#207 Claude Hopkins Scientific Advertising



In this episode, the host delves into the timeless principles of advertising as outlined in Claude Hopkins' seminal work, "Scientific Advertising." Hopkins, considered one of history's greatest copywriters, emphasizes the fixed nature of human psychology and its exploitation in successful advertising. He illustrates through examples how curiosity, perceived value, and the power of the word 'free' can significantly impact consumer behavior. Hopkins also advocates for the use of specificity in claims, the importance of samples, and the necessity of continuous testing to lower customer acquisition costs. The episode also references Hopkins' collaboration with Albert Lasker and the high praise from David Ogilvy, who insists that no one should work in advertising without reading Hopkins' book multiple times. The host concludes by highlighting the transformative power of applying scientific methods to advertising, akin to harnessing a stream's energy to run a manufacturing plant instead of a simple mill wheel.

Summary Notes

Human Nature and Psychology in Advertising

  • Human nature is considered constant over time, similar to the era of Caesar.
  • Psychological principles are enduring and do not change, meaning learning them is a lifelong investment.
  • Curiosity is a powerful incentive in humans and can be leveraged in advertising campaigns.
  • Price can influence people's perception of value, as demonstrated by reactions to high-priced items.
  • Advertising strategies can significantly impact the success of a product, such as highlighting unique aspects or creating exclusivity.

"Human nature is perpetual in most respects. It is the same today as the time of Caesar."

This quote emphasizes the unchanging aspects of human psychology, which are crucial to understanding consumer behavior in advertising.

"We learn, for instance, that curiosity is one of the strongest human incentives. We employed it whenever we can."

This quote highlights curiosity as a key driver in human behavior, which can be effectively used in advertising to attract consumer interest.

"People judge largely by price. They are not experts."

This quote suggests that consumers often use price as an indicator of quality or value, which can be a factor in advertising strategies.

Claude Hopkins's Advertising Principles

  • Claude Hopkins used specific headlines to transform puffed wheat and puffed rice from failures into successes.
  • He believed in the importance of making an offer seem valuable, such as stating the high cost paid for a formula.
  • Innovative ideas in advertising, like sending goods without payment upfront, can greatly enhance effectiveness.
  • Personalization, such as adding a buyer's name in gold lettering on books, can significantly increase perceived value.
  • Limiting offers to certain groups can create a sense of exclusivity and advantage, increasing effectiveness.
  • Inviting comparisons and showing confidence in a product can counteract the issue of substitution.
  • Highlighting specific qualities in a product can guide consumer preference and choice.

"Puffed wheat and puffed rice were made successful largely through curiosity."

This quote illustrates how leveraging human curiosity in advertising headlines can turn unsuccessful products into market successes.

"Perhaps we are advertising a valuable formula to merely say that would not be impressive. So we state as a fact that we paid $100,000 for that formula."

This quote demonstrates the use of high-value statements in advertising to create an impression of worth and garner respect for the product.

The Impact of Claude Hopkins and Scientific Advertising

  • Claude Hopkins is considered one of the greatest copywriters, with his work having a lasting impact on advertising.
  • His book, "Scientific Advertising," is highly praised for its insights into advertising and salesmanship.
  • The book is based on real-world experiences and emphasizes the importance of testing and recording results.
  • Hopkins's principles are seen as foundational, teaching established techniques rather than untested theories.
  • Understanding and applying these principles can lead to more effective and profitable advertising.

"These things are very important. An identical offer made in a different way may bring multiplied returns."

This quote underscores the significance of how an offer is presented in advertising, with the potential to greatly increase its success.

"The compass of accurate knowledge directs the shortest, safest, cheapest course to any destination."

This quote conveys the idea that knowledge and understanding of proven advertising principles can lead to the most efficient and cost-effective strategies.

Advertising as Salesmanship

  • Advertising is equated to salesmanship but with a broader reach.
  • The main purpose of advertising is to generate sales.
  • Advertising should be held to the same standards as salesmanship, focusing on results and cost-effectiveness.
  • The concept of advertising as multiplied salesmanship highlights the scalability of reaching more potential customers.

"Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship."

This quote defines advertising as an extension of salesmanship, with the same underlying principles applied to a wider audience.

"The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales."

This quote emphasizes that the ultimate goal of advertising is to drive sales, and its success should be measured by this standard.

Leveraging Advertising and Creative Work

  • Albert Lasker recognized the potential of combining copywriting with advertising in newspapers and magazines.
  • By increasing sales for clients, they would in turn increase their advertising budgets, benefiting Lasker's firm.
  • Lasker effectively used leverage in advertising and creative work to build a significant personal fortune.

"He was able to increase the advertising budget because he was the first person to realize, hey, instead of just being a broker, why don't we actually do the creative aspect?"

This quote highlights Lasker's innovative approach to advertising by incorporating creative services into his business model, which allowed him to capitalize on increased sales and advertising budgets.

