Book Review: “Scientific Advertising” Enlightens

"Scientific Advertising" was written by Claude Hopkins in 1926. Considered the father of modern advertising techniques, Hopkins believed advertising should be measurable and ...
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Travis McAshan
Published May 2010
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In a nutshell…

“Scientific Advertising” was written by Claude Hopkins in 1926. Considered the father of modern advertising techniques, Hopkins believed advertising should be measurable and justify the results it produced. In “Scientific Advertising”, he explains precisely how to do that, and the principles he discovered and documented are as true today as when they were first written.

How I Found “Scientific Marketing” on Amazon

Recently, I went on a book buying frenzy at Amazon with a few gift cards I received for my birthday. Yes, it’s that bad. My friends and family buy me gift cards to buy books on Amazon. The fact that one of those books ended up being a 1920’s era advertising manifesto borders on embarrassing. Yet I digress…”Scientific Advertising” was great and has universal psychological truths which were true 100 years ago, still true today, and will true be in another 100 years.

The Five Minute Version:

Overall, having been written nearly a century ago, Hopkins words speak loud and clear today. I figured since the book was no longer under copyright I would simply share the most important points below. This is in contrast to my normal book reviews where I merely talk about the book and send you to Amazon to buy you’re own copy. The highlights are below:

#1. Advertising is Salesmanship

The ONLY purpose of advertising is to make sales. The principles of both advertising and sales are one in the same and all success and failures stem from the same source. Thus every advertising question should be answered by the salesman’s standards. The only difference lies in degree. Advertising is multiplied salesmanship.

#2. People Are Selfish (Offer Service)

Remember that people you address are selfish. They care nothing about your interest or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. The best ads ask no one to buy. They offer wanted information. They cite advantages to users. Perhaps they offer a sample. While altruistic the great ads are based on a knowledge of the human nature.

#3. Use Headlines to “Find” Your Audience

The writing of headlines is one of the greatest journalistic arts. They either conceal or reveal an interest. The purpose of a headline is to pick out people you can interest. What you have will interest certain people only, and for certain reasons. You care only for these people.

#4. Customer Psychology Matters

The competent advertising man must understand psychology. The more he knows about it the better. Human nature is perpetual. For example, curiosity is one of the strongest of human incentives. Cheapness is not a strong appeal. Americans want extravagant. They want bargains not cheapness. They want to feel that they can afford to eat and have and wear the best.

#5. Be Specific

Generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck. They leave no impression whatever. To say, “best in the world,” “lowest prices”, etc., are at best simply claiming the expected. Superlatives of this sort suggest looseness of expression, tendency to exaggerate, a carelessness for the truth. However, a man who makes a specific claim is either telling the truth or a lie. People do not expect an advertiser to lie. Definite statements are usually accepted and specific facts, when stated, have their full weight and effect.

#6. Tell Your Full Story

Whatever claim you use to gain attention, the advertisement should tell a story reasonably complete. When you once get a person’s attention, then is the time to accomplish all you ever hope with him. Any reader of your ad is interested, else he would not be a reader. That reader, if you lose him now, may never again be a reader. In the end, whether long or short, an advertising story should be reasonably complete.

#7. Photos (and art) Should Magnify Advertising

Pictures should not be used merely because they are interesting. Or to attract attention. Or to decorate an ad. Ads are not written to interest, please or amuse. Use only pictures to attract people who are profitable to you. Use pictures only when they form a better selling argument than the same amount of space set in type.

#8. Advertising + Homework = Success

An ad-writer, to have a chance at success, must gain full information on his subject. A painstaking advertising man will oftne read for weeks on some problem which comes up. While he may research many books, one fact may be the pivotal portion of his campaign. Genius is the art of taking pains. The advertising man who spares the midnight oil will never get very far.

#9. You Need A Strategy

Advertising is much like war, minus the venom. Or much if you prefer like a game of chess. We must have skill and knowledge. We must have training and experience, also the right equipment. We must have proper ammunition, and enough. We dare not underestimate opponents. Competition must be considered. Our intelligence department is a vital factor. Advertising often looks simple. But the men who know realize that the problems are as many as building a skyscraper. And many of them lie in the foundation.

#10. Use of Samples

The product itself should be it’s own best salesman. Not the product alone, but the product plus a mental impression, and atmosphere, which you place around it. However expensive, they usually form the cheapest selling method. Sampling does not apply to little things alone, it can be applied in some way to almost anything. When samples are effectively employed, we rarely find a line where they do not lessen the cost per customer.

#11. Make Yourself Stand Out

A person who desires to make an impression must stand out in some way from the masses. And in a pleasing way. Being eccentric, being abnormal is not a distinction to covet. But doing admirable things in a different way gives one a great advantage. There is uniqueness which belittles and arouses resentment. There is refreshing uniqueness which enhances, which we welcome and remember. Fortunate is the salesman who has it.

#12. Negative Advertising is Bad

To attack a rival is never a good advertising. Don’t point out others’ faults. It is not permitted in the best mediums. It is never good policy. The selfish purpose is apparent. It looks unfair, not sporty. If you abhor knockers, always appear the good fellow. Show the bright site, the happy and attractive side, not the dark and uninviting side of things.

#13. A Good Name Helps

There is great advantage in a name that tells a story. The name is usually prominently displayed. To justify the space it occupies, it should aid the advertising. Some such names are complete advertisements in themselves. The question of a name is of serious importance in laying the foundations of a new undertaking. Some names have become the chief factors in success.

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