He was hired on with Lord & Thomas in 1906 at an ungodly annual salary of $185,000 ($4,520,227.94 in today’s money) …
He is the reason you brush your teeth with toothpaste, the launcher of countless household names, and the inventor of “split testing” …
And he is the author of Scientific Advertising, one of the most widely read books on direct response marketing (Jay Abraham claims to have read this book more than 60 times) …
So listen closely as I extract pearl after pearl from marketing genius Claude C. Hopkins, including …
- JV schemes that can make you rich… and the true story of how one such “arrangement” took a company with a balance sheet that boasted $45,000 less than nothing to $1.8 million in profits the very first year …
- How to sell 250,000 carpet sweepers at a time, and grab 95% market share…
- How to alienate 800 people while you launch your career…
- Tales of a mad adman and the three infallible, never-fail secrets to higher response …
- The four fundamental (long lost and almost forgotten) laws of profitable advertising that have never changed and never will …
- And more!
He’s gruff, grumpy, and grouchy. The man rants and rails against just about everything the online marketing gurus are telling us.
So listen up, take notes, marvel at the wisdom… and PROFIT!
Click the down arrow for portable audio download:
Daniel Levis: Hey Claude, it’s Daniel Levis. How’s it going?
Claude Hopkins: Capital my friend, what can I do for you today?
Daniel Levis: Well you know Claude, you’ve had an enormously successful career in advertising. You built a number of companies into household names on the strength of your copy and marketing ideas. You spearheaded Lord & Thomas’ meteoric rise to number 1 in the advertising industry. You are universally revered as one of the greatest ad men of all time.
And I know you love to help up and comers. So I want to interview you for my subscribers. Would you do me that honor?
Claude Hopkins: All right, but make it quick, I’ve got copy to write.
Daniel Levis: Sure, will do. Why don’t we start with a little background? How did you get into this racket?
Claude Hopkins: Well, I left home at the age of 18 after a terrible disagreement with my mother.
She was deeply religious, you know. My family has long been involved in the clergy.
From a young age I showed great talent for the ministry. At age 7, I was writing sermons and setting them in father’s printing office.
We used to sit around the kitchen table playing Bible bee, like a spelling bee, you know, where around we’d go, each reciting Bible verses until all dropped out, save one.
Well that one was always me. Often the minister would drop by, but he was no match for me in Bible competition. I knew several times as many verses. And it was my mother’s greatest ambition that I become a pulpit orator.
Mother was a fundamentalist. She believed in a personal devil, hell fire, and all of the miracles. To her, the Bible was to be taken literally. The world was created in 6 days. Eve came from Adam’s rib. The whole bit.
I had been growing away from these orthodox conceptions and had prepared a sermon that argued against hell fire, argued against the idea of original sin and infant damnation, and against the discipline I knew. I even questioned the story of creation and of Jonah and the whale.
One day the preacher fell ill and mother volunteered my services. And I delivered the sermon.
That evening in the pulpit remains one of my clearest memories. There were eight hundred people in the audience, averaging twice my age. That sermon I consider the most daring event of my life. Never since have I faced more unanimous opposition.
As the sermon progressed, the minister began to squirm in his chair. Mother’s face was an enigma. The audience seemed appalled. When I finished, the minister delivered a trembling benediction. The audience filed out in silence. Not a man or woman came up to greet me. And I realized I had become an outcast in the flock I had hoped to lead.
The following day, Mother told me I was no longer her son.
There was nothing left for me to do but leave home, in disgrace.
I thought of picking fruit on my Uncle’s fruit farm at Spring Lake. I headed down to the harbor and made a deal with the captain of one of the lumber vessels to work my way across the harbor as a chore boy in the kitchen. From there I walked to Spring Lake and made arrangements to pick fruit for my uncle and others for $1.25 a day.
My grandfather, who lived in my Uncle’s home, admired the way I worked. He offered to lend me the $100 I needed to enroll in Swensberg’s Business College at Grand Rapids. I studied bookkeeping, eventually securing a position as a bookkeeper at the Grand Rapids Felt Boot Company at $4.50 a day.
