”Perhaps the most brilliant marketing mind to ever walk the planet. He took the principles we all use to catapult our businesses to new heights. The difference is we are using technology, while he used the pen and paper. He was a mastermind marketer and one of the world’s most savvy advertisers. Everyone can learn a million lessons from reading and re-reading Scientific Advertising.
Scientific Advertising By: Claude C. Hopkins “Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times” — David Ogilvy
Scientific Advertising -How Advertising Laws Are Established
The time has come when advertising has in some hands reached the status of a science. It is based on fixed principles and is reasonably exact. The causes and effects have been analyzed until they are well understood. The correct method of procedure have been proved and established. We know what is most effective, and we act on basic laws.
Advertising, once a gamble, has thus become, under able direction, one of the safest business ventures. Certainly no other enterprise with comparable possibilities need involve so little risk.
Therefore, this book deals, not with theories and opinions, but with well-proved principles and facts. It is written as a textbook for students and a safe guide for advertisers. Every statement has been weighed. The book is confined to establish fundamentals. If we enter any realms of uncertainty we shall carefully denote them.
The present status of advertising is due to many reasons. Much national advertising has long been handled by large organizations known as advertising agencies. Some of these agencies, in their hundreds of campaigns, have tested and compared the thousands of plans and ideas. The results have been watched and recorded, so no lessons have been lost.
Such agencies employ a high grade of talent. None but able and experienced men can meet the requirements in national advertising. Working in co-operation, learning from each other and from each new undertaking, some of these men develop into masters.
Individuals may come and go, but they leave their records and ideas behind them. These become a part of the organization’s equipment, and a guide to all who follow. Thus, in the course of decades, such agencies become storehouses of advertising experiences, proved principles, and methods.
The larger agencies also come into intimate contact with experts in every department of business. Their clients are usually dominating concerns. So they see the results of countless methods and polices. They become a clearinghouse for everything pertaining to merchandising. Nearly every selling question which arises in business is accurately answered by many experiences.
Under these conditions, where they long exist, advertising and merchandising become exact sciences. Every course is charted. The compass of accurate knowledge directs the shortest, safest, cheapest course to any destination.
We learn the principles and prove them by repeated tests. This is done through keyed advertising, by traced returns, largely by the use of coupons. We compare one way with many others, backward and forward, and record the results. When one method invariably proves best, that method becomes a fixed principle.
Mail order advertising is traced down to the fraction of a penny. The cost per reply and cost per dollar of sale show up with utter exactness.
One ad is compared with another, one method with another. Headlines, settings, sizes, arguments and pictures are compared. To reduce the cost of results even one per cent means much in some mail order advertising. So no guesswork is permitted. One must know what is best. Thus mail order advertising first established many of our basic laws.
In lines where direct returns are impossible we compare one town with another. Scores of methods may be compared in this way, measured by cost of sales.
But the most common way is by use of the coupon. We offer a sample, a book, a free package, or something to induce direct replies. Thus we learn the amount of action which each ad engenders.
But those figures are not final. One ad may bring too many worthless replies, another replies that are valuable. So our final conclusions are always based on cost per customer or cost per dollar of sale.
These coupon plans are dealt with further in the chapter on “Test Campaigns.” Here we explain only how we employ them to discover advertising principles.
In a large ad agency coupon returns are watched and recorded on hundreds of different lines. In a single line they are sometimes recorded on thousands of separate ads. Thus we test everything pertaining to advertising. We answer nearly every possible question by multitudinous traced returns.
Some things we learn in this way apply only to particular lines. But even those supply basic principles for analogous undertakings.
Others apply to all lines. They become fundamentals for advertising in general. They are universally applied. No wise advertiser will ever depart from those unvarying laws.
We propose in this book to deal with those fundamentals, those universal principles. To teach only established techniques. There is that technique in advertising, as in all art, science and mechanics. And it is, as in all lines, a basic essential.
The lack of those fundamentals has been the main trouble with advertising of the past. Each worker was a law unto himself. All previous knowledge, all progress in the line, was a closed book to him. It was like a man trying to build a modern locomotive without first ascertaining what others had done. It was like a Columbus starting out to find an undiscovered land.