Importance of Caution in Advertising

  • A mistake in advertising can be costly, magnifying the cost of a salesperson's mistake many times over.
  • Mediocre advertising affects the entire trade, not just a portion.

"A salesman's mistake may cost little. An advertisement's mistake may cost thousands times that much. Be cautious."

The quote underscores the high stakes involved in advertising, where errors can have far-reaching financial repercussions.

Testing Before Scaling

  • It's crucial to conduct small tests before committing to large expenditures in advertising.
  • Personal selling experience is valuable and can inform advertising strategies.

"Do a small test before spending a large amount."

This advice emphasizes the importance of validating advertising strategies on a small scale before scaling up, minimizing the risk of costly mistakes.

Salesmanship in Advertising

  • Successful advertisers often have backgrounds in door-to-door sales, using those insights in print advertising.
  • Convincing copywriting is key, focusing on the ability to persuade rather than on grammatical perfection.

"Many of the ablest men in advertising are graduate salesmen."

This quote suggests that the best advertisers often have practical sales experience, which they leverage in their advertising work.

Focus on Sales, Not Entertainment

  • Advertising should prioritize sales over entertainment or winning awards.
  • Advertisers should treat ads as if speaking directly to a potential customer in person.

"Their whole point is like, there's a lot of people in the industry that are trying to win awards or trying to entertain. He's like, no, we're all about sales."

The quote criticizes the industry's focus on accolades over effectiveness, emphasizing the primary goal of advertising is to drive sales.

Providing Sufficient Information

  • Ads should not be overly brief; they need to provide enough information to prompt action.
  • Treat readers of ads as interested prospects seeking information, not as an audience seeking entertainment.

"The more you tell, the more you sell."

This quote captures the principle that providing comprehensive information in advertising can be more persuasive and lead to better sales results.

Understanding the Consumer

  • Successful advertising requires understanding the buyer's perspective and addressing their needs.
  • Ads should not be self-centered on the seller's interests but should focus on what benefits the buyer.

"The advertising man studies the consumer. He tries to place himself in the position of the buyer."

This quote highlights the importance of empathy in advertising, where understanding the consumer's perspective is crucial for creating effective ads.

Service Over Sales

  • Ads should emphasize service and benefits to the consumer rather than directly soliciting a purchase.
  • The principle of reciprocity can be powerful in sales, as demonstrated by giving something of value before asking for a sale.

"Remember, the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profit. They seek service for themselves."

The quote reminds advertisers that consumers are primarily interested in what benefits them, not the seller's interests, and that advertising should reflect this understanding.

Human Nature in Advertising

  • Understanding human psychology is key to effective advertising.
  • Offering trials or samples can lead to higher conversion rates due to the principle of reciprocity.

"This is why Henry Ford has that famous quote that money comes naturally as a result of service."

The quote reinforces the idea that providing value and service to customers can naturally lead to financial success.

Cost-Effectiveness in Advertising

  • The cost of acquiring a customer through advertising must be lower than the product's price to be profitable.
  • Continuously testing and improving ad effectiveness is crucial for long-term success.

"Another man submitted an ad which for two years brought replies of an average of $0.41 each."

This quote illustrates the importance of monitoring and optimizing the cost of customer acquisition through advertising to ensure profitability.

Cost Efficiency in Advertising

  • Claude Hopkins highlights the significant savings in advertising costs he achieved for his clients.
  • He emphasizes the importance of meticulous testing and optimization in advertising.
  • Hopkins stresses that even profitable companies can benefit from reduced advertising costs.

"Some people were paying for sales from two to 35 times what they needed to cost before Hopkins started writing ads for them."

The quote illustrates the inefficiency of previous advertising efforts and the value Hopkins brought by significantly reducing the cost per sale.

Proven Advertising Techniques

  • Hopkins advocates for studying mail order advertising to learn effective advertising principles.
  • He challenges the notion that ads need to be short, instead suggesting that longer, informative ads can lead to immediate sales.
  • The key message is "the more you tell, the more you sell," which has been consistently proven in his extensive testing.

"A study of mail order advertising reveals many things worth learning, if continued. You know that it pays. Study those ads with respect."

This quote emphasizes the practical value of learning from proven advertising practices rather than relying on theory.

The Importance of Headlines

  • Claude Hopkins discusses the critical role of headlines in capturing attention.
  • He emphasizes that the headline must convey the value proposition to engage readers who are often in a hurry.
  • Hopkins reveals that he spends more time on headlines than the ad itself, and that changing a headline can dramatically affect the ad's performance.

"The average person worth cultivating has too much to read. They skip three, four of the paper, which they are paying to get newspapers."

The quote underscores the challenge of getting busy readers to notice an ad, highlighting the necessity of an attention-grabbing headline.

Specificity in Claims

  • Hopkins advises against using vague generalizations in advertising, pushing for specific claims instead.
  • He points out that specificity can enhance the credibility and impact of an ad's message.
  • Specific claims are seen as more trustworthy and are less likely to be discounted by consumers.

"The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific."