The bookkeeping was incidental. I was also expected to sweep the floors, wash windows, and run errands. Then there was the question of living on my own for $4.50 a week, and deciding which meals to miss.
Through the performance of my duties I met Mr. M.R. Bissell, president of the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company. He was a genial man and I saw in him a chance to a higher salary.
One day I waylaid him on his way to lunch and convinced him to arrange for me to be hired by his company as an assistant bookkeeper at $6 a week. Things were looking up!
Determined to advance myself, I applied myself diligently in the service of his company. I was leaving my office at two in the morning and appearing again at eight. Within six months I was promoted to head bookkeeper, at $17 a week.
My proficiency in book keeping taught me a great lesson. I saw the difference between the profit making and the expense side of a business. And I began to reason in this way: A bookkeeper is an expense. In every business, expenses are kept down. The big salaries are paid to salesman, to the men who bring in the orders.
At just that time, our manager in the accounting office brought in a pamphlet written by John E. Powers. He had been the ad writer for John Wannamaker in Philadelphia, where he had conceived a whole new concept in advertising. It was simply this: Tell the truth. But do it in a rugged and fascinating way.
Wannamaker paid him $12,000 a year. In those days it was a fabulous salary. And he became the hero of all men with advertising ambitions. Eventually Powers left Wannamaker and branched out on his own, hence the pamphlet that found its way to the accounting office. Powers was pitching the Bissell Company for its trade.
The pamphlet was written on butcher paper. I remember the headline. “A carpet sweeper, if you get the right one now — you might as well go without matches.”
Reading his flyer, it was obvious to me he knew nothing about carpet sweepers, had given no study to our trade situation, knew none of our problems, and not given a moment’s thought to a woman’s wish to own a carpet sweeper.
I said to my manager, “That cannot sell carpet sweepers. There’s not a word here that will lead a woman to buy. Let me have my hand at it, and you will have a competing pamphlet to try.”
They agreed. And for the next two nights I didn’t sleep a wink. On the third day I presented a pamphlet which caused all to agree against Powers.
At the time, the carpet sweeper business was small. Users were few and sales were small. On the strength of my pamphlet I asked for permission to try and increase demand. I conceived of a Christmas gift promotion and sent out five thousand letters.
They brought me 1,000 orders, almost the first orders we had ever received by mail. And so I graduated from the expense side of the balance sheet to the money earning side.
Subsequent campaigns moved as many as 250,000 carpet sweepers at a time, making the Bissell Company the dominant player in the floor sweeping machine business, with a 95% market share. From there I moved on to the Swift Packing company and then on to freelancing and eventually took over the reins at Lord & Thomas.
Daniel Levis: You’ve been at this for decades. You’re one of the most prolific and successful ad men to have ever lived. If I were to ask you to count your biggest success secrets on one hand, what would they be?
Claude Hopkins: I’ve often said the greatest event that occurred in my career happened a year before I was born.
That’s when my father chose for me a Scottish mother, from whom I inherited an appreciation for thrift and conservatism. It is my belief that the lack of these qualities has wrecked more ad men and more businessmen than anything else.
“Safety first’ has been my guiding star. A Scottish mother is the greatest asset a boy can have who desires a career in advertising. Then economy and caution are instinctive within him.
Most business wrecks I have encountered are due to over-reaching. To racing ahead on un-blazed trails, guided by little more than reckless speculation. There may be exceptions in business. But not in advertising.
All advertising wrecks are due to rashness, needless and inexcusable. I don’t refer to failures mind you. No amount of experience can guide us correctly in even the majority of cases.
But ordinary failures mean little. They are necessary. Every advertising venture, rightly conducted, is in its initial phases, merely a test, a taking of the public pulse. The loss, if any, is a trifle.
I refer to catastrophes, the crash of wild speculation, where advertising men pilot some big and costly ship upon the rocks. In my day, those men never recovered.
