the bulk of the email/sales letter/product description. Once I’m done writing that out I take a look at the content and pull out the most compelling phrase or phrases and create my title or headline out of that.

2.     Survey your customers and use THEIR words

One of my favorite methods for building successful products and sales campaigns is to really get to know my customers. I often use surveys to help me do this. People will answer all kinds of questions in a survey. And nothing is really off limits.

By keeping some of my questions open ended and having my prospects write in answers I get some golden headlines. I just look for themes of what people are saying and then craft those themes into a headline or title. By looking at what my prospects are saying and repeating their language back to them I create headlines and titles that they relate to and that bring in far more sales.

3.     Use the magic of micro-scripts

A micro-script is a little, repeatable phrase that people say over and over again. One of the best micro-scripts I’ve ever come across is the one that launched the Kleenex tissue brand.  It was the “don’t put your cold in your pocket” campaign. You can see it here. At this point everyone still used cloth handkerchiefs and the image and rhythm of that simple phrase created an entire new product category. How cool is that?

Learning how to write micro-scripts with that kind of power is actually very simple.  Bill Schley put together a brilliant little book call The Micro-Script Rules. And it is one of the easiest to read and easiest to implement copy writing books I’ve ever read. It will also make it much easier for you to write great headline and titles.

4.  Cheat (use a swipe file)

There are tons of talented people out there writing headlines and titles all the time.  So pay attention. Create a document and copy and paste titles and headlines that catch your eye. Take screenshots of great sales pages with headlines you admire, and start putting them all in a document together. Then when you get stuck, pull one from your swipe file and modify to your needs.

5.  Use Numbers

This is a tried and true method, but it works. People like lists and they also like bite sized pieces of information. So include a number in your title or headline and see what kind of results you get. Here are a few ways to start.

  • 7 ways to…
  • 5 things that…
  • 4 ________ you must avoid
  • 10 mistakes that ________ make
  • The 3 Top….

Using numbers may seem simple, but it’s one of those tricks that really works well.

6.     Start with a crazy phrase and build from there.

That’s what I did with this article. I knew that I wanted to use Infinite Monkey Theorem in a title and I knew that I wanted to teach you how to easily write titles and headlines. So I figured out a tie in and put it in the title. You can do this with nearly any phrase you come across if you have a little practice.

7.     Practice.

The best way to get good at writing headlines and titles is to practice. Start every morning and write down 3 new titles or title ideas using some of the 6 techniques above. Don’t worry if they aren’t very good to start. They’ll get better as you go along and you’ll be amazed at the results.

It can be super intimidating trying to come up with a title or headline idea out of thin air, but if you use one or more of the above tips it gets much, much easier, and your titles will really shine.

1 thought on “How to Snatch Great Titles and Headlines Out of Thin Air Using The Infinite Monkey Theorem”

  1. It has been a long time since I’ve listened to Michael Masterson talk about the reasons why short headlines work. You’ve reminded to go review that lesson again Brian.

    I appreciate the reminder and and I also want to thank you for referencing, “The Micro-Script Rules” book here. I’d never heard of it before but the idea of telling your story in one sentence is highly compelling to me.

    I don’t think a lot of people look at their sub-headlines in the same light as they do their headlines. One very astute marketer taught many moons ago that it pays off big time to look at your main headline as a “Platinum Headline” and to consider your sub-headlines as “Gold-Headlines”.

    When you think of sub-headlines as being just as slightly less valuable than your main headline, you will give them the attention they deserve. Your Platinum headline may be world class but if you don’t have Gold headlines to keep people pulled into section after section of your copy, you’re missing out.

    THIS is where I think the lessons from Micro Scripts can be invaluable – telling the story of the next section in one line. And your skimmers will love you for this – giving them a table of contents view of what is to be had in your letter to them so they can pick and choose what section should get their attention.

    Thanks again Brian for directing me to an early Christmas present to myself, with this book. 🙂

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