Men were guided by whims and fancies â€” vagrant, changing breezes. They rarely arrived at their port. When they did, quite by accident, it was by a long roundabout course.
Each early mariner in this sea mapped his own separate course. There were no charts to guide him. Not a lighthouse marked a harbor, not a buoy showed a reef. The wrecks were unrecorded, so countless ventures came to grief on the same rocks and shoals.
Advertising was a gamble, a speculation of the rashest sort. One man’s guess on the proper course was as likely to be as good as another’s. There were no safe pilots, because few sailed the same course twice.
The condition has been corrected. Now the only uncertainties pertain to people and to products, not to methods. It is hard to measure human idiosyncrasies, the preferences and prejudices, the likes and dislikes that exist. We cannot say that an article will be popular, but we know how to sell it in the most effective way.
Ventures may fail, but the failures are not disasters. Losses, when they occur, are but trifling. And the causes are factors which has nothing to do with the advertising.
Advertising has flourished under these new conditions. It has multiplied in volume, in prestige and respect. The perils have increased many fold. Just because the gamble has become a science, the speculation a very conservative business.
These facts should be recognized by all. This is no proper field for sophistry or theory, or for any other will-o’-the-wisp. The blind leading the blind is ridiculous. It is pitiful in a field with such vast possibilities. Success is a rarity, a maximum success an impossibility, unless one is guided by laws as immutable as the law of gravitation.
So our main purpose here is to set down those laws, and to tell you how to prove them for yourself. After them come a myriad of variations. No two advertising campaigns are ever conducted on lines that are identical. Individuality is an essential. Imitation is a reproach. But those variable things which depend on ingenuity have no place in a text book on advertising. This is for groundwork only.
Our hope is to foster advertising through a better understanding. To place it on a business basis. To have it recognized as among the safest, surest ventures which lead to large returns. Thousand of conspicuous successes show its possibilities. Their variety points out its almost unlimited scope. Yet thousands who need it, who can never attain their deserts without it, still look upon its accomplishments as somewhat accidental.
That was so, but it is not so now. We hope that this book will throw some new lights on the subject.
Scientific Advertising -Just Salesmanship
To properly understand advertising or to learn even its rudiments one must start with the right conception. Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship. Successes and failures in both lines are due to like causes. Thus every advertising question should be answered by the salesman’s standards.
Let us emphasize that point. The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.
It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people. It is not primarily to aid your other salesmen. Treat it as a salesman. Force it to justify itself. Compare it with other salesmen. Figure its cost and result. Accept no excuses which good salesmen do not make. Then you will not go far wrong.
The difference is only in degree. Advertising is multiplied salesmanship. It may appeal to thousands while the salesman talks to one. It involves a corresponding cost. Some people spend $10 per word on an average advertisement. Therefore every ad should be a super-salesman.
A salesman’s mistake may cost little. An advertisers mistake may cost a thousand times that much. Be more cautious, more exacting, therefore. A mediocre salesman may affect a small part of your trade. Mediocre advertising affects all of your trade.
Many think of advertising as ad-writing. Literary qualifications have no more to do with it than oratory has with salesmanship. One must be able to express himself briefly, clearly and convincingly, just as a salesman must. But fine writing is a distinct disadvantage. So is unique literary style. They take attention from the subject. They reveal the hook. Any studies done that attempt to sell, if apparent, creates corresponding resistance.
That is so in personal salesmanship as in salesmanship-in-print. Fine talkers are rarely good salesmen. They inspire buyers with the fear of over-influence. They create the suspicion that an effort is made to sell them on other lines than merit.
Successful salesmen are rarely good speech makers. They have few oratorical graces. They are plain and sincere men who know their customers and know their lines. So it is in ad writing. Many of the ablest men in advertising are graduate salesmen. The best we know have been house-to-house canvassers. They may know little of grammar, nothing of rhetoric, but they know how to use words that convince.
There is one simple way to answer many advertising questions. Ask yourself,” Would it help a salesman sell the goods?” “Would it help me sell them if I met a buyer in person?” A fair answer to those questions avoids countless mistakes. But when one tries to show off, or does things merely to please himself, he is little likely to strike a chord which leads people to spend money. Some argue for slogans, some like clever conceits. Would you use them in personal salesmanship? Can you imagine a customer whom such things would impress? If not, don’t rely on them for selling in print.