And so I have never gambled in a big way. To me, a dime has always looked as big as a dollar. Not just my own dimes, but the other guys as well. I have spent them carefully, both as owner and trustee. And I owe that to my mother.
Daniel Levis: So frugality and caution, very uncommon traits these days. What else?
Claude Hopkins: My mother also taught me the enormous value of industry. She was a tireless worker.
My father died when I was very young. My mother taught school to support her children. Before and after school she did the housework. In the evenings she wrote kindergarten books for schools. When vacation time came, she tramped from school to school to sell them. She did the work of three or four women.
From my earliest years, I did likewise. I have supported myself since the age of nine. While other boys went to school and called it a day, I was opening two school houses before the school day began, lighting the fires and dusting the seats. Then I swept schoolhouses at the end of the day and delivered the Detroit Evening news to sixty five homes before supper.
When the doctor pronounced me too sickly for school I went to the cedar swamp.
Work started at 4:30am there. We milked the cows and fed the cattle before breakfast. At 6:30am we drove to the swamp and cut poles and hewed ties all day long. After dinner came another milking. Then we drove the cattle in and bedded them for the night. At nine o’clock we climbed a ladder into the attic and went to bed. It never occurred to me that it was hard work.
And I carried on in like fashion for many years in business. There was no such thing as working hours. If I ceased before midnight it was a holiday. I often left my office at two o’clock in the morning. Sundays were my best working days. No interruptions. For sixteen years after entering business there was barely a Sunday or an evening I didn’t work.
The man who works twice as long as his fellows is bound to go twice as far, especially in advertising. A man who does two to three times the work of another learns two to three times as much. He fails more. He succeeds more.
If I have gone higher and farther in advertising than others, the fact is not due to extraordinary ability, but extraordinary hours. Frugality and caution kept me from disaster. But industry lad, industry taught me advertising and made me the man I am.
Daniel Levis: You know Claude that’s hardly going to make you popular when people here you say that.
Claude Hopkins: I don’t give a rat’s ass for popular. You asked me for my secrets and I tell you the God honest truth.
Daniel Levis: Yes, and I love you for that. So tell me more.
Claude Hopkins: Well, my father gave me poverty. I owe much to that condition. It took me among the people, of whom God made so many.
I came to know them, their wants and impulses, their struggles and economies, their simplicities. When I talk to them, in print or in person, they recognize me as one of them. I do not know the reactions of the rich. But I know the common people.
Poverty taught me salesmanship, for without it I would not have learned to canvass door to door. One of the greatest advertising men I ever knew went from door to door to sell in person before he ever dreamed of going in print. I have known him to ring a thousand doorbells to gain a woman’s angle.
To poverty I owe the fact that I never went to college to learn my craft. I know of nothing an ad man can learn in college that will do him any good. And many things he must unlearn from there before he can be of any practical use. As far as advertising is concerned, one can learn more in a week talking to regular folk than a year sitting in any college classroom.
I go out of my way to hire hard working, simple, plain talking men. I purposely avoided wasting my time with the educated. I can’t think of one who amounted to anything in this business.
Another man would influence me greatly in my formative years. He was a railroad section foreman. He bossed several other men.
The man built his house in the evening, after ten hour days on the railroad. He cultivated a garden around it. Then he married the prettiest girl in the section and lived a life of bliss. Eventually he got called away to a higher station but not before I learned a great lesson from him.
“Do you see those boys at play”, he would say. That’s what I call hard work. Here I am shingling a roof. I’m in a race against time. I have only so many hours of daylight to reach my goal for the day. That’s my idea of fun.
“Look at those fellows whittling. They’re talking railroads, discussing politics. The most any of them know of a railroad is how to drive a spike. That’s all they will ever know. Look what I’ve done while they’ve loafed there this evening — built most of the porch on my home. Soon I will be sitting there in comfort, making love to my pretty wife. They will always be sitting on those soap boxes around the grocery store. Which is work, and which is play?
