You get an email telling you the good news…

If you act in the next two hours, you can claim a £100 discount on Tony Owl’s brand new copywriting seminar.

That’s great news – you love Tony Owl.

But is it the best way to promote Tony’s offer?

Is good news always a good thing?

Not necessarily.

When it comes to good copy, it’s worth thinking twice about leading with good news. It could actually be better to lead with bad news.

It might sound a bit strange, but in my experience and testing, I’ve found on a number of occasions bad news beats good news.

An example…

Tony Owl sends out an email offering people a £100 discount on his latest copywriting seminar, if you reply in the next two hours.

The subject line of his email reads:

GOOD NEWS: Claim a £100 discount in the next two hours

That seems reasonable enough. It gets across the discount and it manages to incorporate the urgency element of the offer too – you must act in the next two hours.

Tony Owl gets a 15% open rate and he’s happy – he’s a copywriting genius after all.

Thing is, that same day his main competitor, Stacey Eagle, sends out a very similar email…

But with a slight difference.

To make it super simple, let’s assume they have exactly the same readers on their newsletter lists.

And it just so happens that Stacey Eagle is running the exact same offer for her new copywriting seminar – a £100 discount for those who reply in the next two hours.

Everything is the same except the subject line, which reads instead:

BAD NEWS: Your £100 discount runs out in two hours

Now, would you think this subject line would do better or worse than the first?



No difference?

Well, if you guessed it would do better, you’d be spot on.

You see, based on actual testing (that doesn’t include people with Owl or Eagle for a surname), I’ve generally found bad news out-pulls good news by about 30-40%, at least.

You see, it’s all to do with what I call ‘the car crash principle’.

For good or bad, us humans are a rum bunch. We can’t help but watch bad stuff happen. These days we even have a genre of television dedicated to the concept.

The thing is, we all do it.

We’re programmed to.

If you see someone fall off their bicycle on the road, you can’t help but look. You justify it with concern, but in truth you’re not that bothered: it’s just funny.

And it goes further…

Our human psyches are even more screwed up. We’d often rather see someone fail than succeed. Chances are if you heard about an old friend who’d won the lottery, you’d be pretty dismissive and think they didn’t deserve it… but when you hear two weeks later that there was an error and they haven’t won a thing… you’d secretly celebrate their misfortune.

Yup, we’re a bad news bunch.

But what the heck, as a copywriter, you’re not looking to solve the ills of the world… you’re looking for ways to connect with your fellow humans and seeing as bad news is such a universal ‘turn-on’, it naturally follows that you should use it in your copy.

So, next time you’re thinking about spreading the good news about a great new offer, think twice. It might be better to find a way to flip the good news on it’s head and piqué your reader’s interest with an irresistible bit of bad news!



Glenn Fisher is an author, copywriter, podcaster and speaker. After a number of years working in the local council, he left to become a copywriter and founded, a free online resource for direct response copywriters and marketers. For over a decade he worked with The Agora, a multi-million pound international financial publisher before leaving in 2018 to write freelance. His first book, The Art of the Click, has quickly become an Amazon bestseller and was shortlisted for the Business Book Awards. He is the host of the popular All Good Copy Podcast and regularly writes and consults for numerous businesses, brands and ad agencies. He lives happily with his partner Ruth and dog Pablo on the east coast of England.


  1. Great insight, Glenn. Will try it out this week. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Very interesting. I always bring out the positive in my offers but you think different. I’ll split test it this week and see how it does.

  3. Let us know how it does Margaret. I think Glenn might be right on this, I’ve seen similar when I’ve gone with ‘bad news’.

Write A Comment