Some say “Be very brief. People will read for little.” Would you say that to a salesman? With a prospect standing before him, would you confine him to any certain number of words? That would be an unthinkable handicap. So in advertising. The only readers we get are people whom our subject interests. No one reads ads for amusements, long or short. Consider them as prospects standing before you, seeking for information. Give them enough to get action.
Some advocate large type and big headlines. Yet they do not admire salesmen who talk in loud voices. People read all they care to read in 8-point type. Our magazines and newspapers are printed in that type. Folks are accustomed to it. Anything louder is like loud conversation. It gains no attention worthwhile. It may not be offensive, but it is useless and wasteful. It multiplies the cost of your story. And to many it seems loud and blatant.
Others look for something queer and unusual. They want ads distinctive in style or illustration. Would you want that in a salesman? Do not men who act and dress in normal ways make a far better impression? Some insist on dressy ads. That is all right to a certain degree, but is quite important. Some poorly-dressed men, prove to be excellent salesmen. Over dress in either is a fault.
So with countless questions. Measure them by salesmen’s standards, not by amusement standards. Ads are not written to entertain. When they do, those entertainment seekers are little likely to be the people whom you want. That is one of the greatest advertising faults. Ad writers abandon their parts. They forget they are salesmen and try to be performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause.
When you plan or prepare an advertisement, keep before you a typical buyer. Your subject, your headline has gained his or her attention. Then in everything be guided by what you would do if you met the buyer face-to-face. If you are a normal man and a good salesman you will then do your level best.
Don’t think of people in the mass. That gives you a blurred view. Think of a typical individual, man or woman, who is likely to want what you sell. Don’t try to be amusing. Money spending is a serious matter. Don’t boast, for all people resent it. Don’t try to show off. Do just what you think a good salesman should do with a half-sold person before him.
Some advertising men go out in person and sell to people before they plan to write an ad. One of the ablest of them has spent weeks on one article, selling from house to house. In this way they learn the reactions from different forms of argument and approach. They learn what possible buyers want and the factors which don’t appeal. It is quite customary to interview hundreds of possible customers. Others send out questionnaires to learn the attitude of the buyers. In some way all must learn how to strike responsive chords. Guesswork is very expensive.
The maker of an advertised article knows the manufacturing side and probably the dealers side. But this very knowledge often leads him astray in respect to customers. His interests are not in their interests. The advertising man studies the consumer. He tries to place himself in the position of the buyer. His success largely depends on doing that to the exclusion of everything else.
This book will contain no more important chapter than this one on salesmanship. The reason for most of the non-successes in advertising is trying to sell people what they do not want. But next to that comes lack of true salesmanship.
Ads are planned and written with some utterly wrong conception. They are written to please the seller. The interest of the buyer are forgotten. One can never sell goods profitably, in person or in print, when that attitude exists.
Scientific Advertising – Offer service
Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. Ads say in effect, “Buy my brand. Give me the trade you give to others. Let me have the money.” That is not a popular appeal.
The best ads ask no one to buy. That is useless. Often they do not quote a price. They do not say that dealers handle the product. The ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information. They site advantages to users. Perhaps they offer a sample, or to buy the first package, or to send something on approval, so the customer may prove the claims without any cost or risks. Some of these ads seem altruistic. But they are based on the knowledge of human nature. The writers know how people are led to buy. Here again is salesmanship. The good salesman does not merely cry a name. He doesn’t say, “Buy my article.” He pictures the customer’s side of his service until the natural result is to buy.
A brush maker has some 2,000 canvassers who sell brushes from house to house. He is enormously successful in a line which would seem very difficult. And it would be for his men if they asked the housewives to buy. But they don’t. They go to the door and say, “I was sent here to give you a brush. I have samples here and I want you to take your choice.” The housewife is all smiles and attention. In picking out one brush she sees several she wants. She is also anxious to reciprocate the gift. So the salesman gets an order.