“If a thing is useful, they call it work, if useless, they call it play. One is just as hard as the other. Each is as much of a game as the next. There is rivalry. There is struggle to excel the rest. The difference lies in attitude of mind.”
I’ll never forget those talks. I came to love work as other men come to love golf. Many times I beg off from a bridge game, a dinner party, or a dance to enjoy a few hours with my typewriter.
The love of work can be cultivated, just as the love of play. We do best what we like best, whether it be chasing a polo ball or checkmating competitors.
Daniel Levis: OK Claude, now let’s get down to the details of our craft, shall we? Tell me about some of your biggest wins and the methods behind them.
Claude Hopkins: Sure, well one of the key things in any campaign is the scheme. All of my most successful campaigns are the result of some scheme or another that leveraged the interests of the various parties involved.
The word conjures up some unpleasant images. Some advertisers consider themselves above such things. They believe that putting their name and wears in the public eye is enough to engender trade. Traced results prove that it rarely is.
The scheme lies at the heart of success.
Daniel Levis: Can you give us an example or two? What do you mean by scheme?
Claude Hopkins: Of course. One of the earliest schemes I devised was for the Bissell Company.
As a boy I had studied forestry. I gathered samples of all the woods around me, and exchanged them with other collectors in distant parts of the country. Thus I developed quite a collection of woods. The combination of my little hobby with the carpet sweeping machine gave me the idea for my first scheme.
I conceived the idea of offering the Bissell carpet sweeping machine in a variety of interesting woods.
The idea was met with scorn. But on the strength of my initial success in presenting the machine as a Christmas gift, I was able to convince my employer to build the machines in a wide variety of distinguished woods. We had everything from the light of bird’s eye maple to the dark of walnut, and twelve colors in between.
While they were building the machines I arranged my plans. I wrote letters to dealers as follows:
“Bissell carpet sweepers are today offered twelve woods to the dozen – the finest woods in the world. They come with twelve display racks free. They come with pamphlets, like the one enclosed, to feature these twelve woods. They will never be offered again. We offer them on condition that you sign the agreement enclosed. You must display them until sold, on the racks and with the pamphlets we furnish. You must send our pamphlets with every package that leaves your store for the next three weeks.”
Rather than an inducement, I made it sound like a privilege. I positioned it as a rare opportunity to be the first to bring an exciting new product to the local market.
And it appealed to the women who would ultimately buy the machines like never before. The company had been talking up broom action, patent dumping devices, and Cyco bearings. But we were talking to women. I wanted to give them something they could understand and appreciate.
The machines literally flew off the racks, and other wood schemes followed.
While in Chicago I happened upon a Pullman automobile, fashioned of beautiful red vermillion. I went to the Pullman factory and asked them about it.
They told me the wood came all the way from India, from forests owned by the British government. The wood was cut by convicts, and hauled down the Ganges by elephants. The vermillion was heavier than water, so a regular log was thatched to both sides of each piece so it could be floated down the river.
I had letterheads lithographed in vermillion color. My envelopes were vermillion, addressed in white ink. I printed two million vermillion colored pamphlets with a Raja’s head on the front.
The pamphlet told a story intended to arouse curiosity, to bring women to see the wood. Curiosity was the primary appeal, with a pinch of style, romance, and exclusivity. Pictures showed the forests, the convicts, the elephants, the Ganges river, and the Pullman car.
And one hundred thousand letters were mailed out, offering this new scheme to dealers. My letters did not urge the dealers to buy the sweepers. They offered the privilege of buying.
I sold more carpet sweepers by my one cent letters than fourteen salesmen on the road combined.
The next several years saw me devising a new scheme every four months for the Bissell Company.
I never stopped scheming.
Later, at the Swift Company in Chicago, my chief challenge was to market a product called Cotosuet – a combination of cotton seed oil and beef suet used primarily as a lard and butter substitute in cooking and baking.
The N.K. Fairbank Company was advertising a functionally identical product called Cottolene. They had a substantial lead in the marketplace. Here were two commodity products with no differentiating features whatsoever. You can imagine the challenge.
