“Long or short?” Two hair-raising breakdowns…

Apr 15, 2022

I’ll never forget when I was working my first job out of college and living in Washington, DC.

At least half my take-home pay went towards my share of a cockroach-infested Connecticut Avenue apartment.

The rest had to cover groceries (what groceries? the fridge never contained more than a wheel of brie and a cheap box of Chablis)… meals out (generally I mooched off my male co-workers for lunch–men were more “chivalrous” back then and we gals let them be)… bar tabs… gas… and other necessities.

One of those “necessities” I decided I could skimp on was a haircut. Instead of forking over $30 or more, I scouted out some cheaper options.

Way back then $30 was a princely sum for a haircut and blow dry — the equivalent of a whopping $83 in today’s highly-inflated dollars (yikes!) So I decided to give the local “Supercuts” in nearby Woodley Park a try.

At “Supercuts” it only cost $15 for a haircut and blow dry and they took walk-ins. I show up and the hairdresser brings me over to the washbowl to shampoo my hair.

While she’s shampooing my hair, she asks me, “You want long or short?

I immediately started to panic… only two options? Really? I was expecting a conversation more along the lines of “more layering?”, “bangs?”, or otherwise stylistically-focused.

At this point, she had lost any trust I had in her and I questioned my decision to walk into that “Supercuts” and basically second-guessed my entire existence.

I told her I just needed a VERY slight trim and during the entire haircut I barely let her cut anything off my head. Then I scheduled an appointment at the boujie Georgetown salon I was going to go to originally, and plunked down my $30.

So much for saving money! Lesson learned… sometimes it’s worth paying more in the first place.

Anyway, I thought of that “long vs. short” dichotomy when I decided to break down two very different hair regrowth promotions that came across my desk.

You guessed it… one’s very long…and the other is very short. So short, it’s as if some nervous, coked-up lawyer took a machete to it and gave it a serious haircut.

The first one we’ll look at is the very LONG one. It’s a newspaper advertorial an elderly relative sent me in the mail. She wrote me a letter talking about her problems with hair loss and her desire to make it thicker and easier to manage.

This ad had convinced her the product could be a good solution for her, but she sent it to me to get my opinion on it. It’s not one I’m familiar with, but I know the company that makes it. I’ve seen many of their advertorials in other publications.

This particular ad is longer than the typical 1,000-word limit. Let’s take a look… (note: you don’t have to read the whole thing unless you want to. Just read the main headline and scan the rest!)



First off, this ad is obviously masquerading as something valuable: a newspaper article. The reader soon figures out (or willingly plays along from the get-go) that it’s an actual ad (and the all-caps “ADVERTISEMENT” at the top make it clear as well).

It’s an example of how design can draw your prospect in and work hand-in-hand with the copy to make your promises more believable. But the copy does a lot of the heavy lifting.

For starters, the beginning of the main headline uses one of the most powerful techniques for making a big bold promise more believable: ending it with a question mark: “Hair Loss Reversed?”

We obviously can’t go through the copy line by line here, but it’s oozing with proof. “Clinical Trial” in front of the “Reawakens Hair Follicles” in the rest of the main headline adds credibility to it… and ending with “in Both Men and Women” ensures the ad isn’t closing off half its potential audience but calling out a broader audience instead.

The rest of the copy refers to several studies and makes use of customer testimonials and other social proof… including that opening sentence: “Thousands are rushing to get a new hair restoration method…”

At the end of the ad, the call to action is clearly stated but the pricing is not. Instead, prospects are directed to call a toll-free number. Urgency and scarcity are built in with the closing paragraph about “unprecedented demand”.

Now, contrast this “old school” approach with a direct mail promotion I received not long ago. This 6″x8.5″ oversized postcard is 4-color and unabashedly promotional in its look and feel.

It’s going for an airy, uncrowded feeling that ties in with its online branding. Let’s take a look at the front of the postcard…