Method to the Ad-ness

At its face, advertising looks like a mad world of pictures and themes, layouts and headlines with no sort of rhyme or reason to how these elements are arranged or produced. But what if I told you there is a scientific, a methodological approach to advertising? Well, let me tell you this approach exists; and, this week’s book, Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, is the outline on how to systematically create advertisements.

Claude Hopkins is one of the godfathers of modern marketing. He is credited with influencing the American public to start more tooth brushing simply from his advertising for the toothpaste Pepsodent (Big ups, Claude). Hopkins believed advertising only existed for salesmanship and that all good advertising is measured and justified by its results. It’s no wonder his book Scientific Advertising is all about tracking the results of your advertisements, and testing headlines and propositions against each other. At a whopping 87 pages, our writer leaves no room for fluff and every word in his book has meaning.

Scientific Advertising gets down to the brass tacks of salesmanship and marketing. Hopkins covers 21 topics over the course of the short book, wasting no line or time with frivolous material. Our author was intent on directly laying out the fundamentals of advertising in an era (early 20th century) where, according to Hopkins, “men [were] guided by whims and fancies.” And, our author even writes that “this is for groundwork only.”

At the beginning of his book, Hopkins tells his reader that there are now laws to advertising; he even goes so far as saying that advertising has “reached the status of a science”. And at nearly every turn of the page, our writer is reminding you of that fact. There’s nothing in his book stressed more than using sales records, costs per customer, any (meaningful) unit of measure to track the results of an advertisement. The second most stressed motif is using these results in comparing advertisements for the same product against each other.

In a brief two-and-a-quarter pages, Hopkins writes about the importance of offering service. In perhaps the most enlightening chapter for me, our author succinctly states that “the best ads ask no one to buy. That is useless. Often they do not quote a price… The ads are based entirely on service”. He relates this offering of service back to the salesmanship of advertising. Good salesmen do their customers a service in allowing their customers to try a product before they buy it. This type of service invokes a desire for reciprocity in the minds of their prospects.

Another fantastic chapter in Scientific Advertising is on psychology. As mentioned (and used) in one of my previous reviews, Hopkins states that curiosity is one of the strongest human incentives. He also makes mention of using personalization to reach a prospect, saying “when a man knows something belongs to them – something with his name on – he will make an effort to get it, even though the thing is a trifle.” In the same way, offers limited to particular demographics or groups of people have a very strong appeal to those within that group. “Those who are entitled to any seeming advantage will go a long way not to lose that advantage.”

If you want to learn the rest of the laws of advertising, I suggest you buy a copy of Scientific Advertising yourself. At 87 pages, there’s no excuse not to devote a couple hours in understanding the very basic, ultimately scientific, methods that go into selling or marketing your product. I’m certain I will be rereading Scientific Advertising several times over.

As always, thanks for checking out my review. This upcoming week I will be reading 7 Steps to Freedom by Benjamin Suarez. This book is more about entrepreneurship but also follows the trend of sales and marketing books I’ve been reading over the past three weeks. Until next week, stop being unread, and go read a book or something.

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