Around that time, Rothschild & Company were making ready to open up a brand new store. So I approached their advertising manager and offered to create a sensation for their new opening.
His grocery department was on the fifth floor and sported a huge bay window. “I will build there”, I said “the largest cake the world has ever seen. I will advertise that cake in the newspapers in a big way. I will make it the sensation of your opening.” They accepted my idea. Of course, the cake would be baked with Cotosuet.
Then I went next door to the H.H. Kohlsaat and Company, bakers, and asked them to bake me a cake. I asked them to decorate it magnificently, build it as high as the room, and prepare special tins suitable for giving away samples.
At the time of the opening I inserted half page ads in the newspaper announcing the biggest cake the world had ever known.
On the night of the opening I made my way downtown to take a look at the cake, but traffic ground to a standstill long before I reached the store.
I stepped out of the car to see a perfect sea of people. After a long struggle I made my way to the doors. At every one I found a policeman. The authorities had closed the store because the crowd was too large to admit.
Over the next week, 105,000 people climbed four flights of stairs. The elevators could not carry them. On the fifth floor I had demonstrators climbing up and down ladders to carve off samples of the cake to offer the ladies. I had prizes for anyone who guessed nearest its weight. The cost of entry was, you guessed it – a pail of Cotosuet.
I took my scheme on the road. We went from city to city baking bigger and bigger cakes. At each stop we devised better and better methods of promoting Cotosuet.
We went to the leading baker in each city and showed him newspaper clippings of what we had done elsewhere. We offered to let him build the cake and be advertised as its creator – on the condition he order a box-car load of Cotosuet.
We put on cake-shows for leading grocers who signed on for carloads of tins. We hired newsboys to cry out “evening news, all about the big cake.” and mobbed the stores where the cakes were displayed.
Thus we established thousands of users in dozens of cities with this scheme, all in a matter of weeks.
Now, some may say that’s not advertising. Not a dignified phrase to be found. I have no sympathy for those who think fine language is going to sell goods at a profit.
Study salesman, canvassers, and fakers if you want to know how to sell goods. No argument in the world can ever compare with one dramatic demonstration, milked for all its worth.
That’s why I’ve rarely tried to sell anything. I’ve merely given away more free samples than any man alive.
Daniel Levis: So your conniving mind was instrumental in allowing you to consistently create winning campaigns.
You didn’t just write copy. You looked at the whole merchandizing situation and tried to grease as many palms as possible to get a free sample into the hands of the consumer.
Claude Hopkins: Well sure, you’ve got to find the angle and play it from all sides. I’ll give you another example.
Later in my career I got hoodwinked into a desperate business venture by a tremendously persuasive and persistent man out of Chicago.
He had heard of a germicide called Perly’s Liquid Ozone. It was being manufactured in someone’s garage in Toronto and was being used by many institutions in Canada. Without any advertising, people had learned of it and used it with remarkable results.
He went to Toronto to investigate and promptly bought the product for $100,000. He changed the name to Liquozone. And started to advertise and market it.
He sought out an able advertising man and made a year’s contract with him. The next year he tried another one. In four years he tried four different advertising men who had convinced him of their ability. The results were utter failure.
All of the money he had invested in the company was gone. He was heavily in debt. The company’s balance sheet boasted an amount some $45,000 less than nothing. But the man believed in his product and he felt that somewhere there was an ad man who could make it win.
Somehow he found me, and was determined to make me that man. I was utterly disinterested.
But he would not be deterred. He convinced me to travel to Toronto, and for three days I visited institutions and people who had seen the results of Liquozone. Never had I heard such stories. Still I refused.
He snubbed my rebuff. He came to my home. I tried to dissuade him all night. At four o’clock in the morning, worn out by importunity, impressed by the argument of duty, I accepted his meager proposals.
I was to be given no salary, because there was no money to pay salaries. In lieu of that I was to have a one-fourth interest in a bankrupt concern.