Another concern sells coffee, etc., by wagons in some 500 cities. The man drops in with a half-pound of coffee and says, “Accept this package and try it. I’ll come back in a few days to ask how you liked it.” Even when he comes back he doesn’t ask for an order. He explains that he wants the women to have a fine kitchen utensil. It isn’t free, but if she likes the coffee he will credit five cents on each pound she buys until she has paid for the article. Always some service.
The maker of the electric sewing machine motor found advertising difficult. So, on good advice, he ceased soliciting a purchase. He offered to send to any home, through any dealer, a motor for one weeks’ use. With it would come a man to show how to operate it. “Let us help you for a week without cost or obligation,” said the ad. Such an offer was resistless, and about nine in ten of the trials led to sales.
So in many, many lines. Cigar makers send out boxes to anyone and say, “Smoke ten, then keep them or return them, as you wish.” Makers of books, typewriters, washing machines, kitchen cabinets, vacuum sweepers, etc., send out their products without any prepayment. They say, “Use them a week, then do as you wish.” Practically all merchandise sold by mail is sent subject to return.
These are all common principles of salesmanship. The most ignorant peddler applies them. Yet the salesman-in-print very often forgets them. He talks about his interest. He blazons a name, as though that was of importance. His phrase is, “Drive people to the stores,” and that is his attitude in everything he says. People can be coaxed but not driven. Whatever they do they do to please themselves. Many fewer mistakes would be made in advertising if these facts were never forgotten.
Scientific Advertising – Mail order advertising – What it teaches
The severest test of an advertising man is in selling goods by mail. But that is a school from which he must graduate before he can hope for success. There cost and result are immediately apparent. False theories melt away like snowflakes in the sun. The advertising is profitable or it is not, clearly on the face of returns. Figures which do not lie tell one at once the merits of an ad.
This puts men on their mettle. All guesswork is eliminated. Every mistake is conspicuous. One quickly loses his conceit by learning how often his judgment errs – often nine times in ten.
There one learns that advertising must be done on a scientific basis to have any fair chance of success. And he learns that every wasted dollar adds to the cost of results. Here is a tough efficiency and economy under a master who can’t be fooled. Then, and only then, is he apt to apply the same principles and keys to all advertising.
A man was selling a five-dollar article. The replies from his ad cost him 85 cents. Another man submitted an ad which he thought better. The replies cost $14.20 each. Another man submitted an ad which for two years brought replies at an average of 41 cents each. Consider the difference on 250,000 replies per year. Think how valuable was the man who cut the cost in two. Think what it would have meant to continue that $14.20 ad without any key on returns.
Yet there are thousands of advertisers who do just that. They spend large sums on a guess. And they are doing what that man did – paying for sales from 2 to 35 times what they need cost. A study of mail order advertising reveals many things worth learning. It is a prime subject for study. In the first place, if continued, you know what pays. It is therefore good advertising as applied to that line. The probability is that the ad has resulted from many traced comparisons. It is therefore the best advertising, not theoretical. It will not deceive you. The lessons it teaches are principles which wise men apply to all advertising.
Mail order advertising is always set in small type. It is usually set in smaller type than ordinary print. That economy of space is universal. So it proves conclusively that larger type does not pay. Remember that when you double your space by doubling the size of your type. The ad may still be profitable. But traced returns have proved that you paying a double price for sales. In mail order advertising there is no waste space. Every line is utilized. Borders are rarely used. Remember that when you are tempted to leave valuable space unoccupied.
In mail order advertising there is no palaver. There is no boasting, save of super-service. There is no useless talk. There is no attempt at entertainment. There is nothing to amuse. Mail order advertising usually contains a coupon. That is there to cut out as a reminder of something the reader has decided to do.
Mail order advertisers know that readers forget. They are reading a magazine of interest. They may be absorbed in a story. A large percentage of people who read an ad and decide to act will forget that decision in five minutes. The mail order advertisers that waste by tests, and he does not propose to accept it. So he inserts that reminder to be cut out, and it turns when the reader is ready to act.