This quote captures the essence of Hopkins' advice on specificity, indicating that concrete claims carry more persuasive power.

Consistency and Repetition in Advertising

  • Hopkins notes that successful ads often remain unchanged because they have been optimized through testing.
  • He suggests that advertisers should focus on acquiring new customers since existing ones are less likely to pay attention to ads.
  • The repetition of proven claims in each ad helps ensure that every potential customer sees the full story.

"Some mail order ads have been running year after year without diminishing returns."

The quote implies that a well-tested and optimized ad can continue to be effective over a long period without the need for changes.

Selling Benefits Over Features

  • Hopkins advises focusing on the benefits that have the broadest appeal rather than niche features.
  • He uses examples from toothpaste and soap ads to illustrate the importance of highlighting desirable outcomes over functional attributes.
  • The principle of "sell painkillers, not vitamins" suggests that consumers are more responsive to immediate solutions than preventative measures.

"People will do much to cure trouble, but people in general will do little to prevent it."

This quote reflects the consumer psychology that Hopkins uses to guide his advertising strategy, focusing on immediate benefits.

Mastery Through Research and Effort

  • Hopkins stresses the importance of thorough research and hard work in creating successful advertising.
  • He shares that an ad writer must be well-informed about the product and willing to spend significant time studying it.
  • Hopkins correlates success in advertising with the willingness to go the extra mile in preparation and research.

"The advertising man who spares the midnight oil will never get very far."

The quote encapsulates Hopkins' belief that dedication and diligence are essential for achieving excellence in advertising.

Complexity of Creating Ads

  • Crafting advertisements requires extensive work, including weeks of effort, data collection, and research.
  • Ads must appear simple to resonate with the audience, which often consists of simple people.
  • The simplicity of an ad belies the meticulous preparation and background research that goes into its creation.

"The uninformed would be staggered to know the amount of work involved in a single ad. Weeks of work. Sometimes the ad seems so simple, and it must be simple to appeal to simple people."

This quote emphasizes the contrast between the apparent simplicity of an effective ad and the extensive work and research that underpins its creation.

Individual Focus in Business

  • Businesses are essentially collections of individuals.
  • Success in business starts with the ability to appeal to an individual before addressing a larger audience.
  • Claude Hopkins highlights the effectiveness of personalized sales techniques, such as demos or samples.

"We cannot go after thousands of men until we learn how to win one."

The quote underscores the importance of understanding and appealing to individual customers as a precursor to reaching a broader market.

The Power of Samples

  • Samples are a highly effective sales technique.
  • They allow businesses to introduce products in a favorable light, creating a positive mental impression.
  • Samples should be distributed selectively to interested customers who have made an effort to learn about the product.
  • Offering samples can leverage the word "free" in advertising, which significantly increases ad readership and effectiveness.

"Samples are of prime importance. However expensive, they usually form the cheapest selling method."

This quote explains that despite their cost, samples are an investment that pays off by boosting sales and attracting customers effectively.

Importance of Testing in Advertising

  • Advertising is full of surprises, with unpredictable successes and failures.
  • Testing is crucial to understand customer preferences and to optimize advertising strategies.
  • Claude Hopkins advocates for capped investments in tests to minimize financial risk while gaining valuable insights.
  • Continuous testing, even with successful campaigns, can lead to cost reductions and efficiency improvements.

"We let the thousands decide what the millions will do."

The quote conveys the principle of using small-scale tests to predict and inform larger-scale advertising decisions, thereby reducing risk and maximizing potential success.

Advertising the Result

  • Customers are more attracted to the promise of positive outcomes rather than the problems a product can solve.
  • Advertising should focus on showcasing the benefits and desirable end results of using a product.
  • Claude Hopkins suggests that ads should always point towards positive conditions, such as health, beauty, and happiness.

"Advertise the result is a way to think about what he's telling us here."

This quote encapsulates the strategy of focusing on the positive results that a product can deliver, which is more appealing to customers.

Standing Out with Gift With Purchase

  • Differentiation in marketing can be achieved through additional offerings, such as a gift with purchase.
  • Estee Lauder successfully utilized this technique to build customer loyalty and increase sales.
  • A gift with purchase not only incentivizes customers but also serves as a cost-effective marketing tool.

"The gift paid for itself several times over by bringing larger sales per catalog."

The quote illustrates the effectiveness of the gift with purchase strategy, where the initial cost is outweighed by the increased sales and customer engagement it generates.

Good Business Practices

  • Claude Hopkins emphasizes the importance of smart advertising and marketing practices.
  • Using the analogy of a stream's power being harnessed effectively, he compares wasted advertising potential to a mill wheel, while effective use is akin to running a large manufacturing plant.
  • The key takeaway is to maximize the impact of marketing efforts through strategic and efficient methods.

"We think of that stream when we see wasted advertising power, and we see it everywhere."

This quote uses a metaphor to criticize inefficient advertising practices and to encourage the adoption of more effective, scientifically informed approaches.

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