I was to leave my beautiful offices to take a rough pine desk in a dingy compound next to a rusty, round, wood-burning stove.
I was to exchange my apartments in a Hotel on Lake Michigan for a grimy $45 a month apartment in Chicago, where my wife had to do her own work.
I was to walk to the office to save streetcar fair, so as to conserve my savings.
It was a desperate game. Four men in four years had failed utterly. Yet on this dubious venture I was staking all that I had. Was I nuts?
Night after night I paced Lincoln Park, trying to hatch the perfect scheme. I held fast to my old conceptions. Serve better than others. Offer more than others. And you are pretty sure to win.
One morning I came to the office and said, “Let’s buy the first fifty cent bottle. Then to all who accept, let’s offer a guaranty on six more dollar bottles. We pay for the first bottle. If that test leads one to continue, we take the risk on the rest.”
My associate was appalled. But I obtained his permission to try my plan in a dozen Illinois cities.
We offered a fifty cent bottle free. For each inquiry, we sent an order to a certain local druggist, and said, “We will pay the price.”
Then we sent each inquirer a guaranty offering six dollar bottles for five dollars. And we convinced the druggist to sign the warrant, on our backing, as part of the deal.
If the results from those six bottles proved unsatisfactory, every penny would be returned. At the time, such a guarantee, backed by a local druggist, was unheard of. No reasonable person could refuse.
In our test cities, the inquiries for free bottles cost us eighteen cents each. We waited 30 days and found that our average sale per inquiry was ninety cents, enough to pay for advertising before the bills were due. And refunds amounted to less than two percent.
I secured statements from the druggists advertised citing the results. Then I sent the statements to other leading druggists across the nation.
With each letter I enclosed a contract. I specified the advertising to be done. I promised that all free sample requests in the locale would be referred to that one store. The condition was an order that would more than cover the cost of the advertising.
The order was a definite one for a product they had never seen. But we received orders from leading druggists across the nation – all by letter – to an amount exceeding $100,000.
Then we took those orders to our advertising agent. We said, “We owe you $16,000 and we cannot pay. But here’s a stack of orders from good druggists for $100,000. Let us assign them to you for that amount of advertising. That is the only, and a sure way, for you to get paid.”
On that scheme, we fulfilled over 1,500,000 requests for the free bottle. Cost per inquiry remained eighteen cents. Average sale per request was ninety-one cents. The thousands told us what the millions would do.
I went with Liquozone in February. We had no money save rent. In our first fiscal year, commencing July 1, our net profits exceeded $1.8 million. Within two more years we were selling worldwide and in 17 languages.
Daniel Levis: That’s an incredible story Claude. But what do you say to people who say, “Yeah, well this was fine and dandy in your day, at the dawn of the advertising age, but today, there’s much more competition for attention, everybody’s giving away something for free, it’s just not as easy as it must have been in those days.”?
Claude Hopkins: I say they’re deluded. Sure those things are true, but so many other things have gotten much easier. You have so many more options available for getting to the consumer today. The speed with which you can float an idea and see if it pays is much shorter. The labor required to do so has been all but annihilated. And there are more ways to craft productive schemes than ever before.
Very little of significance has changed. The spoils still go to the man who thinks through every angle and who finds the right appeal and pay-off for all parties involved. The man who understands human nature and the particular idiosyncrasies of the market he chooses to ply still wields the advantage.
In the early days we had the man with a product to sell, we had agencies who hired able ad men, we had publishers who paid the agency a commission on ad space, we had retailers to deal with, and of course the consumer.
Today you just have a different set of players. You have affiliates and ad networks, web publishers, social media networks, and these sorts of things. The man who finds a way to create leverage among all parties involved wins the game. Just the way the game has always been won.
Daniel Levis: OK Claude, last question. You’ve been testing different ideas in the court of public opinion for decades. Are there any fixed principles or fundamental laws of advertising that almost always apply, and if so, can you give us a few?