In mail order advertising the pictures are always to the point. They are salesmen in themselves. They earn space they occupy. The size is gauged by their importance. The picture of a dress one is trying to sell may occupy much space. Less important things get smaller spaces. Pictures in ordinary advertising may teach little. They probably result in whims. But pictures in mail order advertising may form half the cost of selling. And you may be sure that everything about them has been decided by many comparative tests. Before you use useless pictures, merely to decorate or interest, look over some mail order ads. Mark what their verdict is.
A man advertised an incubator to be sold by mail. Type ads with right headlines brought excellent returns. But he conceived the idea that a striking picture would increase those returns. So he increased his space 50 percent to add a row of chickens in silhouette. It did make a striking ad, but his cost per reply was increased by exactly that 50 percent. The new ad, costing one-half more for every insertion, brought not one added sale. The man learned that incubator buyers were practical people. They were looking for attractive offers, not for pictures.
Think of the countless untraced campaigns where a whim of that kind costs half the advertising money without a penny in return. And it may go on year after year. Mail order advertising tells a complete story if the purpose is to make an immediate sale. You see no limitations there are on amount of copy. The motto there is, “The more you tell the more you sell.” And it has never failed to prove out so in any test we know.
Sometimes the advertiser uses small ads, sometimes large ads. None are to small to tell a reasonable story. But an ad twice larger brings twice the returns. A four times larger ad brings four times the returns, and usually some in addition. But this occurs only when the larger space is utilized as well as the small space. Set half-page copy in a page space and you double the cost in returns. We have seen many a test prove that.
Look at an ad of the Mead Cycle Company – a typical mail order ad. These have been running for many years. The ads are unchanging. Mr. Mead told the writer that not for $10,000 would he change a single word in his ads. For many years he compared one ad with the other. And the ads you see today are the final results of all those experiments. Note the picture he uses, the headlines, the economy of space, the small type. Those ads are as near perfect for their purpose as an ad can be.
So with any other mail order ad which has long continued. Every feature, every word and picture teaches advertising at its best. You may not like them. You may say they are unattractive, crowded, hard to read – anything you will. But the test of results has proved those ads the best salesman those lines have yet discovered. And they certainly pay.
Mail order advertising is the court of least resort. You may get the same instruction, if you will, by keying other ads. But mail order ads are models. They are selling goods profitably in a difficult way. It is far harder to get mail order than to send buyers to the stores. It is hard to sell goods which can’t be seen. Ads which do that are excellent examples of what advertising should be.
We cannot often follow all the principles of mail order advertising, though we know we should. The advertiser forces a compromise. Perhaps pride in our ads has an influence. But every departure from those principles adds to our selling cost. Therefore it is always a question of what we are willing to pay for our frivolities.
We can at least know what we pay. We can make keyed comparisons, one ad with another. Whenever we do we invariably find that the nearer we get to proved mail order copy the more customers we get for our money.
This is another important chapter. Think it over. What real difference is there between inducing a customer to order by mail or order from his dealer? Why should the methods of salesmanship differ? They should not. When they do, it is for one of two reasons. Either the advertiser does not know what the mail order advertiser knows. He is advertising blindly. Or he deliberately sacrifices a percentage of his returns to gratify some desire.
There is some apology for that, just as there is for fine offices and buildings. Most of us can afford to do something for pride and opinion. But let us know what we are doing. Let us know the cost of our pride. Then, if our advertising fails to bring us the wanted returns, let us go back to our model – a good mail order ad – and eliminate some of our waste.
Scientific Advertising – Headlines
The difference between advertising and personal salesmanship lies largely in personal contact. The salesman is there to demand attention. He cannot be ignored. The advertisement can be ignored.
But the salesman wastes much of his time on prospects whom he can never hope to interest. He cannot pick them out. The advertisement is read only by interested people who, by their own volition, study what we have to say.
The purpose of a headline is to pick out people you can interest. You wish to talk to someone in a crowd. So the first thing you say is, “Hey there, Bill Jones” to get the right persons attention. So it is in an advertisement. What you have will interest certain people only, and for certain reasons. You care only for those people. Then create a headline which will hail those people only.
Perhaps a blind headline or some clever conceit will attract many times as many. But they may consist of mostly impossible subjects for what you have to offer. And the people you are after may never realize that the ad refers to something they may want.