Claude Hopkins: I am reluctant to answer this question without first prefacing my comments with a warning. Yes, there are certain things that proved themselves out again and again. But the knowledge of them should not be an excuse for blind faith or the abandonment of testing.
That said, here are a few of the things that have proved to be relatively reliable precepts for the creation of advertising that pays.
First, from start to finish, offer service. That is what you are selling. That is all your prospect wants.
Second, realize that any apparent effort to sell creates corresponding resistance. Obvious persuasiveness arouses the fear of over-influence. In fishing for buyers, as in fishing for bass, one should not reveal the hook.
Your words should never draw attention to themselves, only to the fulfillment your prospect’s desires.
Forget yourself entirely. Have in your mind a typical prospect interested enough to look at his problem. Have that prospect before you. Make every word serve his self-interest.
Third, almost always, your copy should tell the full story. Attention is a valuable commodity. You may not get it again. Each time you get it, attempt to present all of your arguments. Find creative ways to do it if need be, tell stories, but get your argument across in its full form each time, testing as you go.
Through traced returns, you will find facts that appeal, and you can retain them in future tests. You will find other facts which do not appeal, and you can drop them. You find this out by featuring your various claims in headlines, and tracking their relative results.
You may find that one lead brings a great deal of interest, while another brings little, or none. And you can then gauge your appeals accordingly. You can feature them on the page in order of importance.
Some will buy for one reason, some for another. But all appeals that prove themselves important should appear in every piece of copy intended to make the sale. Otherwise your most convincing facts fail to reach your intended audience.
And then of course there are different ways of stating those facts. Self-serving superlatives don’t count. To say something is “the best in the world” makes no impression. The reader may not blame you for exaggeration. But you lose much of his respect. He naturally discounts whatever else you say.
This is an area that is indeed becoming more challenging by the day. In earlier times, people were of the belief that advertising must tell the truth. They felt that we could not, in the better mediums, deliberately mislead them.
There was an implicit trust that came along with the publication in which our ads were displayed. People did not regard superlatives as misleading, because they are subjective, open to interpretation.
On the other hand, when we stated actual figures, definite facts, they were generally accepted at par. Such definitive statements are either facts or they are lies, and people did not expect that reputable people or concerns would lie.
This is less true today than it was. And the Internet especially, with its low cost of entry to both publisher and advertiser, exasperates the problem. Still, there is an inherent inclination to believe specifics and dismiss generalities. It is human nature.
I also caution against advertising negatively. People are generally attracted to the positive. They are seeking happiness, safety, beauty, and contentment. Show them the way.
All experience in advertising proves that people will do little to prevent troubles. They do not cross bridges in advance. They are seeking improvements, advantages, new ways of satisfying their desires. They are not inclined to anticipate disasters.
There are exceptions of course. The key thing is to never try and impress your own views or ideas upon others. Every situation is different, and demands a different approach. Enter the conversation that’s current in the mind of your market. Test your appeals to find the winner.
And finally, it’s important to realize that not all items can be profitably marketed. Copy and schemes are not miracles.
At Lord & Thomas, we maintained an advisory board of our most able men. We extended an open invitation to businessmen across the country to bring us their best new product ideas and we weighed them on merit. Nineteen in twenty we rejected. Some appealed to too small a percentage of the market. The cost in reaching the consumer was excessive, impossible to recoup for years or even decades.
I know of many products which every home should have. The reasons are convincing. A large percentage of homes can be sold on them, but a single purchase lasts for months and sometimes years. Further sales and profits are long deferred. The advertiser and the advertising man become discouraged long before the tide can turn.
The world is full of such things, and I have seen many men of great ability discouraged by such undertakings.
This is why I insist on never letting my own predilections get in the way. If an idea strikes my fancy, I test it in a small way before committing my own and my client’s resources.
I let the market show me the way.
Daniel Levis: I guess we can call you the Adam Smith of advertising.
Claude Hopkins: I would not consider it an insult.
Daniel Levis: Totally awesome advice Claude. Thank you so much for doing this.
Claude Hopkins: Indeed, the pleasure was all mine.