Headlines on ads are like headlines on news items. Nobody reads a whole newspaper. One is interested in financial news, one in political, one in society, one in cookery, one in sports, etc. There are whole pages in any newspaper which we may never scan at all. Yet other people might turn directly to those pages.
We pick out what we wish to read by headlines, and we don’t want those headlines misleading. The writing of headlines is one of the greatest journalistic arts. They either conceal or reveal an interest.
Suppose a newspaper article stated that a certain woman was the most beautiful in the city. That article would be of intense interest to that woman and her friends. But neither she nor her friends would ever read it if the headline was “Egyptian Psychology.”
So in advertising. It is commonly said that people do not read advertisements. That is silly, of course. We who spend millions in advertising and watch the returns marvel at the readers we get. Again and again we see 20 percent of all the readers of a newspaper cut out a certain coupon.
But people do not read ads for amusement. They don’t read ads which, at a glance, seem to offer nothing interesting. A double-page ad on women’s dresses will not gain a glance from a man. Nor will a shaving cream ad from a woman.
Always bear these facts in mind. People are hurried. The average person worth cultivating has too much to read. They skip three-fourths of the reading matter which they pay to get. They are not going to read your business talk unless you make it worth their while and let the headline show it.
People will not be bored in print. They may listen politely at a dinner table to boasts and personalities, life history, etc. But in print they choose their own companions, their own subjects. They want to be amused or benefited. They want economy, beauty, labor savings, good things to eat and wear. There may be products which interest them more than anything else in the magazine. But they will never know it unless the headline or picture tells them.
The writer of this chapter spends far more time on headlines than on writing. He often spends hours on a single headline. Often scores of headlines are discarded before the right one is selected. For the entire return from an ad depends on attracting the right sort of readers. The best of salesmanship has no chance whatever unless we get a hearing.
The vast difference in headlines is shown by keyed returns which this book advocates. The identical ad run with various headlines differs tremendously in its returns. It is not uncommon for a change in headlines to multiply returns from five or ten times over.
So we compare headlines until we know what sort of appeal pays best. That differs in every line, of course.
The writer has before him keyed returns on nearly two thousand headlines used on a single product. The story in these ads are nearly identical. But the returns vary enormously, due to the headlines. So with every keyed return in our record appears the headlines that we used.
Thus we learn what type of headline has the most widespread appeal. The product has many uses. It fosters beauty. It prevents disease. It aides daintiness and cleanliness. We learn to exactness which quality most of our readers seek.
That does not mean we neglect the others. One sort of appeal may bring half the returns of another, yet be important enough to be profitable. We overlook no field that pays. But we know what proportion of our ads should, in the headline, attract any certain class.
For this same reason we employ a vast variety of ads. If we are using twenty magazines we may use twenty separate ads. This because circulation’s overlap, and because a considerable percentage of people are attracted by each of several forms of approach. We wish to reach them all.
On a soap, for instance, the headline “Keep Clean” might attract a very small percentage. It is to commonplace. So might the headline, “No animal fat.” People may not care much about that. The headline, “It floats” might prove interesting. But a headline referring to beauty or complexion might attract many times as many.
An automobile ad might refer in the headline to a good universal joint. It might fall flat, because so few buyers think of universal joints. The same ad with a headline, “The Sportiest of Sport Bodies,” might out pull the other fifty to one.
This is enough to suggest the importance of headlines. Anyone who keys ads will be amazed at the difference. The appeals we like best will rarely prove best, because we do not know enough people to average up their desires. So we learn on each line by experiment.
But back of all lie fixed principles. You are presenting an ad to millions. Among them is a percentage, small or large, whom you hope to interest. Go after that percentage and try to strike the chord that responds. If you are advertising corsets, men and children don’t interest you. If you are advertising cigars, you have no use for non-smokers. Razors won’t attract women, rouge will not interest men.
Don’t think that those millions will read your ads to find out if your product interests. They will decide at a glanceâ€”by your headline or your pictures. Address the people you seek, and them only.
There you have it. The secrets to successful marketing and advertising
Check back soon as we reveal chapters 6-10